Enterprises have a burnout problem and tech overload is exacerbating it

When the pandemic began, enterprises loaded teams up with tools and apps that were meant to help them stay connected and organised remotely.

When the pandemic began, enterprises loaded teams up with tools and apps that were meant to help them stay connected and organised remotely.

However, despite these tools, while where we work shifted, little about how we work changed for the better.

New tools helped us connect, but also added to digital distractions with more notifications and frequent context switching disrupting focus and flow. We swapped in-person meetings for video calls, without questioning whether we truly needed those meets in the first place. Our commutes disappeared, but we began working later.

Simon O’Kane, Head of EMEA at Asana explains that the result is that even as some offices have reopened, organisations are facing a collective burnout crisis.

Nearly three-quarters of workers report experiencing burnout in the past year. Businesses are turning to company-wide holidays to provide teams with a chance to recharge. This isn’t a sustainable long-term solution. Deloitte shows that on the whole, poor mental health is costing UK employers up to £45bn per year. And, with millions shifting roles as part of the ‘Great Resignation’, organisations must act quickly.

To tackle the burnout challenge and create more engaging, happier, workplaces that will attract new hires and retain existing employees, there are three key steps we can take.

Enable cross-functional work

Across all industries, businesses are losing countless hours to work about work. This is the time wasted on tasks like searching for information, switching between apps and holding status meetings. It detracts from people’s ability to do the skilled, strategic work they were hired for, and it fuels burnout.

The bigger and more complex an organisation, the bigger the work about work challenge is. Organisations of over 5,000 employees lose 63 percent of their time to work about work each week—more than any other business size.

Work about work is exacerbated by misalignment between how businesses are organised and how work actually gets done. Today, most enterprises continue to be organised functionally, when today’s work happens cross-functionally. In an era of hybrid work, with fewer chance encounters with teams beyond our own, the issues caused by team silos become even more prevalent. We need to connect teams, and provide greater clarity over what work needs to happen when on a cross-functional level to drive success regardless of location or business department.

But it’s not only siloed teams which is impacting our ability to work cross-functionally, but our siloed tools.

Tackling tech fragmentation and overload

Attempting to coordinate siloed teams is made more chaotic by fragmented tools and a lack of clarity in how we manage work.

The sales team might be tracking progress in a spreadsheet, while the marketing department primarily coordinates on email and product teams use their own shared calendar. This fragmentation can often make it feel as if individual departments, or even teams within those departments, are operating in isolation.

When everyone has to come together, to problem-solve, launch a new product, or report on the quarter’s results, joining these dots is inefficient and unclear. More time is lost and teams end up frustrated and disconnected as a result — two core drivers of burnout.

The answer isn’t adding more apps. Workers are already using an average of 10 different apps, switching between them 25 times per day. Instead, we need to start empowering our teams with tools that integrate with and consolidate their existing tech stacks, streamline workflows and connect every team with shared missions and goals.

Setting and communicating goals effectively

Disconnection between teams fuels burnout and costs enterprises resources. These issues are only exacerbated by a failure to connect individual work to the bigger picture.

Setting, communicating and tracking goals is crucial for enabling both individuals and teams to connect their work with an overall business mission. Clarity and visibility of goals promotes focus, and helps people see their work is having an impact.

The sense of connection and purpose which goals provide can be a key weapon in the battle against burnout​​—which is exacerbated by a lack of clarity over tasks, and leads to a fall in morale.

Yet like work itself, the value of goals is diminished if they exist in silos. We need to banish a ‘set it and forget it’ approach to goals and treat them as an ongoing element of work. By embracing work management platforms which enable us to set clear objectives connected to the tools that manage ongoing work, enterprises can align effort and impact to achieve amazing results, increase employee happiness and tackle burnout.

We need to recognise that the burnout crisis is not only a short-term effect of the past 18 months. It’s a result of many long term issues with how we work, from failing to enable cross-functional work to burdening workers with app overload.

By examining the root causes of these issues and starting to tackle them with new approaches to work management, we can begin to create enterprises in which everyone is empowered to thrive.