Notifications: Friends or Foes for Workforce Productivity?

A smartphone blowing up with endless notifications is a scourge of our times. The number of apps we need for work and personal use makes us sometimes feel like all their reminders and alerts are ruining our life.

It’s a stalemate. Developers try harder to get our attention. We work harder to tune them out. They waste their time and resources. We end up being less productive.

Francis Wade, founder of 2Time Labs

What was once invented to make it easier to get work done and optimize productivity has now become an overwhelming distraction. If you google tips on how to improve productivity, you will for sure, come across suggestions, including disabling all notifications to minimize disruption of focus. But is it a way out? Are all notifications now doomed to be disruptors? Or is there light at the end of the tunnel?

The notification-centric workplace: it’s impossible to unplug

There are two things to keep in mind.

  1. There’s no such thing as multitasking; our brain perceives it as task switching.
  2. Turning off all notifications gives your team anxiety, not a productivity solution. 

We’ve already discussed the reasons why people lose focus and how much it costs companies. If on average, it takes 25 minutes to regain focus to get back to doing a task, then we might be in deep trouble. Notifications distract an individual’s attention and make them continuously switch tasks, juggling several activities at once. But this is not the right way to do more and save precious time. In fact, it’s the opposite. A person hardly ever reaches a flow state – the time when they’re fully immersed in a specific activity and most productive.

According to HBR, the average executive checks their email 74 times a day and receives 46 smartphone notifications a day. By doing simple math, we can figure that distractions play a major role in their daily lives. One more finding shows that ongoing task switching can add up to a 40% productivity loss. Other than that, it makes our brain change to a continuous partial attention mode. Linda Stone, writer and consultant, says that “in large doses, continuous partial attention contributes to a stressful lifestyle, to operating in crisis management mode, and to a compromised ability to reflect, to make decisions, and to think creatively.” 

That’s why a logical step would be to turn off all notifications to get rid of additional workplace distractions. However, a collaborative study of Telefónica and Carnegie Mellon University revealed that disabling notifications completely makes people feel more stressed and less productive. While in the beginning, a test group was indeed less distracted and could better concentrate on work by enabling silent mode, they also reported negative consequences:

  • Workers missed information relating to work
  • Workers missed social information 
  • The fear of missing out made them anxious and, as a result, they ended up checking their phones more than usual

We live in the age of remote work and distributed workforce, so missing important notifications means failing to meet deadlines and experiencing various performance issues. That’s why the goal is to ensure that your distributed workforce stays up-to-date but is not overloaded with notifications. 

How to make notifications serve as guiding forces

If you can’t beat them, join them. If you can’t disable all notifications, take control of what your team needs to receive to minimize workplace disruptions. 

The secret to productivity growth lies in setting up workflows in such a way so that any external disturbances are prioritized and delivered only when they are critical. Let’s take an example from a daily routine. What kind of notifications are better to keep active when a person needs to get to work? A notification from Instagram that a former classmate has just published a new photo? Or notifications from Uber about a scheduled ride to know at what time a driver will arrive and avoid being charged for wait times? 

The rule is simple: if notifications do help your team get things done, there’s no need to turn them off. By having only high-value notifications, you turn them into guiding forces that will encourage your workforce to take desired actions.

Driving workforce productivity through smart notifications

Let’s get back to the question of having your distributed workforce up-to-date and not overwhelmed with tons of notifications. The seven years we have been helping companies with large distributed workforces has taught us how crucial it is to keep every single person informed, engaged, and active. Whether it’s a product line update, changes to compliance policy, new safety training, or an urgent business task, your team can’t miss out. At the same time, all the news shouldn’t interfere with your teams’ current activities and performance goals.

That’s why we developed and introduced business rules that demonstrate the true power of data-driven, personalized activities driven by smart notifications. We’ve mentioned that a flow state is an ultimate condition to be highly productive. As McKinsey found out, when people are in flow, they are up to five times more productive. Moreover, if they were immersed in this state 15-20% more, the workforce productivity would almost double. So, these smart notifications are aimed at helping every person stay in the flow to reach their best. How?

By constantly feeding individual’s performance data to our ML-driven system, it knows WHEN to deliver WHAT kind of training to WHOM. In other words, all learning and business activities are prescribed to users just-in-time – when they need help to complete a task. This way, each smart notification serves as a personal assistant who guides workforces through customized paths, ensuring they don’t disunite themselves from current productivity goals and know what to do at each step of their journey with a company.

By leveraging personalized, data-driven notifications, you will not only keep your distributed workforce away from annoying and distracting alerts but also help them optimize their daily schedules for maximum productivity.

To see how Rallyware drives distributed workforce productivity,  request a demo.