Information Overload swamps Australian workplace: Report

OpenText has released the results of a survey that found Four in five (80%) Australian respondents now feel that information overload – driven by factors including information overload across devices (37%), constant information 24/7 (34%), too many passwords to remember (33%) or too many apps to check each day (31%) – is contributing to their daily stress.

This compares with just two in five (40%) who indicated in a similar OpenText survey conducted in March 2020 that information overload contributed to their daily stress. 

The Australian research conducted in March 2022 polled 1,000 respondents to uncover employees’ experience with ‘Information Overload’ during the pandemic and how their interaction with data has changed.

The survey that found eight out of 10 workers are suffering from information overload due to siloed data in too many places, along with poor data access and governance.

Close to a quarter (23%) respondents say they have to use 11 or more accounts, resources, tools and apps on a daily basis. This compares with just one in six (17%) who said this was the case two years ago, proving that the information people need to access resides within an increasing number of data repositories and applications.

In fact, due to the siloed nature of where information sits within organisations, more than two in five Australian employees (41%) say that they normally spend, on average, one or more hours per day searching on company networks or shared systems for specific work files or pieces of information just to do their job.

“For businesses and their employees, the proposition of trying to manage the volume and complexity of information –structured and unstructured data that is pervasive and growing exponentially – can be a daunting one. What we’ve come to realise is that information on its own is not the answer,” said Sandy Ono, Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer at OpenText. “The answer comes when you break down siloes and centralise information. When you continuously manage and bring all your information together, it is transformed. Patterns and trends emerge, insights are gleaned, and better decisions are made. That is the information advantage.”

Information scattered across multiple locations is another reason for the difficulties, with close to half (48%) reporting it’s hampering their ability to find the information they need to do their job. One in five (18%) feel that their colleagues not saving the latest version of documents to shared systems also hampered their ability to do their job, and two in five (43%; the highest globally) feel that not knowing where to find the most up-to-date information also contributes.

Unfortunately, poor information management and these kinds of sustained challenges are having a negative effect on employees. So much so that nearly half (48%) feel that it is having an impact on their mental well-being and stress levels, as well as having a detrimental effect on their performance at work (47%) and a direct impact on their work-life balance (44%). In addition, close to two in five (37%) feel it is negatively impacting their overall job satisfaction.

The lack of effective information management tools in many businesses is now starting to have an impact on what steps employees feel they need to take themselves. Whether they are told they can use them or not, half of Australian employees (50%) currently use personal file sharing systems (such as OneDrive, Google Drive, WhatsApp or Dropbox) for work related file sharing as a way to make things easier for them. More interestingly still, three quarters of those (73%) do it as they believe their company does not have a policy against it, despite the associated, elevated security risks. The global picture is yet more surprising with almost two thirds (63%) of employees across the globe indicating they use personal file sharing systems to share work files and almost three quarters of them (71%) doing so as they believe there is no organisational policy against it.

Unfortunately, the issues do not end there. Australian hybrid workers feel that they face a broad range of other challenges with a quarter (28%) saying that they cannot collaborate or share files with colleagues as easily when they are working from home, while two thirds (35%) indicate they cannot access corporate file systems and content as easily when working remotely. In addition, four in five (39%) are struggling with not having the same setup at home and in the office. 

George Harb, Regional Vice President for ANZ at OpenText said, “As data from office workers, suppliers and customers continues to boom across every organisation, and as the number of systems and applications they use continues to rise, so too do the risks. Right now, there is an urgent need for businesses to automate information management and governance, so that content can be captured and classified, so that retention policies can be applied automatically and so that employees can easily access accurate, up-to-date information without having to trawl multiple applications. Only by taking these steps can organisations succeed in reducing complexity and enable employees to easily collaborate with their colleagues no matter what device or application they use or where and how they choose to work.”