It's 2033, and work looks a little different now. But before I explain, step into my office. I know, I know. An office?! In 2033. How 2023 of you. But what can I say? Old habits die hard. And really, I'm not the only one. See all those rooms down the hall; they belong to other AI-powered operators. I mean office workers. Sorry, that's just what I call them.
The thing is, we all use AI now. It's baked into our work day, like coffee breaks and procrastination. And it's not as bad as we thought it would be back in the day. No one is out of work because the robots took our jobs or Skynet took over. And as an added bonus, AI helps us do some really cool things. It takes care of admin, automates mundane tasks, and analyzes all that data we're drawing in. It actually saves me hours every week.
But there are a few things you should know. A big shift did happen over the last decade. It's kind of like a big collective AHA moment. Now, it's less about where you work and more about how work gets done, especially when we have AI assistants and other tools to help. In 2033, efficiency is one of those hard-to-come-by skills you proudly put on a resume. But it wasn't always like this.
How did we get here? Well, you might remember that all this started way back in the days of the pandemic, which saw billions of people secluded and forced to work at home. Add to this hyperinflation and a nasty global recession, and you have less of us doing more. Oh, so much more. And while companies are now working leaner, it's also so much more demanding. Smoke and lunch breaks are becoming a distant memory, a luxury from simpler times when we weren't as time-taxed and didn't have as much to juggle or prove.
Then there are the layoffs. And at times, it can feel that that's the only thing anyone wants to talk about. After all, we're stuck in the tail end of a recession, and the stakes have never been so high or competition as fierce. Who knows, maybe you'll be part of tomorrow's mass layoffs? All of which stoke worker fears of their own survival and drive them to be more productive. And honestly, I don't blame them.
Just look at Meta, which completed another round of layoffs several months ago as part of Zuckerberg's 'year of efficiency.' This becomes an even more painful reality when faced with reports like this one from Goldman Sachs, which suggests that AI will impact at least 300 million jobs. And so, many workers are left clamoring for their seat at the table, trying desperately to prove that they've still got what it takes. It's not pretty. But it is what it is. Cue productivity.
In 2023, productivity has become our life raft, our way of life. We convince ourselves that by being more productive, we'll keep up with demand and will thrive no matter how lean things get. But the truth is that now we're drowning in apps and all the additional work they create for us, we're app bloated. It's a condition, and no Pepto-Bismol can help you. This is a whole new level of pings and notifications. It's the fast lane, and employees are dropping the ball left and right. With all this comes crazy high anxiety levels, which are through the roof as workers try to keep up. But few manage to. Distraction is now an epidemic. Word on the street is that some Silicon Valley startups are working on another app to make it easier to manage all the other apps. "Just not another app," we say.
And it's not hard to see why, for many office workers, workplace software is a blessing and a curse. A report from Gartner found that the average desk worker uses 11 apps to complete tasks. That's up from just six in 2019. The ramifications of this are worrying but not altogether surprising. According to the same Gartner report, employees not only struggle to find the data they need to complete their work, but more than one-third of those surveyed said they missed important updates.
Yes, workplace software has its place, but too many tools lead to a drop in productivity. A good example is from a study of Fortune 500 companies, which found that at one company, to complete a single supply-chain transaction, each employee switched about 350 times between 22 different apps. Over the course of one workday, this amounts to over 3,000 context switches! Excessive context switching, when you switch from one workplace software tool to another, is bad news, but it’s also very common. Not only does it hamper productivity, but it also imposes a significant cognitive load on employees. Which, you guessed it, leads to unhappy, distracted, and unproductive workers.
The reality is that we're using more workplace apps than ever before. And we're not saying that. A survey conducted by Slack found that 76% of knowledge workers report using more apps and services today than they did five years ago. And when you consider that the global SaaS market is expected to grow to over USD 900 billion by 2030, it's clear we're in the midst of an app era. Or is it an app-olution?!
But the ease of use of many of these apps and workforce communication platforms has had the opposite effect: We're inundated with communication and are always reachable. It's estimated that at big companies, the average employee sends about 200 Slack messages every day. Many of these messages are meaningless memes or gifs. Tools like Slack make communication so easy that we're drowning in noise. So much so that at bigger companies, no one really has time to read all their messages. We're drowning in our own attempts to be more productive.
The good news is that it's not all bad. The rise of these platforms marks a shift away from enterprise software, which often forced companies to settle for the solutions that came bundled with software, to a world of cloud-based apps that can be cherry-picked. But it's more than that. In Gartner's Top 10 Strategic Technology Trends for 2023, they pointed out how integral SaaS and PaaS platforms will be for supporting business growth. These platforms will provide agility, innovation, and reduced lock-in.
While it may sound like a one-step forward, two-steps-back kinda situation for workplace productivity, this report from Gartner points out that 50% of enterprises will use industry cloud platforms to accelerate their business initiatives. Yes, you read that right. Accelerate. And more than that, global workplace software spending is expected to grow by 12% in 2023. It's clear workplace apps aren't going anywhere anytime soon.
Okay, so what do we do?
If 2023 has taught us anything, it's that the promise of productivity isn't all it's cracked out to be. #Sorrynotsorry. There's no productivity hack to get us out of this. And getting angry or frustrated at the current state of work is a losing game. It's as pointless as shouting at a traffic light that has just turned red. I don't recommend it 😉.
But what's the alternative? Because while it's one thing to accept that we're caught in a fog, it's another thing to do nothing about it. The current state of work is broken, and we need to change things. And that starts with ditching productivity. Instead of trying so hard to do all the things, we need to get smart about how we work. Work smart, not hard, as the old cliche says. Of course, this is no small ask. It requires a bold mindset shift and willingness to go where few of us have gone before. I'm talking about efficiency.
It's probably a word you've heard. It's often used interchangeably with productivity. But they're two different things. Efficiency is about shutting out the noise and focusing only on the stuff that matters. With efficiency, your focus isn't on doing more work. Rather, you're all about doing the right work as best as you can. And yes, this includes embracing AI so that our tech can be more personalized and empowering.
I get that this is a totally new way of thinking about work. But come on, isn't this what we need now more than ever? Just imagine how much work we'd get done if we were actually able to … do our jobs instead of chasing notifications, being interrupted by messages, and constantly context-switching. Now, that's what I'm talking about.
Take Sidekick for a test drive to see how it can help you stay way on top of your work game.