UK workers continue to suffer information overload, sending or receiving on average 171 messages per day - an increase of 2% on last year.
However, according to a new report from office product specialist Pitney Bowes, we are beginning to use modern tools such as e-mail, voice mail and cellular phones more efficiently, thus reducing the stress associated with data excess.
The study, Messaging Practices in the Knowledge Economy, surveyed 1,000 workers from the US, UK, Canada and Germany and found some surprising differences in the way individual countries deal with the task of filtering information.
The use of voice mail varies widely from country to country. While most workers in the UK (58%) use voice mail every day, many of them complained bitterly of its merry-go-round loop system. In the US, however, almost all workers (95%) use voice mail, and often leave lengthy and information-heavy messages.
Mobile phone usage also varies greatly: in the UK, 46% of employees use mobiles, compared to 27% in the US.
Despite an 11% increase in Internet use by UK companies over the past year, workers here still lag behind the US, Canada and Germany, with only 36% using the Web every day (compared to 71% in the US). The report attributed this difference to countries' varying pricing regulations.
Much of the report was dedicated to dealing with information overload.
The researchers found that, contrary to popular belief, it is not the quantity of information that causes stress, but its fragmentation. A glut of messages on different topics at one time means people lose control of a work sequence and so feel overloaded. This problem is then confounded by duplicate messages when a response is not received in the expected timespan.
The survey suggested explicitly stating rules of communication, and keeping messages concise and relevant.
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