Drowning in droplets of data

Tweets, Facebook updates, meetings, telephone calls and e-mails – the way we work today involves assimilating information from many sources. The fact that we’re struggling to do this is a very real business issue – one that will only increase as we enter the big data era.

March 6, 2012

By Chris Harman, Regional Vice President for Northern Europe, Middle East and Africa at Mindjet

Tweets, Facebook updates, meetings, telephone calls and e-mails – the way we work today involves assimilating information from many sources. The fact that we’re struggling to do this is a very real business issue – one that will only increase as we enter the big data era.

People simply cannot afford to be held back by the volume of information when the current economic climate is so tough. Something as simple as searching for information can at present have a serious effect as businesses are looking to free up employees’ time to be more innovative and productive in order to stimulate the growth most are looking for in 2012.

In fact, research recently conducted by One Poll for Mindjet, a leading provider of collaborative work management solutions that dramatically improves how groups of people work together, found that employees across Britain, Sweden and the Netherlands specifically are drowning in droplets rather than floods of data at work, and are struggling to navigate, organise and digest this collectively, which is costing businesses.

The study highlights that, whilst workers from the three countries might receive small amounts of data, when it comes from multiple sources it quickly becomes hard to manage, negatively impacting the business bottom line and making workers unhappy.
The average number of e-mails received each day might not be as high as previously thought, at 36 for Britain, but the survey has shown a third of these still go unread. Swedish workers, for the most part, receive around 30 mails per day but as many as three out of ten individuals do not read all of these. Individuals from the Netherlands are sent 33 e-mails per day of which one third go unread.

Further results from the survey showed that:

• Brits attend one meeting, make five telephone or conference calls and despite social media hype, just 20 percent spend any time on social networking sites during a typical day at the office;

• Workers in the Netherlands receive an average of six phone calls, attend one meeting, spend approximately 65 minutes speaking face to face to colleagues (outside of meetings) and 11 minutes on social networking sites per day; and

• Twenty five percent of Swedish office workers spend more than three hours per day in meetings or on the phone on a daily basis, with 75 percent of women and 65 percent of men feeling that the flow of e-mails and meetings is stressful.

These results echo e-mail consumption: data even by the droplet still maintains a negative human impact, and is cited as a cause of workplace unhappiness, with two thirds (65.2 per cent) of British office workers, 57 percent of those in the Netherlands and seven out of ten Swedish employees saying that the amount of data they are receiving negatively affects their job.

The research, which surveyed 2,000 UK and 200 Netherlands-based and Swedish office workers, has found that just a small amount of data can leave employees feeling overwhelmed because they are simply not equipped to manage it. It is the reason why more people are enjoying their job less and what’s more, it is having a knock on impact for businesses.

The average UK office worker spends over 21 minutes a day, the equivalent of over two working weeks per year, searching for information they’ve seen but can’t find – that’s costing UK business £1,248.51 Based on working 234 days a year with an average working day of 7.5 hours and an average salary of £25,900, source: Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings (December 2010), HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) and Pay As You Earn (PAYE) records. (more than R16,000) and organisations in the Netherlands are spending 1,853 euros (almost R20,000) a year for every employee, based on the average wage.

This research has shown it doesn’t take much to feel like people are drowning in data at work. It is costing businesses and affecting employee motivation, which is why companies have to encourage new ways of working and help their employees better manage data. Mindjet is helping them to do this by providing collaborative work management solutions that focus on visualising data to dramatically improve how people can retain information more effectively, work better together, accomplish goals more successfully and be more productive.

Neurobiologist Mo Costandi explains why we’re struggling: “We receive information from a huge variety of different sources, sometimes simultaneously, but the brain is not good at multitasking. When there are e-mails, documents, meetings, tweets and telephone calls to deal with it can be very hard to assimilate all this information in a meaningful way. Visualising information could help us to see the bigger picture and understand connections between pieces of information, but the way we work doesn’t usually allow for this and that’s why we can feel overloaded and struggle to make sense of what we can process. We’re only going to receive more information from more sources in the future so we have to get better at managing it – this is where technology can help, if used in the right way.”

You can find out how well you cope with information at work by using Mindjet’s online Data Mass Index Calculator: http://mydmi.co.uk.

Mindjet provides leading information mapping software MindManager, which allows you to capture, organise, plan, and act on ideas and information. For a free trial go to www.mindjet.com.