Communication overload makes office workers SAD

New research from The University of Surrey has highlighted the impact of modern communications on acceptable business behaviour and its effect on office workers.


The research was led by the Digital World Research Centre, with fieldwork undertaken by SSMR - the University’s Surrey Social and Market Research team.  It shows that the demand for instant, almost constant, communication is adding to workplace Stress, can cause Anger among colleagues and strangers alike, and is proving to be a Distraction for all, both in meetings and in public places.  In short, office workers are becoming increasingly SAD.


Commissioned by Siemens Communications, the research aimed to identify whether new technology had changed patterns of acceptable business etiquette.  What it also uncovered however, was an underlying resentment of communication intrusion and the advent of the SAD worker.


The SSMR research showed that office workers get frustrated, stressed and annoyed when they can’t reach somebody; and yet resent distractions caused by intrusive communications to their own or their colleagues’ meetings and work.


Commenting on the findings, Professor Michael Warren, University of Surrey said: “I’m afraid the research survey shows that we all want to have our cake and eat it.


“We become stressed and impatient when we can’t reach someone, and we expect instant responses from co-workers and business contacts.  And yet we become annoyed when our own meetings or discussions are, for example, interrupted by a mobile phone,” he explained.


“The survey shows a clear need to establish workplace rules and for management to take a lead in setting examples and standards for each organisation.  And I think that technology has its part to play too - tools and processes are needed that will allow us to manage our communications with the maximum degree of availability and the minimum degree of frustration,” he added.


Paul Moulds of Siemens Communications welcomed the research, and added that the findings supported Siemens’ view that tools to manage personal availability are increasingly important in the business environment.  He called on companies to do more to recognise the symptoms and tackle the SAD communications phenomena.


“The frustrations caused by intrusive communications are issues that can be helped both by management action and by improved management of technology.  We recognised this in the development of our LifeWorks concept and OpenScape application which, amongst other things, allows users to manage their communications availability and also to instantly monitor the contactability of their colleagues.


“But the good news is that there are also some easy to adopt guidelines – we are calling them Eight Simple Rules – that you can put into practice today that can help banish the SAD communications blues,” he added.


Working with the Digital World Research Centre and SSMR at the University of Surrey, Siemens has devised Eight Simple Rules for modern business communications etiquette:


•       Have your mobile off or on silent in meetings
•       Change your mobile voicemail to request text for urgent messages
•       Turn device screens off when holding meetings in your office
•       If you are expecting an urgent call apologise and warn others in advance
•       The person you are talking to deserves your full attention
•       Hold private calls in private places
•       Break out of email jail – talk to your colleagues
•       Technology is not power – it doesn’t signify your importance


Siemens’ OpenScape application, launched in October 2003, takes an intelligent approach to dealing with these modern business communications issues.  It puts users back in control of their communications devices so that only people authorised to interrupt can do so, giving users the confidence to be more contactable whilst improving productivity and business etiquette.  OpenScape works alongside Microsoft’s Live Communications Server and can be used to highlight office workers preferred method of contact – office phone, mobile, home number, email, text message etc - and their current availability.


Siemens extensive user trials have shown that OpenScape can save the average office worker some 30 minutes a day in wasted calls and increase the overall speed and efficiency of office communications – thereby removing some of the factors behind the SAD syndrome.


For further information about the Research and its implications for businesses, please visit:


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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