Employees crave stricter rules around collaboration app usage

If you are having a love-hate relationship with your collaboration software right now as you try to work from home, you are not alone.
Written by Eileen Brown on

As you continue with your life under lockdown and as you shift your working pattern to working from home instead of the office, you may feel you are more distracted than when you are in the workplace. The COVID-19 pandemic has certainly changed the way we think about the collaboration apps we use every day.

At work, you could be head down, focused on the task at hand, when a coworker sends a funny GIF on Slack, or the boss flags yet another project request. Your concentration is suddenly interrupted and your flow of work brought to a halt.

This all-too-common experience is just one of the many reasons behind the love-hate relationship workers today have with workstream collaboration applications.

Bellevue-based monitoring and management services provider Unify Square has released a new report examining the most utilized features across workplace collaboration, app usage trends, and how they are impacting productivity, employee behavior, and security.

It surveyed over 500 enterprise end-user employees who worked at a range of organizations with at least 1,000 employees.

Its Overcoming Challenges of Workstream Collaboration report looks at the evolution of work-stream collaboration apps like Slack, Microsoft, Google, and Zoom in the workplace, and the love-hate relationship that comes with them.

These love-hate feelings toward workstream collaboration applications, which can lead to increased IT support tickets and/or decisions to opt-out of usage altogether.

Approximately 90% of enterprises use some form of a collaboration platform for internal communications. Microsoft Teams recently reported over 20 million daily active users, and Slack confirmed in late 2019 it has more than 12 million.

The most preferred collaboration platforms among respondents ranked as Microsoft Teams (31%), Microsoft Skype for Business (27%), Google Chat (21%), Cisco WebEx Teams (15%), and Zoom (13%).

Survey reveals 2 in 5 employees crave stricter rules around collaboration app usage zdnet
Unify Square

Although Zoom ranked near the bottom of total usage across organizations, the application shows very strong end-user adoption.

When comparing the data between organizations that provide the platform, and employees that use it, Zoom had the lowest user drop off versus any other app platforms covered in the survey.

The implementation of workplace collaboration apps had brought increased distractions for end users. The survey results showed that 43% of respondents believe that preventing distraction caused by collaboration applications is a shared responsibility between employees and management.

Personal conversations (41%) and incoming requests taking away from current projects (39%) were noted as the biggest culprits for the distraction caused by collaboration applications during the workday.

Two in five (40%) wish organizations enforced stricter rules around collaboration app usage; nearly 60% believe that stricter rules would help improve work-life balance, and 42% believe a more enforced set of rules would help set expectations on usage for employees.

Enterprise workers in the tech industry download collaboration apps for personal use without IT's approval 37% more than any other industry

Email is still vital in day-to-day business communications. Employees across the board, regardless of age/level/work schedule, agree that 66% of their colleagues have mastered the art of effectively balancing the use of both email and collaboration applications.

Almost two in five (39%) agree that one of the chief benefits of collaboration apps is fewer emails, yet 74% admitted they haven't seen a significant decrease in emails since they started using these apps.

Alan Shen, vice president of Consulting Services at Unify Square, said: 

"Because of your users, your data is alive, moving, and continually evolving. It's critical for IT to develop in concert, actively engaging business units to understand the risks and the role users play in managing collaboration risk."

Workstream collaboration providers promise that their applications will drive reduced internal email threads, thereby reducing the estimated five hours per day most workers spend in their inboxes.

But email remains alive and well -- regardless of the workplace tool used. But could email finally be on its way out as our usage of collaboration apps continues to permeate our working lives?

Previous and related coverage:

What are the real challenges tech workers face with working remotely?

Fear of the coronavirus is prompting more companies to have their employees work remotely. But what are the real challenges workers face when working from home and trying to communicate with colleagues?

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Millennials are twice as likely to use unapproved collaboration apps in the workplace

As collaboration tools like Slack and Teams become more popular, collaboration across the enterprise will inevitably evolve, and companies need to be strategic about deployment.


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