You’ve probably read about a thousand articles that (rightfully) applaud women for their multitasking abilities. Given the expectations on women to successfully juggle work, family, friends, and a home life — and to maintain a healthy bod and some sense of mental clarity in the process — multitasking seems to have become a skill women have naturally mastered more effectively than men. A new survey from cloud communications provider RingCentral indicates that women also have some serious chops when it comes to a more specific brand of multitasking: app overload.
You can probably guess what “app overload” refers to based on the name alone, but RingCentral’s VP of corporate communications Jennifer Caukin gave us her expert definition. “App overload refers to the overwhelming number of apps that workers need to use every day to get work done,” she explains. “There are workplace apps for virtually everything, and information and alerts are coming from everywhere, with unlimited ways for them to be delivered.” If, based on your own experience at the office, the mere thought that all of these apps are supposed to make your life easier makes you LOL (so many alerts! so many platforms to check!), you’re not alone. Caukin also recognizes the irony: “While these apps are intended to make us more productive, the sheer quantity of them is contributing to a chaotic environment at work that is actually hampering productivity.”
In the interest of learning more about the specific challenges presented by app overload and who can tackle it best, RingCentral commissioned a survey from CITE Research in March 2018. From Workplace Chaos to Zen: How App Overload Is Reshaping the Digital Workplace accounts for the experiences and input of 2,000 participants working across a wide range of industries, and one of the key takeaways is that women make as strong a showing in their ability to deal with app overload as they do in being able to multitask more generally. “It was refreshing to see that, based on our survey, women are stronger at managing app overload, which I think is in large part due to our multitasking abilities,” Caukin says. “This equips [them] well to overcome the challenges of today’s digital workplace, perhaps even more so than their male counterparts.”
According to the survey results, women are consistently less annoyed than their male colleagues when asked to simultaneously navigate multiple apps. There were 14 different scenarios explored in the survey, and men found this multi-app navigation more frustrating than women in every single one. When asked to compare app overload to trying to lose weight, 55 percent of men called it more annoying, compared to 47 percent of women. Two-fifths of men found navigating multiple apps more annoying than their laptop freezing, compared to just over a third of women. And the list goes on. In trying to shed more light on why the results shook out this way, Caukin references research from Dr. Gregory Jantz. “Men tend to zero in on tasks and have more ‘tunnel vision’ when they are focused on something, while women’s brains are able to network across processing centers to move more quickly between tasks,” she suggests.
While these results might just feel like another confirmation for women’s capabilities, they also indicate a unique set of skills that Caukin says will help the female workforce to be increasingly successful in our digital workplaces. A wide range of apps were mentioned as part of the survey — everything from team messaging platforms like Slack to social media favorites like Twitter and LinkedIn to email providers. According to Caukin, RingCentral’s research shows that more than two-thirds of workers waste up to 32 days of work annually navigating apps. That’s seriously crazy, and it’s proof that app multitasking is a valuable skill.
If you are struggling to keep up with all of your apps at work (and there’s no shame in that game), Caukin advises that you be honest about it. “Employees should speak up if they’re experiencing app overload and finding it challenging to get work done,” she recommends. “With the plethora of workplace apps available, workers need to be clear about what works for them and partner with decision-makers in IT and other departments to identify solutions that will enable greater productivity.”
How do you succeed at multitasking at the office? Tweet us @BritandCo.
(Photos via Getty)