There has been a significant increase in the number of apps Australians are using at work, according to the latest RingCentral Communications @ Work Index.
This is leading to a rise in stress and anxiety in the workplace and the blurring of work-life boundaries for Australian workers.
The survey also found that artificial intelligence (AI) is already in use in Australian workplaces, particularly amongst younger workers, with a majority of Australian workers positive about its impact on improving productivity and communications.
"In five years, we have seen a dramatic increase in the number of separate apps Australians are switching between in the workplace, which is dragging on our productivity," says Peter Hughes, Area Vice President, RingCentral.
"Combined with the constant stream of notifications we are all expected to respond to straight away, this is having a major negative impact on the employee experience and work-life balance."
Key highlights include of the report include:
- In five years, the average number of apps Australian workers are using weekly has climbed dramatically, with the use of team messaging and video conferencing doubling in that period.
- 43% of Australian workers are spending at least one hour a day checking or responding to notifications from workplace apps, with 70% of all workers saying they check notifications after hours.
- Two-thirds of Australian workers would prefer their work communications and collaboration apps integrated into a single platform, with 86% saying it would improve their productivity.
- Five years ago, 54% of Australian workers believed AI will replace workers in the future, dropping to 34% in January 2023.
- In the context of communications at work, 58% of Australian workers feel that AI will save time identifying important information and 52% that AI can reduce feelings of chaos on a daily basis.
App overload and communications pressure
RingCentral's survey revealed that todays employees are required to navigate a growing number of apps at work. More than half of Australian workers say they use six or more apps or programs at work each week. One in five (20%) say they use more than 11.
This number has risen sharply over the past five years; in a 2018 RingCentral survey, just 19% of Australian workers said they used six or more work apps. In that survey, just 5% used 10 or more apps.
What apps are workers using more in 2023 compared to 2018? Team messaging and video conferencing are the big movers, while nothing has really fallen away, indicating overall app usage frequency has increased. Email and office programs have remained constant at number one and two on the list respectively, team messaging has more than doubled to be in third place at 45%, followed by video conferencing which has also doubled to 41%. File sharing, unified communications (voice in the 2018 survey) and social media have all stayed constant.
Notifications from workplace apps are becoming increasingly frequent, with 43% of Australian workers spending at least one hour per day checking or responding to these notifications. That equates to at least 260 working hours per year. Workers rank these app notifications in third place behind phone calls and meetings as the most disruptive activities affecting their workflow.
However, the bigger issue is how these notifications are bleeding into non-work time. Half of all Australian workers say the expectation is that they need to respond to these notifications within one hour (with 15% saying immediately) and 70% of all workers say they check notifications after hours - with more than one-third doing so regularly.
The result is that half of Australian workers who experienced an increase in work notifications feel as if they are always at work despite being off the clock, with that sentiment especially common among younger workers (21-34 year olds), and a third of all workers say they feel anxious about any incoming notifications.
Overall, Australian workers rank the level of anxiety they feel about work alerts or notifications on par with spiders or bugs and just behind going to the dentist.
Unifying communications apps is essential
When asked if they'd prefer their work communications and collaboration capabilities integrated into a single platform or as separate apps or programs, two-thirds of Australian workers say they'd prefer a single platform, while just 6% prefer separate apps.
The importance of unified communications to worker productivity has increased since 2018. In a 2018 RingCentral survey, 66% of Australian workers felt that unified communications would improve their productivity. That number has since risen to 86% in this survey.
Saving time: Three-quarters of Australian workers who would prefer a single platform estimate that this would save them at least 30 minutes a day, while a third feel it would save them more than one hour.
Increasing productivity: 59% of Australian workers believe having more than one communications app makes them less productive, and 89% who would prefer a single platform say it would increase their productivity.
In addition to increasing worker productivity and saving time, moving to a single, unified communications platform has a positive impact on the employee experience, said Hughes. When you factor in the anxiety and additional workload created by constant notifications especially those arriving outside of working hours organisations have the perfect opportunity to create a better experience at work and reduce stress for their workers by unifying and consolidating their apps.
The impact of AI in the workplace
AI in the workplace was first touched on in the 2018 RingCentral survey. Workers then had mixed feelings about the future of AI and job security, with 54% believing that AI would replace workers in the future, but also that AI could help make work more efficient. That attitude was more nuanced in RingCentrals January 2023 survey, with one third of all Australian workers (34%) expecting AI will replace many work roles within 20 years, but two-in-five (41%) believing AI advancements will positively impact the Australian workforce.
In this survey, RingCentral focused on the adoption of AI in the workplace. While 44% of Australian workers say they are currently using AI at work (climbing to 60% for younger workers), in the context of communications at work, 58% feel that AI will save time identifying important information and 52% that AI can reduce feelings of chaos on a daily basis.
The most common current uses of AI are task management (16%), virtual assistant (15%), knowledge management (14%), customer service (12%), note taking and transcription (12%) and meeting recaps (10%). When asked where AI will be most helpful in the next year, Australian workers chose task management (35%), note taking and transcription (34%), virtual assistants (32%), meeting recaps (27%), knowledge management (26%) and customer service (23%).
"For many of us, one of the big frustrations is trying to find that piece of information or message we saw last week," says Hughes.
"That's largely a result of having to use so many apps at work - but also that we don't have a quick and automated way to find what we are looking for," he says.
"That's where AI can step in today and have an immediate positive impact on our effectiveness at work."