6 Ways to Avoid Digital Overload and Keep Employees Engaged

Find out what triggers digital overload and learn how mentoring can restore equilibrium in the modern workplace.

Matthew Reeves

CEO of Together

Published on 

December 5, 2023

Updated on 

Time to Read

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The average worker checks their email every 37 minutes, interrupting their workflow and taking an average of 23 minutes to refocus. These digital interruptions lead to a significant loss of productivity, as employees spend up to 28% of their workweek managing emails alone.

Besides email, social media, online news, messaging apps, and other digital platforms add to the loss of productivity and digital overload.

What is digital overload?

Digital overload is a state where people feel overwhelmed by an excessive amount of digital information and communication. With constant notifications from phones, emails, calendars, and internal tools, it’s hard to focus and cut out the digital noice.

Digital overload impacts your mental health and leads to elevated stress levels, anxiety, and burnout. In addition to its effects on mental well-being, digital overload also hinders work performance. The constant shifting of attention between tasks can lead to: 

  • Reduced productivity – Constant interruptions from emails, messages, and notifications disrupt workflow and reduce productivity. The average office worker is interrupted approximately every 11 minutes, and requires about 25 minutes to regain full focus. This interruption-driven work environment hampers efficiency and quality of work.
  • Loss of creativity – Digital overload can stifle creativity. Professionals are often so focused on managing digital tasks that they have little time and mental space for creative thinking and problem-solving.
  • Communication overloadEmail overload, for example, can lead to miscommunication and important messages getting buried in a sea of less important ones. This can result in delayed responses and missed opportunities.

What triggers digital overload in employees? 

Digital overload directly impacts productivity, employee well-being, and the overall health of the workplace. Recognizing and addressing its triggers will help you enhance efficiency, reduce stress and burnout, and create better work-life balance for your team.

Common triggers of digital overload include:

1. Constant connectivity

The 'always-on' culture demands employees to be connected all the time. It feels like you can never break free from work. Mobile tech, with its endless emails and messages, makes it worse, especially after hours. This non-stop connection kills creativity, slows you down, and negatively impacts overall well-being.

2. Multitasking with digital tools

They say multitasking handles the flood of information. It doesn't. Our brains work best on one thing at a time. Juggling tasks, especially the tough ones, just slows us down. And it's more than that – multitasking ramps up stress and chips away at job satisfaction and well-being.

3. Information and communication overload

In 2022, the world sent and got about 333 billion emails a day. By 2026, it'll jump to 392.5 billion. That's a lot of emails flooding inboxes, too much for anyone to handle. It's like a never-ending wave of information, leaving folks tired and less sharp at making decisions.

4. Notification interruptions

At big companies, employees use nine apps a day for work. Add the other apps on their phones, and think of all the notifications they get. Messages, social media, project tools – they all keep buzzing in, breaking concentration. These constant alerts, especially emails and social media, split our focus. They trick us into feeling busy, but really, they're just scattering our attention, pulling us away from the real work and cutting down our efficiency.

How to identify specific triggers that affect your employees

You and your team need to know which triggers affect you the most so you can work to lessen their impact. There are a few self-assessment tools you can use for this purpose.

One such tool is the Digital Stressors Scale (DSS), developed to measure the perceived stress from the use of digital technology in the workplace. This scale covers ten stressor categories, including overload from external demands and information and communication overload intensified through the use of ICT​.

Another self-assessment tool is provided by Google's Digital Wellbeing initiative. This questionnaire includes questions such as "Do you tend to lose track of time when on your phone?" and "Do you feel overwhelmed by the amount of unread emails you have?" 

Responses to these questions can help individuals assess their level of digital overload and identify specific areas that may need attention​​.

Together's digital overload assessment questionnaire is also a valuable tool for managers. It helps team members evaluate their technology use and preferences and encourages them to take proactive steps to combat digital overload.

6 ways to avoid digital overload and boost engagement 

Here’s what you can do to empower your team to avoid digital overload, manage their digital lives, reduce stress, and ultimately boost their engagement and overall performance. 

1. Define clear working hours

Start by defining clear working hours for your team. Lay down the law on when the day begins and ends. This draws a line between work and home life. It sets the right expectations, inside and outside the team, making sure everyone's personal time gets the respect it deserves.

2. Set digital communication boundaries

Set rules for talking after hours. Point out the right ways for urgent stuff, and push for delayed responses when it's not pressing. This reins in the digital flood when the workday's done and cuts down on the need to always be online.

