Toggle Tax

3 ways to drive efficiency without taxing your teams

How the “toggle tax” might be impacting worker performance

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Photo: Antonello Marangi (Shutterstock)

While accelerated digital transformation has improved how we work in many ways, it’s also added complexity to our day-to-day. Sure, having conversations with our colleagues across multiple channels offers short-term utility, but over time, this level of connectivity has started to hinder efficiency.

Some refer to it as the “toggle tax” or app overload, but the number of tools we are now using to get work done creates massive visibility challenges. Work can too easily get lost or overlooked when teams use disconnected apps to communicate and collaborate (i.e., video calls, Slack threads, break room conversations, etc.)—and this “invisible work” costs businesses up to $60 million per year.

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Wrike’s new research shows that organizations are facing significant roadblocks to efficiency—workloads have increased, budgets are being slashed, and app overload remains highly prevalent. The surge in tools and technology at our disposal has created a knowledge gap between employees and management, and leaders are finding it increasingly difficult to understand the status of projects and how work relates to, supports, or even counteracts strategic initiatives and company goals.

This poses a seemingly daunting question: How do we solve the workplace efficiency problem? And more importantly, how do we do it without severely taxing our teams?

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A focus on productive collaboration

Our research illuminated three key areas where organizations saw the greatest return on their efficiency journey, and they aren’t what you might expect. Business leaders ranked more drastic measures like budget cuts, layoffs, and reducing meeting time as the least effective measures to improve efficiency. While those measures enhance efficiency in the short term, organizations must consider what’s required to keep efficiency up over the next few years as a recession looms.

We have the answer to that. Organizations that have experienced nominal efficiency increases have found that creating a single source of truth for work across their organization (80%), consolidating software applications (81%), and investing in new project management and work management solutions (82%) have been the most effective ways to improve efficiency.

If prioritizing efficiency is a long-term strategic goal for your business and consolidation is already underway, a collaborative work management tool is the best way to get your entire organization on the same page. These tools improve visibility and alignment, reduce wasted effort, and help organizations deliver on business outcomes.

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Reduce invisible work

Not surprisingly, the measures that organizations found most effective provide a common benefit: increased visibility. And even though many organizations have taken a hard look at their tech stack—reducing the number of apps and tools they use to get work done by 50%— business leaders still don’t have visibility into roughly 45% of work that’s being completed, a mere 4% improvement over last year. Which means the work is not done.

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By limiting the number of places invisible work can exist, both leadership and individual teams can more accurately determine the status of projects, how they’re tracking, and how their work is contributing to business objectives. The right work management tool will integrate with other vital solutions (ERP, CRM, ITSM, MarTech, and AdTech) to offer a single view of work across your team or department.

The topic of visibility also bridges the gap between the business and people side of the efficiency equation. Having greater visibility into workflows can prevent duplicative work and wasted time and effort. Both are a detriment to productivity and can be seriously frustrating for employees.

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Protect your people

It’s impossible to examine your organization’s operational efficiency without also looking at productivity. Good leaders will recognize that an accelerated pace of work and higher expectations have heightened team stress levels. Great leaders will take the necessary steps to protect their mental health and well-being.

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Employees say their workloads have increased by 43% in the past year and leadership believes this to be even higher at 45%. They also get tired of hearing the phrase “do more with less”—51% of them, to be exact. Fortunately, many organizations are already taking the necessary steps to decrease burnout, including allowing flexible work, asking for employee feedback, maintaining an open dialogue between managers and employees, and offering mental health tools. But it’s not quite enough.

The best thing that organizations can do for their employees is address visibility challenges head on and respond to their request for more robust tools: 76% of employees say that a single source of truth would reduce their work-related stress and 52% of them would be more productive.

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Improving workplace efficiency is a fine line to walk amid recession fears and a workforce on the edge of burnout, but that shouldn’t stop you from trying. It’s critical that business leaders have the right strategies in place in the coming months to effect measurable change within their organizations, and ensure that the work being done aligns to larger business outcomes.


Thomas Scott is the interim CEO at Wrike.