A US survey by video messaging platform Loom has found that the large majority of workers in desk jobs are spending almost half their work days communicating about work rather than actually doing the work. The survey, which polled around 1,500 office workers, suggests that on average, people spend 3 hours and 43 minutes a day communicating on multiple platforms, including email, instant messaging, phone calls, and video calls.
Furthermore, a lot of that communication is redundant: 69 percent of workers say that they are sending the same messages or information repeatedly within the same day. The number jumps to 85 percent weekly. As to why they are doing this, survey respondents say it is partly to create a trail of accountability and partly to make the information visible to more people.
More communication = less productivity
Besides the direct cost in time, the survey results indicate that the amount of communication happening in the workplace is hampering productivity. The 3 hours and 43 minutes spent on communicating are not a single contiguous stretch of time: they are spread out over the working day and take the form of multiple interruptions.
Every interruption comes with its own mental load that takes up more time before and after the communication itself: for example, the survey found that 78% of employees become distracted just by seeing notifications that someone else is typing a message or has read their message. That distraction takes the form of constantly checking the message or completely stopping work to wait for the other person. As a result, 31 percent of workers say they struggle to find time to actually do their work.
Unsurprisingly, the survey results show that 45% of employees find communication the most mentally taxing part of their job, and 55% actually need to take breaks because of communication-related stress.
Would generative AI help?
With all the hype about the newest generation of chatbots, it's not surprising that 50% of survey respondents say they would like to use AI to supplement workplace communication, either hoping that it will make communication clearer or hoping that it will help them get more work done.
But as usual, the question of AI is polarising, with just as many (56%) also being wary of it - and the numbers show that even some of those who want to use it are still cautious of introducing it into workplace communication. They are either worried that conversations would be less authentic (38%), or worried that they might not be talking to their coworkers (30%).