Gartner has predicted that ‘by 2020, the impact of interruptions on human effectiveness will cause 40% of enterprises to restrict notifications on wearables, smartphones, and mobile devices’.
In its report titled ‘Predicts 2016: Mobile and Wireless’, the technology research leader warned that the number of devices and channels that can interrupt a worker will increase through to 2020 and beyond. It suggested that these interruptions could affect workers’ abilities to perform complex tasks effectively.
The opportunities that smartphone and wearable technologies have created for organisations have been widely discussed and described. As PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), multinational professional services network, described in its paper ‘The Wearable Future’, these technologies have enabled marketers to “more easily gather and analyse information on the buying habits and locations of consumers. New payment platforms like Apple Pay also stand to dramatically change the efficacy of targeted advertising”.
The article also stated: “Our data shows that workers are highly receptive to using wearable technology in the workplace, but like any other tool people use in the workplace, for wearable devices to succeed they must make employees’ jobs easier, be simple to operate and make them more productive.”
However, Gartner’s research has revealed that frequent interruptions caused by smartphones, mobile devices, and wearable technology has a negative effect on productivity. Notifications from email accounts, social networks, messaging systems, business process alerts and virtual assistants were the main culprits.
Research suggested that:
- By 2020, the average knowledge worker will spend the day next to three to five devices that are capable of interrupting them.
- Interruptions adversely impact on workers abilities to perform difficult tasks because the brain is not designed to multitask.
- A psychological experiment revealed that when concentrating on a task a worker that knows they have an unread email has a reduced effective IQ by around 10 points.
- Responding to interruptions can be akin to addiction as it generates chemical rewards in the brain. This means that the responses to interruptions are difficult to voluntarily control.
What can CIOs and organisations do to decrease interruptions and improve productivity?
Many organisations will be demanding that CIOs build interruption management features into key systems and processes.
- Smart filtering systems: CIOs will install systems that attempt to categorise the importance of messages and deliver only those that matter.
- Disabling systems during key periods: Employees performing certain tasks may be contractually required to disable all personal and business notifications. These kind of measures are particularly prevalent during procedures where safety is paramount.
- Biometric monitoring: Some organisations may use systems which monitor brain activity to identify when a worker is concentrating and determine when interruptions may not be appropriate.
- Training and awareness campaigns: Encouraging employees to voluntarily limit the use of devices and services that cause interruptions.