3. Use focus techniques

Tell your team to block out time for focused work. There should be slots on their calendars where they turn down the noise and mute those needless pings and buzzes. They should be able to carve out space in their daily routine to really get down to business.

4. Create a digital detox routine

Push for a digital detox. Get your team to pick days to step away from work gadgets. Use this time for hobbies, moving around, or anything away from screens. It's about finding a break in the digital storm.

5. Communicate boundaries clearly

Clear boundaries matter. Make sure your team spells out their digital limits to others – colleagues, bosses, their own teams. Talk about why balancing work and life is important, and how respecting these boundaries makes for a healthier workplace.

6. Leverage mentorship

Digital overload can lead to disengagement, decreased motivation, and even turnover. With the help of mentoring, you can combat digital overload and empower your managers to create a supportive and mindful work environment.

Here’s how mentorship helps mitigate digital overload:

  • Knowledge exchange and learning – Mentoring creates a platform where employees can mutually benefit from each other's experiences and insights, significantly reducing the constant need for digital information sources. This peer-to-peer interaction not only diminishes reliance on digital tools but also cultivates a collaborative learning environment.
  • Guidance on prioritizationMentors, with their experience and insight, can provide invaluable guidance to their mentees in managing workloads. This helps in averting the risk of overwhelm and the associated digital burnout, as employees learn to navigate their responsibilities more efficiently.

Download our free handbook on ‘How to be a Great Mentor’ ⬇️

  • Structured communication – By establishing regular and planned interactions, mentorship reduces the incessant need for on-the-fly digital communications and interruptions. This structure allows employees to focus more on their immediate tasks without the constant pressure of digital communication.
  • Networking and social connectionMentoring boosts networking and making friends at work. These ties strengthen the sense of togetherness and support, cutting down on loneliness. This matters a lot in a digital-focused workplace, where in-person chats are rare. These real connections can ease the burden on digital tools for talking to each other.
  • Offline skill development - Mentors can steer mentees towards hands-on experiences, workshops, and other offline activities. This approach not only broadens the learning spectrum but also reduces the exclusive dependency on digital mediums for skill acquisition.

You might be wondering, "Is there a way for my team to dodge digital overload with a mentoring integration?" There is. It’s called Together for MS Teams.

Managing digital overload and boosting engagement with Together for Microsoft Teams

Striking the right balance between efficiency, collaboration, and employee engagement while mitigating the potential pitfalls of digital overload is a priority for organizations. 

Together for MS Teams is a versatile solution that seamlessly integrates mentoring into the digital workplace, allowing organizations to promote knowledge exchange, skill development, and employee engagement without having to switch between apps. 

Some of the key features of Together for MS Teams include:

1. No-hassle mentorship

With the Together platform embedded within MS Teams, employees can dive right into their mentoring sessions without having to open yet another app on their device. Participants get mentoring alerts directly in their DMs so key updates don’t get lost in the digital noise. 

2. Tailored communication

Together for MS Teams gives mentors and mentees the option to receive communications based on their own preferences, be it via Teams, emails, or both. This way, participants stay in the loop the way they want, not how a tool dictates. 

3. Single sign-on

Employees don’t need yet another barrier to join a mentoring session that could help them problem-solve over a task, or give them a unique opportunity to learn a skill. With Together for MS Teams, mentors and mentees get logged in automatically, with security and convenience. 

Put simply, Together for Teams reduces digital overload by allowing employees to seek targeted and timely guidance from mentors. This approach not only enhances employees' skills but also streamlines communication and fosters a more well-rounded and productive digital workplace.

Balancing digital efficiency and well-being with mentoring programs

Technology is everywhere in our work, talk, and team-ups. But with it comes the hard truth of digital overload. Emails, messages, and endless info can swamp us, hitting productivity and well-being. The answer isn't to back off from tech but to embrace it smartly, finding new ways to handle the overload.

That's where mentoring programs come in.

Successful mentoring programs go beyond merely managing the digital clutter. They address the root causes of digital overload. It turns the digital world from a headache into a push for growth and working together.

But getting this right means giving teams the tools for both growing professionally and staying digitally healthy. Together for Teams is one such tool. It enhances efficiency, collaboration, and employee engagement within the digital workplace while addressing the challenges of digital overload.

Book a demo to learn how Together can transform your workplace into a well-rounded, productive, and balanced space for employees and organizations alike.

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