How to stop alert overload and get your life back from the red dot

Click click click. Click click click.

You know the sound. Slack’s triple ping notification is now iconic, as much as the iPhone alarm or the OG Nokia ringtone. That Slack sound is jarring enough to grab your attention and take your attention away from real work.

Do not misunderstand. The clearance is incredible. I use it every day. And there are also a lot of other apps that I use: Google Calendar, Zoom, et cetera. These workplace communication tools are essential, especially with distributed teams and hybrid work environments. But the truth is, we’re overcompensating for the loss of face-to-face interaction by simply adding more communication tools and, by default, more notifications. We can still use apps to communicate, but we don’t need to fill every (potentially productive) moment of silence with a “hey, quick question” notification in chat. Signing up for all the workplace engagement tools won’t suddenly make us feel like we’re all sitting together again.

Notification overload is taking away our ability to do our jobs. We use so many apps for work every day, and each one of them inundates us with those red notification dots that stop us in our tracks.

According to asana facts, the work management software company, employees spend 58 percent of their day on menial tasks like work communications, switching between apps and checking for status updates. Only 33 percent of time is spent on “specialized” work, and only 9 percent is spent on strategic work toward core goals.

It’s time to combat tool fatigue and prioritize work on red dots. We still need to promote communication and collaboration with SaaS tools, but companies and employees need to start setting boundaries and being more selective with their app investments.

Invest in quality tools over quantity to reduce notifications

We love downloading new apps. We are a bit addicted to that. We are so bad at managing all of our apps that there is now a all business economics to help us cancel apps we don’t need.

This extends from our personal lives to our hybrid work environments. The average company has 254 applications (or 364 at the enterprise level), depending on the Productiv SaaS management application. Average engagement with the app across those 254 platforms: 45 percent. That means more than half of employees don’t regularly use the apps their company pays for.

SaaS applications are really useful, and many of them are essential. But we’ve reached app overload; there are too many notifications, too many usernames, and too many passwords.

Here are three questions I like to ask myself before downloading yet another “optimized solution”:

3 questions to ask before downloading a new SaaS application

  1. Do I already have something similar?
  2. Does this help me with more than one function?
  3. Can the download be unilateral?

1. Do I already have something similar?

Before you introduce anything new, audit your current technology stack to make sure you’re taking advantage of its full potential. You may be surprised by the overlapping features of many of these platforms.

2. Does this help me with more than one function?

Every SaaS app worth its salt does more than one thing, of course. But do all those things help you be more productive? If you’re downloading an app with six main features and you’re only using it for one task, you may not need it.

3. Can the discharge be unilateral?

Don’t distribute your overload of tools to others if you don’t have to. Prioritize collaboration apps that allow the user to streamline their communication without forcing clients/colleagues to download and log into another app. Some browser-based file sharing services may not require the end recipient to download anything. We need more opportunities to open a bond and boom – what I need is right there.

Read more about remote work in Built In’s network of expert collaboratorsThe 3 biggest remote worker problems and how to fix them

Each employee can fight against the red dot on their own…

Like any behavior change, resisting the red dot starts with small steps at the individual level. You can read this and say I can not do this! What if I need to respond right away?

Of course, there are scenarios where you need to be connected to notifications, but if we all take a few minor steps, we can eliminate the red dot culture.

How employees can combat notification fatigue

  1. When you take PTO, you actually take PTO.
  2. Delete apps from your phone (or at least hide them from your home screen).
  3. Skip the “windows open” notification several times a day.

1. When you take PTO, actually take PTO

it’s called paid time off for a reason. People, especially managers, can help set the standard for their company by abiding by the phrase. Work can usually wait, and others will feel empowered to enjoy their vacation if they don’t feel unspoken social pressure to stay connected.

As a leader, you will often find that those employees end their PTO requests with “but I am available if…” We need to remind and encourage them to not be available. That time away from work is to recharge.

2. Delete apps from your phone (or at least hide them from your home screen)

You have your apps on your computer, do you need them on your phone too? Removing Slack or Gmail from your phone can help you unplug and combat burnout at the end of the workday. If you’re too nervous for a complete removal, consider hiding the app from your home screen. You’ll still have access to the app, but notifications won’t be as direct when you slide to unlock.

3. Skip the “Open Windows” notification several times a day

Try this one day: Just check your messaging and email apps in the morning, after lunch, and before you sign out. Set your schedule around new business in the morning, re-evaluate your afternoon after lunch, and make a plan for tomorrow at the end of the day. You may find that that “urgent” request at 10:32 am can be handled at 12:32 pm without a crisis. In the meantime, you have reserved time for yourself.

Read more about remote work in Built In’s network of expert collaboratorsDon’t let remote work slow down your promotion

…but leaders have the power to loosen the grip of the red dot on our workday

Individual taxpayers may be justifiably nervous about avoiding the standard notification protocol. Real change starts at the top, with a cultural emphasis on prioritizing meaningful work over red dot rage:

3 Ways Leaders Can Fight Notification Fatigue

  1. Audit your applications.
  2. Download painkillers, not vitamins.
  3. Lead by example.

1. Audit your apps

Take an hour every month or quarter to review your SaaS toolset. Perhaps each department needs to remove its lowest-usage app at each meeting. In addition to alleviating notification fatigue and employee burnout, businesses can also save some money on subscriptions.

2. Download painkillers, not vitamins

Signing up on a new platform should be no problem. Instead of “This app can do XYZ, we should sign up”, let’s think more about “We have this challenge, what app could fix it?” It’s hard to function without a pain reliever, whereas a vitamin is nice to have.

3. Lead by example

Work-life balance has a trickle down effect. Managers and executives can show that they really care about unplugging from vacations, instituting mandatory app shutdowns, and developing formal guidelines for questions like: When can I contact other colleagues? either What does a meeting really have to be?

The keys to ending red dot fatigue are culture, boundaries, and self-assessment. We need to reduce the 58 percent of our day that is spent on tasks that do not create value. To get past the red dot, management must set the standard. People need to prioritize their own well-being with limits. And we have to be honest with ourselves: will this app really help or is it just great?

let’s have less click click click and more do shit

Read more from Scott Smith on Built In’s network of expert contributorsRemote work has many benefits. But it could be better and more fun.

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