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‘Infobesity’ causes distraction and stress at work, says Microsoft expert


An overload of information is causing British office workers to feel increasingly distracted at work and home, according to a YouGov poll commissioned by Microsoft.

The survey of more than 2,000 UK employees found that 55% of office workers experience “information overload” at work.

More than half (52%) admit they are easily distracted by the availability of information,
Almost half (43%) experience stress as a result of having to deal with too much information at work, and 34% say they feel “overwhelmed”. More than one-quarter (28%) believe information overload has a negative impact on their wellbeing.

The problem extends to employees’ home lives, with 58% admitting they check their work devices within 15 minutes of waking up, and 52% looking at work emails within 15 minutes of going to sleep.

Dave Coplin, chief envisioning officer at Microsoft, told HR magazine the constant flow of information can lead to workers making “bad decisions, or at least those based on bad data”. He added that it also leads to employees developing bad habits, such as “snacking” on superficial information instead of starting more useful work.

“People will instinctively want to open the next email without really processing the information in the previous one,” he said. “It’s a way of distracting yourself that means often you are not anywhere near as productive as you should be.”

Coplin added that this only adds to stress levels, as unprocessed information builds up to a level that is unmanageable.

“People need to get into a way of working that means they are using their time more effectively," he said. "This is not a question of turning off the technology, as it is invaluable to the way we work, but being able to control it in a way that enhances productivity, not detracts from it.”