We live in a world where information is all around us, just like air. And such a vast sea of information can become a double-edged sword. We become both famished and overwhelmed at the same time.

This especially holds true for company employees. Innovation that led to the eruption of smartphones, tablets, and other technological devices has kept employees tethered to their jobs 24x7 throughout the year. It has opened the path to easy communication but waits.

If we see closely, isn't communication happening a bit too much. Everything done in excess is bad for health, so is communication.

The Atlantic has coined this always-on trend as "hyper-employment." Not too far behind was the development of new communication tools, promising people a smarter and faster way of connecting to one another.

Currently, the market in this field is so lucrative that even tech unicorns like - Cisco, Microsoft, Facebook, Atlassian decided to take their own spin over messaging, chat, and video communication systems. But, are these tools increasing productivity? Or is the work environment turning into a chaotic and never-ending cycle of messages, emails, conference calls, and chats?

Did you know that companies have had a major employee burnout situation over the last five years? Avoiding burnout is one of the major steps towards better employee engagement.

The always-on phenomenon has ended up draining employee productivity, pushing employees to overwork and neglect their well-being. More and more employees are feeling overwhelmed at work.

Communication tool - Boon v/s Bane

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According to Deloitte Insights, behaviors and habits around communication tools people use in their personal lives have mitigated their way to their work lives. Consider text and WhatsApp messaging. 

Today, 18.7 billion text messages worldwide are sent every day, and individuals of the 25–34 age group send and receive more than 75 texts per day. Instant text formats have become omnipresent in our personal lives; it is starting to find them commonplace at work. Yes! Communication tools have increased collaboration, connection, and a channel for feedback.

However, it also comes with its own set of problems:

1. Over-sharing of unnecessary information

Many companies who have integrated communication tools in their office find it hard to regulate it. These tools seem to merge lines between the "personal" and "professional," making it hard for employees to understand the boundaries.

Employees end up sharing inappropriate information without understanding the repercussions of their actions. Sometimes, the mode of the language used for information sharing may include slurs (racial, gender, ethnicity, etc.), which can break your office culture.

Over-sharing information (without regulation) can give birth to unnecessary conflicts and irrelevant political/social discussions that may not be helpful to your organizational growth.

2. Waste of time

Communication tools can help you build strong and secure internal communication, but they can also lead to the creation of an environment that supports office gossip and rumor-mongering.

There needs to be a proper system within the tool that makes sure that information shared by employees is for the benefit of the organization.

3. Havoc of multiple tools

Aren't we all familiar with the situation where the marketing and sales team members are using a communication tool integrated into their CRM? The content team is sticking to G-suite.

On the other hand, the development team is using 'cool' communication tools. And the top management is still relying on email. Multiple communication tools create mishaps, loss of critical data/communication, and conflicts within groups or people.

4. Constant notification

Most new communication tools also have an app that can be used via smartphones. These tools emit constant notifications that compel employees to read and reply to every activity on those forums.

This has led to an increased feeling of FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) in the professional realm, anxiety and poor work-life balance, and workplace burnout.

Where are we going wrong?

Employee engagement is the totality of alignment, collaboration, empowerment, and motivation. To increase overall engagement and productivity, we can't work on one aspect of engagement in isolation and leave all others.

Then there is also the aspect of behavior. Employee behavior is very much dependent on how your organization behaves towards them. For example, if your employee posts something irrelevant on the company internal chatbox, and the HR or team lead ignores it, employees will continue the unwanted behavior.

Employee behavior and organizational culture are important factors that shape employee behavior. Remember, Top performers, need flexible scheduling to feel comfortable and overcome any signs of burnout.

To maintain high engagement, it is also imperative to set specific rules for your employees and use the necessary means to curb their behavior according to your expectations.

Special efforts need to be made to reduce stress at work and improve employee engagement.

Engaging overwhelmed employees

1. Engagement toolkit v/s engagement tool

In the wave of HR technology, we are all itching to try these new innovative tools in our own office space. Unfortunately, not many engagement tools provide holistic solutions.

Using a different engagement tool for each segment of Employee Engagement can be confusing, time-consuming, costly, and would be a foolish attempt to improve employee engagement. It would help if you had an engagement toolkit that covers all aspects of engagement, reduces stress at work, and enhances employee engagement.

Apart from being cost-effective, these toolkits provide you with analytics that can make management and tracking of your engagement activities smooth and seamless.

2. Recognition

Overwhelmed and unappreciated employees are more likely to feel disengaged and look for a job change.

According to a recent report, 55% of Americans consider lack of recognition as one of the main reasons for changing jobs.

While it's true that better recognition might not decrease the team's workload, it can, however, make employees feel more appreciated and perhaps motivate them to do their best, even during the chaos.

To increase employee support, many company leaders are implementing online, points-based recognition solutions. Leaders and employees can now celebrate spot or in-the-moment acts of accomplishment by sharing peer-specific actions and rewarding them with points. Employees can accumulate recognition points and redeem them towards the reward they desire.

3. Employee-to-work connection

It depends on the organization and the leadership to identify - what drives the connection between employees, their roles, and the company goals. Clarifying and solidifying this connection will lead to increased retention. There needs to be a change in the way employees interact with one another and approach their daily tasks.

Employers and employees sometimes need to consciously step out of their constraining routines and try something new to form genuine connections. Rather than hosting traditional annual meetings, encourage teams to have weekly meetings and hold discussions on online tools.

Combined in-person and online meetings will quench the employees' need to stay connected, both physically and virtually. Some employees need a stronger disruption from their daily routine. You can offer employee education hours. In these sessions, employees will be able to reconnect with their job roles, peers, and the company in a more holistic manner.

Employees can use this hour to shadow a co-worker, learn a new skill, or draw inspiration from a favorite podcast. These tactics are nothing but a unique way for employees to find a new and exciting take on work.

Conclusion

When an important business technology suddenly stops working, you immediately try to identify the problem and take all the measures necessary to get it up and to run.

However, with it comes to your most valuable and significant business asset, your employees. Many HR leads and business heads aren't very brisk to respond. There is indeed no quick fix to employee engagement.

Some solutions may seem easier to implement, while others might require more company-wide coordination. The key here is to look for signs and act intelligently, without delay.

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Poonam Das

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Poonam Das is a Storyteller and Content Strategist from Mumbai, Maharashtra.