Information overload complicating work-life for Australian employees

George Harb, Regional Vice President for ANZ at OpenText

A new research study from OpenText reveals the extent to which the effects of information overload are impacting Australia and its workers and how this has changed during the COVID 19 pandemic. The survey findings offer market insights, trend data, and predictions for what lies ahead as organisations take steps to combat the effects of information overload.

The key lies in being able to successfully transform how information is accessed, managed and leveraged throughout the firm, so they can achieve an information advantage. This advantage sets organisations apart in their markets and can act as a catalyst for growth.

What were the findings of the research?

80% of respondents feel that information overload – driven by factors including information overload across devices (37%), constant information 24/7 (34%), too many passwords to remember (33%) or too many apps to check each day (31%) – is contributing to their daily stress. This compares with just two in five (40%) who indicated in a similar OpenText survey conducted in March 2020 that information overload contributed to their daily stress

As our work lives continue to spill into our personal lives with hybrid working, even in 2022, less than half of employees (42%) feel they are equipped with the right digital tools to work at home. Even more surprising is that this has dropped from 66% at the onset of COVID-19.

An endless supply of information everywhere

Close to a quarter (23%) of respondents say they have to use 11 or more accounts, resources, tools and apps on a daily basis. This compares with just one in six (17%) respondents who said this was the case two years ago, proving that the information people need to access resides within an increasing number of data repositories and applications.

In fact, due to the siloed nature of where information sits within firms, 41% say that they normally spend, on average, one or more hours per day searching on company networks or shared systems for specific work files or pieces of information just to do their job.

Not just a matter of what and where

Information scattered across multiple locations is another reason for the difficulties, with 48% reporting it’s hampering their ability to find the information they need to do their job.

One in five (18%) feel that their colleagues not saving the latest version of documents to shared systems also hampered their ability to do their job, and two in five (43%; the highest globally) feel that not knowing where to find the most up-to-date information contributes.

Poor information management and these kinds of sustained challenges are having a negative effect on employees. So much so that nearly half (48%) feel that it is having an impact on their mental well-being and stress levels, as well as having a detrimental effect on their performance at work (47%) and a direct impact on their work-life balance (44%). In addition, close to two in five (37%) feel it is negatively impacting their overall job satisfaction.

This time, it’s personal

The lack of effective information management tools is now starting to have an impact on what steps employees feel they need to take themselves. Whether they are told they can use them or not, half of Australian employees (50%) currently use personal file sharing systems (like OneDrive, Google Drive, WhatsApp or Dropbox) for work related file sharing.

More interestingly still, three quarters of those (73%) do it as they believe their company does not have a policy against it, despite the associated, elevated security risks. The global picture is yet more surprising with almost two thirds (63%) of employees across the globe indicating they use personal file sharing systems to share work files and almost three quarters of them (71%) doing so as they believe there is no organisational policy against it.

Unfortunately, the issues do not end there. Australian hybrid workers feel that they face a broad range of other challenges with 28% saying that they cannot collaborate or share files with colleagues as easily when they are working from home, while 35% indicate they cannot access corporate file systems and content as easily when working remotely. In addition, four in five (39%) are struggling with not having the same setup at home and in the office. 

What were the executives’ thoughts on the study?

“For businesses and their employees, the proposition of trying to manage the volume and complexity of information –structured and unstructured data that is pervasive and growing exponentially – can be a daunting one. What we’ve come to realise is that information on its own is not the answer,” said Sandy Ono, Executive Vice President and CMO at OpenText.

“The answer comes when you break down siloes and centralise data. When you continuously manage and bring all your information together, it is transformed. Patterns emerge, insights are gleaned, and better decisions are made. That is the information advantage,” Ono said.

George Harb, Regional Vice President for ANZ at OpenText commented, “As data from office workers, suppliers and customers continues to boom across every organisation, and as the number of systems and applications they use continues to rise, so too do the risks.”

“Right now, there is an urgent need for businesses to automate information management and governance, so that content can be captured and classified, so that retention policies can be applied automatically and so that employees can easily access accurate, up-to-date information without having to trawl multiple applications,” Harb further commented.

“Only by taking these steps can organisations succeed in reducing complexity and enable employees to easily collaborate with their colleagues no matter what device or application they prefer to use or where and how they choose to work,” Harb concluded.