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4 Ways to Eliminate App Fatigue and Improve Collaboration

Sean Duffy

August 27, 2020 · 3 min read
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Even as the economy starts to open again – at least for now – remote work is becoming more and more entrenched at many organizations. As a result, strong digital collaboration has become a must-have.

There’s no shortage of communication and collaboration apps to choose from, but it’s less about which tools you use than how you use them.

To prepare for the next normal, organizations must take stock of their app ecosystem. This is the time to evaluate, integrate, consolidate, or toss your existing tools, so you can make an informed decision in selecting any new ones.

Shortly before COVID-19 forced organizations worldwide to close their offices, we asked 2,000 employees at medium-sized and large organizations how they connect with their co-workers online.

We discovered that, unless communication and collaboration apps are part of a unified digital workplace strategy, they can do more harm than good.

The downside of app abundance

App proliferation is continuing unabated at most organizations as they search for the newest and best way to connect employees. Our survey found 55 percent of workers use at least two company-approved apps just to get work done every day.

Driven by ease of use, efficiency, and familiarity, more employees are also adopting unsanctioned productivity tools. Just 50 percent of respondents in last year’s survey admitted to using unsanctioned apps and software, while 57 percent of this year’s respondents said they use at least one non-company approved app.

The sheer number of apps used across some organizations is a cause for concern. A recent Okta poll of almost 7,500 companies found the average number of apps is 88, with 10 percent of the respondents deploying 200 or more.

Whether they’re approved or not, and regardless of how many are in use, apps can be a blessing and a curse. They’re essential for bringing employees together and sharing information in today’s dispersed workplace, yet they can interfere with productivity in several ways:

  • They waste time
    The average employee is constantly toggling between apps for texting, sharing documents, taking notes, managing projects, video conferencing – and the list goes on. Classic research proves that this kind of context switching can destroy up to 80 percent of your productive time, depending on how many disparate tasks you have on the go.
  • They inhibit knowledge-sharing
    Our survey found more than half of employees have avoided sharing documents because they can’t find them, or believe it would take too long to do so, up from 43 percent last year. When individuals or teams store and share content on multiple apps, especially if they’re unsanctioned, it creates a tangled web of siloed, hard-to-access information.
  • They increase stress
    Relentless alerts from multiple apps drain employees’ energy and create aggravation. Survey respondents who reported being unsatisfied with their organizations’ approved apps pointed to unreliability, poor user experience, and out-of-date tools as the top sources of irritation. Of those respondents, 40 percent were frustrated when trying to do their jobs and 32 percent felt less engaged with their co-workers.
  • They compromise security
    It’s hard enough for organizations to keep track of sensitive information scattered across all their sanctioned communication and collaboration apps, not to mention the unapproved tools introduced by employees.

4 tips for getting the most out of your apps

The good news is that, managed wisely, communication and collaboration apps are still indispensable tools for improving productivity and engagement at your organization, especially in the COVID-19 world. Rein in the chaos and get them working for, not against, you with these strategies:

  1. Determine your biggest unmet communication and collaboration needs
    Are you a document-centric or conversation-centric organization? Do you need mostly synchronous or asynchronous collaboration? Look at your most urgent business needs and decide where you want and need to be in the post-pandemic landscape. Then consider the functionality you need from apps and their context (home, office, both). Finally, set KPIs and commit to measuring often.
  2. Take a hard look at your current apps
    Be ruthless. Frequent app rationalization is crucial for optimizing the employee experience – especially the remote worker experience – and maximizing productivity. Get rid of old, underused apps or those whose purposes overlap. For the rest, consider the purpose, effectiveness, and popularity of each in deciding which to keep.
  3. Integrate preferred tools in your intranet
    Centralization is the key. Bring chat apps into the fold so conversations can happen in context, with full transparency. The same applies to other productivity, file-sharing, and line-of-business systems: they can co-exist in a unified digital workplace where it’s easy to find and use all the tools employees need. Start by defining which channels each tool is dedicated to, then integrate it accordingly.
  4. Tailor solutions for specific departments
    In our survey, 80 percent of respondents said they would overhaul their department’s intranet space with solutions designed to solve unique collaboration and communication challenges. This is a robust indication of demand for purpose-built departmental zones within company-wide intranets.

Learn more about today’s digital workplace trends

We recently released our 2020 State of the Digital Workplace Report, which identifies prevailing workplace challenges facing many organizations and offers innovative solutions that focus on digital tools and transformation. Learn about our other key findings on remote work by downloading the full report.