Asana has released new data from its Work Innovation Lab, with insights from Dr. Bob Sutton, Stanford Professor and bestselling author and Dr. Paul Leonardi, Department Chair and Professor at UC Santa Barbara. The findings, based on 3,004 knowledge workers across the US & UK, reveal the potential for more effective utilisation of collaboration technologies in the workplace.
Broken tech stacks are draining workers’ time
Almost a third (32%) of workers say that their organisation has collaboration technologies that aren’t being used effectively, in part because of insufficient training and change management around the technologies. Almost half (45%) of employees say that their organisation should provide more guidance on how to collaborate effectively, underscoring the importance of more structured workflows, clear communication channels, and visibility into team activities to aid in more intuitive and intentional collaboration.
The majority (68%) of employees interact with different functions daily, highlighting the need for tools that facilitate smooth interdepartmental collaboration. However, almost a third (32%) of workers say that their organisation has collaboration technologies that aren’t being used effectively, with 38% of workers claiming their organisation uses four or more different communication and conferencing tools.
This fragmented tech stack is having a substantive impact on workers' time. On average, every day, employees spend:
· Nearly an hour and a half (84 minutes) each workday looking for information they need to get their work done.
· 57 minutes per workday switching between collaboration tools.
· 30 minutes per workday just deciding what collaboration technologies they should use for a specific task.
That’s the equivalent of spending over a day and a half each week inefficiently navigating too many disconnected tools to get work done.
This time drain caused by ineffective collaboration isn’t going unnoticed by workers. Almost one-third (32%) of workers are not opposed to changing jobs for a company that provides more useful collaboration technologies for them at work.
What is a clear solution? We find that the most productive workers use a “sweet spot” of 12 different digital collaboration tools, including one (but not more than one) work management tool. These tools are intended to provide a central source of truth, and the fragmentation is felt more acutely when information is spread across multiple work management tools.
Businesses must bolster tech audits
One reason organisations may be operating with less than optimal collaboration processes is that they’ve hyper-invested in collaboration tools in silos and haven’t taken time to stop and evaluate their usefulness. 34% of knowledge workers aren't sure how often their organisation evaluates whether the collaboration technologies used across the business are useful or not.
Of the 66% of knowledge workers who do have a sense of how often their organisation evaluates the usefulness of collaboration technologies, over half (55%) say it’s done twice a year or less, or never at all. This suggests that there’s a need for more frequent business-wide evaluations.
Workers ask for standardisation in tech tools
Standardising tech tools across teams could also help to reverse ineffective collaboration. Despite the multitude of different roles, skills, and viewpoints in organisations, the majority (74%) of workers would prefer that everyone in their organisation use the same set of core collaboration technologies. They are frustrated by the friction that comes with a siloed approach. Interestingly, we found that workers care much more about standardisation than about customizability in judging the usefulness of a collaboration tool.
AI provides part of the solution
AI can help automate routine tasks, intelligently organise data, and provide actionable insights, thereby potentially reducing the need for redundant tools. Over a third (36%) of workers say that AI will help reduce the number of collaboration technologies needed to complete their work—work management tools that are built atop strong data foundations that connect work across the organisation will become more critical than ever.
Employees using too many tools are most enthusiastic about AI (59% versus 47%) and its ability to help reduce the number of tools they need to complete their work (50% versus 36%).
However, only 28% of workers say their organisation is well-prepared to deploy collaboration technologies with AI capabilities, indicating that even though AI can positively impact how we collaborate with others, it's difficult to get right and there’s a desire for AI capabilities that are integrated into existing tools.
Dr. Rebecca Hinds, Head of the Work Innovation Lab, commented:
“In today’s world of work—where workers are inundated with notifications and messages—the line between being connected and distracted is thin. The research shows that businesses can do more to support their employees’ focus and workload, first by conducting more regular audits and streamlining tech stacks. When redesigning tech strategies, business leaders would also be wise to have a set of criteria to benchmark tools against, such as current usage, impact on business objectives, ease of use, interoperability with other tools, and degree of cross-functional support.”
“Workers are calling out for a tech reset and are acutely aware that their current toolset is creating time drains. Business leaders need to clearly communicate their chosen tech stack with employees and establish guardrails and training for technology use, sourcing feedback from workers along the way.”