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By GCN Staff

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Wyatt Kash

The price of information overload

The cost of information overload – and the relentless distractions knowledge workers face from e-mail, instant messages and Web explorations — adds to $900 million a year in lost productivity in the United States.

So declares Basex, a research firm, which released the estimate this week, along with a new online calculator that offers yet another useful information distraction for workers and their bosses.

The new online widget provides ballpark estimates – and we’re talking pretty large ball parks – of what companies or organizations stand to lose annually in lost productivity resulting from the overflow of information in today’s workplace.

Select “government” as your industry of choice in the calculator, enter the size of your organization – let’s say 100,000 employees for argument’s sake — and the proportion of your employees who are considered highly skilled (let’s be generous). Voila: the average government agency loses $909,900,000 to $1,273, 850,000 annually from lost productivity resulting from information overload.

The challenge isn’t so much that employees are goofing off by checking sports scores or shopping online as much as they are getting hit with a never-ending flow of information from inside and outside their organizations.

According to Basex, e-mail overload, Web site searches, and other more traditional distractions, such as phone calls chew up 28 percent of the work day for the average knowledge worker. Worse, all the interruptions are hurting concentration, further reducing productivity, a recent study by Basex found. Multiply that by average industry wages and the productivity losses mount quickly.

Of course, federal managers can take some solace in knowing that some of that lost productivity is being recouped as more and more workers are using information technology to work from home and elsewhere after hours.

Still, there’s a certain irony that the information technology companies that unleashed these office productivity tools are still struggling with ways to provide relief through smarter ways to manage all that information.

Posted by Wyatt Kash on Dec 24, 2008 at 9:39 AM


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Reader Comments

Tue, Jan 6, 2009 Computer Gnome in my office with the lights out

I'm a DBA and have pursuaded the pointy haired bosses to let me come in uber-early (as in 5am or before). My productivity went through the roof - now I get a full day's work load done between 5 and 9am. After 9am fergit-abowdit - phone calls, meetings, emails, the odd co-worker dropping by... if I get one more -actual- piece of code done before I leave for the day it's a minor miracle. Most of this "busy-ness" that occurs after 9am would be best put in an email or posted to the project board - but business is a conservative creature and persists in trying to keep to the 19th century model of "doing things". Working from home is even MORE productive but Managers cannot deal without seeing a body in the office.

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