Digital Tools Are Helpful in Increasing Productivity

This article originally appeared on BusinessDay.

Telecommunications networks and particularly the internet, have changed people’s lives forever. Metcalfe’s Law explains why they have become so powerful: A network’s value increases exponentially with its size—the more people use it, the more their participation enhances it.

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This is generally a good thing, but not always. Metcalfe’s Law has a dark side when it affects workplace productivity.

As the cost of initiating one-to-one and one-to-many interactions drops to zero, the number of interactions increases exponentially. By our estimates, a senior executive who in the 1970s might have received fewer than 1,000 outside phone calls, telexes or telegrams a year now faces a tidal wave of 30,000 e-mails and other electronic communications.

Connected enterprises and automated scheduling have driven meeting time through the roof. At one company we analysed as part of an organisation-wide time-management study, employees spent a staggering 300,000 hours a year supporting a single weekly executive committee meeting.

In reporting on this finding, The Guardian put it best: "Meetings: Even more of a soul-sucking waste of time than you thought." In our research, a typical manager burned 16 hours a week managing e-mails and attending unnecessary meetings. Useless meetings alone cost businesses more than $30bn a year in the US, according to Atlassian.

Given how much this kind of wasted energy saps employee morale, it is no wonder a global Gallup survey found only 13% of employees are engaged at work, with "engaged" defined as being psychologically committed to their jobs and likely to be making positive contributions to their organisations.

Read the full article at BusinessDay.

Tiaan Moolman is a partner in Bain & Company’s Johannesburg office where he leads the local organisation practice. Michael Mankins is a partner with Bain’s organisation practice and co-author of the forthcoming book Time, Talent, Energy.