At work, it seems there’s a new app for every task – but do you need it? Office workers spend on average seven hours a day staring at their screens, according to a new study called “The Workplace Productivity Report,” by the Paper and Packaging Board, conducted by data survey company Kelton, which surveyed 1,000 employed Americans who work in an office environment. Meanwhile, they spend the day being barraged by notifications, toggling between programs, and juggling email – the stress of which torpedos productivity. The study examines the effect of the office digital overload on the office worker’s life – and what they can do to combat it.
Unlucky 7: On average, office workers spend seven hours of their workday staring at the screens of their digital devices. Among those who say they spend too much time in front of a screen, 33% are unsatisfied with their ability to relax, and 26% are unsatisfied with their work-life balance.
Many people feel they cannot disconnect after-hours. Almost a third (30%) feel that their digital devices are the reason they cannot disconnect from work while they’re out of the office at night or on weekends.
More screen time is not better. Two in five agree that the push towards more digital tools in the office makes them less productive.
The more screen time, the less productive you are: Half (49%) of office workers agree that staring at a screen as much as they do on a daily basis actually makes them less productive.
Overwhelmed: A full 41% are constantly bombarded by digital alerts or messages on Glack, Gchat, or Skype.
Driven to distraction: Just over half (51%) of office workers feel digital tools and platforms are a distraction. 43% blame them for hindering their productivity.
There is a solution: Office professionals are going analog and turning to paper. A majority (60%) of office workers say they are using paper to make them more productive. For some (40%), it actually makes their job easier.
Over three in five (62%) say that in order to do their job they rely on paper equally, if not more than, their digital devices.
Pay attention: Many believe using paper helps them stay on task (42%) and stay engaged (33%).
Print it out: Almost all (96%) of office workers prefer to work with hard copies over digital versions of the same information.
Time management: Over half (53%) of office workers prefer analog over digital resources to manage their time, preferring paper to create their to-do lists (41%), set goals (28%), and organize their day (37%).
Paper always: 73% feel that it is important to have the option to use paper whenever they want in the workplace.
“People are overwhelmed in the office,” productivity expert Holland Haiis told Ladders. “One of the biggest assets and liabilities affecting our productivity, which turned into a really large obstacle, is technology. Technology is this beautiful gift, and it’s this double-edged sword, which has our brains in a fog when we use too much of it and don’t give ourselves breaks.”
Haiis advocates the use of paper to scribble, doodle, write in the margins, and ultimately generate ideas.
“This isn’t possible with digital work, which often involves multitasking between multiple digital programs,” she says. “This drives our brain into a brain fog.”
Screen breaks and digital downtime
If you want to get creative, try stepping away from the screen. The vast majority (72%) say that staring at a screen all day makes them feel drained.
Almost two-thirds of office workers (63%) say they prefer to use paper to (spark) creativity in the workplace. They use it to brainstorm new ideas (30%), to get all their thoughts together (29%), or as a place to start on a new project (22%).
Tips for going analog
Start your day right. One way to lessen the strain of staring at a screen all day is “balancing [your work] between paper and technology,” Haiis told Ladders.
She recommended beginning by “really looking at your tasks for the day and [determining] first and foremost, what doesn’t have to be done digitally. It’s old-school yet it’s really new-school to work with paper again.”
Get a journal. “We’re talking about a business journal, one where sometimes we read an email, sometimes we have a phone call, and someone says something and we think, oh my gosh, I want to put that into my article, or This is the missing piece for that particular client. And we may think we’re going to remember it. And how very often do we all say, ‘Oh, I should’ve written that down.'” With a journal, there is less switching between digital files, Haiis said, which means less brain fog, which lets you “stay more connected and productive” with your work.”
“Get something that’s fun and colorful and sexy,” Haiis added. “Or all CEOs have a black journal – if you want to feel powerful like that, get a black one. It doesn’t matter. Just get something where you can down ideas as they come to you.”
Try a (paper) calendar. Haiis is not a fan of Google Calendar, with all the switching back and forth between email and calendar to see what days you can offer. “You can sometimes be switching back and forth to get a date six or seven times,” she said. “What a waste of productivity when all you have to do is turn the page to see what’s happening next week in your planner and it’s all there.”
Using a paper planner or calendar is “really simple tool,” Haiis said.