Workers spend a ridiculous amount of time looking for files and it’s killing productivity

Forget trying to get your email inbox to zero, the majority of most people’s time is spent looking for that file they “swore they saw just a second ago.” A new survey reports that this is a huge problem — made worse with the remote work model.

Data analysis firm Elastic teamed up with Wakefield Research to conduct a new poll of 1,000 US office professionals. The executives and employees polled both agreed that lengthy searches for work negatively have an impact on a firm’s output, productivity, and morale.

About one in five of the respondents ranked “digging for lost files they need” as the No. 1 problem associated with remote work, while an additional 58% described long searches for work files and documents as a top-three problem.

Lost files are killing productivity

Hybrid work models appear to be exacerbating long file searches.

“Constant searching for documents during the workday is wasting time and reducing employee productivity, ” the authors wrote. “Companies need to figure out content management (and fast) if they want to keep employees productive and win in the work-from-home world.”

The respondents indicated that tension has risen on several occasions as a direct result of missing work files.

Executives seemed to be much more bothered by missing work files than subordinates. Upper management professionals are three times as likely to say quick file search is a top problem to solve, compared to lower-level respondents.

Millennials are the worst at finding files

The Millennials surveyed for Elastic’s new survey (41% of the group) had much more trouble finding important documents compared to Gen X (30%).

And they are roughly four times more likely than boomers (9%) to get lost looking for documents. All of the age cohorts surveyed confessed to spending more time than they’d like hunting around for missing work files, however.

How to address the problem

The first step in addressing lost files searches is identifying the content findability issues affecting your workplace. The reasoning comes down to two different factors for most companies :

  1. Time is wasted on the duplicated effort: Many workers spend too much time trying to decipher between files logged with the same name.
  2. Version control: Different teams at some companies operate on different data systems, which can make transferring files more complicated.

Elastic recommends company leaders offer practical guidance to help their employees evaluate and produce effective search solutions for work files. On an individual level, team members can make a point to try to clean up and organize important content sources intended for index.

“By archiving and/or deleting old and unneeded information you sift out much of the clutter that can muddy search results,” the authors concluded.