Communication overload at work: what it is and how to deal with it
Team Management

Communication overload at work: what it is and how to deal with it

Irene Kalesi
Irene Kalesi

Ιn today’s hi-tech world, apps, platforms, and software help get messages across the fast and easy way. Emails, texts, calls, and calendar notifications are just some of the forms of messaging that employees have to accept, monitor, and filter while working on projects. Do you want to get a glimpse of the enormity of the communication overload? 306.4 billion emails have circulated worldwide in 2020, according to statista.

The overabundance of incoming business communication can overwhelm employees and hinder collaboration with others. Work overload is not beneficial to anyone. Professionals should learn how to manage the way they communicate with colleagues, managers, and clients to avoid communication overload.

In this article, we will discuss the state of communication overload. We’ll also share tips to help professionals cope with the ongoing influx of information.

The case of communication overload

All professionals need to receive generous amounts of information to work effectively on a project or a task. However, this excessive inflow of information is not easy to handle. Adding to the informational havoc, time pressure enters the scene to increase the challenge. Employees now have to receive, read, evaluate, and act upon their communication in a specific timeframe. This process is time-consuming and stressful, but it is an indispensable part of work life.

Research by Joseph Ruff at Harvard University showed that 25% of employees are stressed because of the plethora of information they have to deal with. Moreover, RescueTime indicates that the average employee uses chats and emails every 6 minutes. This means that, in a workday of 8 hours, that employee will deal with correspondence at least 80 times a day!

Communication overload, as well as multitasking, increases anxiety and causes cognitive issues. Employees who deal with vast amounts of information may forget about key or urgent tasks, lose sight of critical messages, or miss deadlines and team meetings.

Productivity decrease

The constant messaging and having several tabs with chats and email open can impact the ability to focus on a task and finish it fast. Lack of concentration leads to a loss of productivity. In turn, this leads to unsuccessful deliverables and failed collaborations.

Of course, the above problems will not necessarily affect every employee. Some may break under the pressure. Others will gather their mental strength and work as they should. Still, all of them will feel overloaded at work. Communication overload works accumulatively, so burnout signs will appear eventually.

Teamwork issues

When employees feel pressure and are incapable of handling their communication, this can also cause problematic professional relations. When emails and texts are storming, messaging with multiple colleagues may lead to misapprehension, tension, or even total communication breakdown. Teams plagued by anxiety and demanding workload are not able to function and work harmoniously, especially if higher management reinforces this way of working.

3 tips to deal with communication overload

The advice we share here is useful to managers and employees alike. Following these tips, managers will help their teams build communication bridges and avoid suffering from communication overload.

Do not sink into a pool of communication tools

The faces of company communication are many. From emails, video conferencing, and newsletters to private messaging, chat groups, and project management tools, information always finds its way throughout a company.

However, the cause of the overload is not the abundance of communication tools but the way companies structure their communication. Since each communication channel has a different purpose, managers should use different platforms for different purposes.

For example, news and announcements concerning the totality of the workforce should be centralized somewhere, like an online “news pinboard” with separate sections for different teams or departments. This tactic will save employees from learning about things through emails or chat messages.

Choose in-person communication

60,8% of recipients tend to ignore work emails either voluntarily or due to the amount of incoming company communication. Therefore, companies should refrain from sending massive emails to all the employees since most of them will not concern everyone. Managers and HR professionals should choose in-person communication if something important needs to be shared. It will be faster, more effective, and lighten the load on everyone’s inbox.

Furthermore, when managers have a lot to share with their teams, it’s better to arrange a meeting where they will make a presentation of their ideas. Either way, they will reduce the amount of back and forth emails and centralize the team’s focus on one communication channel.

Get some tech-free time

This tip is probably the most effective of all: Find some time during the day to take your mind off chatting and answering emails. For example, don’t take your phone with you when taking breaks. Notifications will pop up there too.

Another idea is to set specific times during the day to check emails and other communication channels. This way, you’ll be able to organize your work more efficiently and work without interruptions, and distractions. Last but not least, don’t check your work email after you leave the office. Separating work life from personal life and free time is a sacred rule for work-life balance and to avoid communication overload.

In conclusion…

The problem of communication overload is real, and it’s affecting employees in the worst possible way. Information should be an ally to the professional and not an obstacle. Thus, managers should work on improving communication strategies and think twice before “hitting send” to facilitate their teams’ lives. Employees that are not overloaded at work with emails, apps, and notifications are healthier, more productive, and report higher satisfaction with their job.

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