Zoom. WhatsApp. Teams. Slack. Outlook. The good old-fashioned phone. Aaaaaaargh! When the number of channels you and your team are communicating on becomes too much, you are experiencing fragmentation frustration.
Especially since the pandemic, when we embraced digital tools more than ever to facilitate remote working, this is a problem that may be hampering productivity (and sanity) in your business. A recent survey found that more than one in three employees say there are too many digital tools in play. Frankly, we are surprised that the number is not higher.
Problems with fragmentation frustration
👉 A paradoxical disconnect – While it has never been so easy to get hold of someone, technology can paradoxically make us feel isolated. Physical connection is a far richer experience, helping your employees to bond, problem solve and get stuff done. Like so many business leaders, you may now be rooting for getting staff back in the office as much as possible to leverage this – and at the same time cut out a good portion of your digital comms.
👉 Password security – Another app, another password to remember. It is just one extra piece of life admin that no-one needs. You just know you will get locked out of a key comms channel just when you need it most! One temptation is to have the same password for everything, but that is a security risk that can lead to its own problems. Use password tools like LastPass – encourage this within your agency so nobody takes shortcuts with cybersecurity.
👉 Micro delays – These are an interesting productivity killing concept. They are the short pauses you take to respond when your phone bleeps, or an email comes in. It is estimated that cumulatively each one actually takes away 20 mins of time on average; that is including the time it takes to get back in the zone of what you were doing. The more digital channels you have open, the harder it is to disconnect from them all. Maybe have a policy in your Agency that you turn off notifications or silence them?
👉 Lost in the ether – Another challenge is missing an important message which came through on a channel you forgot to check. Your email inbox is in order, you’re on top of your Slacks, but have auto logged out of Trello! Everyone is waiting for you, and you didn’t even realise it.
👉 So much training – Of course, for every system that is introduced, another round of training has to be delivered. This won’t be much issue for something simple like WhatsApp, but popular project management tools take some getting used to. Moreover, they only work at their best when everyone uses them correctly.
How to address fragmentation frustration
Why not have a spring clean of the digital channels you use? It is so easy to collect things and build habits inadvertently that you may find some of the apps were adopted by accident, or at least are no longer useful. Have a reset and be clear about which channels should be used for what purpose, and what good practice looks like. They key thing about this process is involving your people. As the leader in your agency, you may have particular digital channels you prefer, but (and I know this might come as a surprise…) not everyone will agree with you. So talk to your people to really understand what tools work well and don’t work well and then make a collective decision about what you will use and how you will use those tools moving forward.
Encouraging focus time amongst employees is a great management technique, and a way of eliminating micro delays. Short sprints of time where email is shut down and notifications are switched off so staff can focus on the job in hand and get it completed without distraction. Encourage your teams to go offline where they need to focus on something bigger – add it to calendars so that everyone knows that they aren’t going to be available so that they can get S&*t done! It’s so frustrating when you know that people have work piling up and they are missing deadlines, and the reason is that they just couldn’t find the time to block it out, so they are trying to do things in bits and pieces of time.
There may be an occasional annoyance when someone cannot be reached for a short period of time, but the gains in productivity should more than make up for it.
Help with productivity and performance
If productivity and performance have become an issue in your business, it may be more complicated than fragmentation frustration. You need a HR expert, so reach out to your local provider and they can help you get to the root causes, and rectify them.
About the Author
Tracey Hudson is an experienced HR professional having worked in HR for over 20 years, predominantly advising the SME market. She is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development and has built a wealth of experience across all industries over the years including working with marketing and ad agencies, so she really knows her stuff! And on top of that, she’s always happy to have a chat with anyone so if you want to pick her brain, drop her a message.