Overcoming the 3 Leading Causes of Digital Friction

Employees aren’t getting the full value out of your digital workplace 

This should be a time of positive growth and innovation for your organization. With an abundance of innovative, intelligent technology available, employees should have everything they need to perform at the highest levels. Resources to help them feel connected to the organizations and their colleagues, as well as tools to enable them to work effectively wherever and whenever it’s convenient for them.

And yet workers are feeling overwhelmed and stressed and they’re leaving their jobs in droves. Where have things gone wrong?

The problem is simple. The digital workplace has made work more complicated than it needs to be, and it’s impacting employees’ ability to feel engaged and work effectively.

The importance of the digital workplace cannot be overstated. It’s the single connection point shared amongst your workforce and for some employees, it’s the only workplace they have, which means it’s also the only connection they have with your organization. But digital friction - the unnecessary effort employees have to exert to use technology - is making it hard for people to get the value they need from your digital workplace

68% of workers toggle between apps up to ten times an hour

So what are the causes of this digital friction and what, if anything, can be done about it?

3 leading causes of digital friction

So if digital friction is preventing employees from getting value from your digital workplace, what’s causing it? There are three main culprits:

  1. Application overload – the ever-expanding range of applications and sources where information and activity are hosted.

  2. Information overload – the volume of content, conversations, activity, interactions, tasks, and information employees are expected to continually process.

  3. Digital noise pollution – the exponential echo effect of signals, pings, and chimes vying for employees’ attention.

Let’s take a look at each of these in greater depth…

Application overload 

Work has become chaotic. Employees context switch more than 1,100 times every day. This is yet another thing we can blame on the pandemic. 

Accelerating digital transformation efforts to enable everyone to work from home has caused an app explosion that’s destroying the employee experience. Workers are flooded with distractions, data silos, and complex processes. Getting actual work done is next to impossible, with everyone spending an inordinate amount of time and effort just trying to interact with the all the systems they have to deal with. 

Employees interact with an average of 35 applications a day. 

Information overload 

The volume of information employees are trying to stay on top of is staggering, and it’s getting worse by the minute. It’s also complicated by some of the factors we’ve discussed above, particularly app overload. 

54% of employees’ time is spent locating, validating, and formatting data (Source: Statista)

The more applications organizations have in their tech stack, the more silos of data and information there are standing in the way of workers being productive and efficient. This also proliferates redundant capabilities and creates duplicative locations for where activities can be performed and information can be stored, which means further slowdowns in productivity and decision making.  

Add to this the reality of notification fatigue – the constant barrage of pings, popups, and badges from systems across the enterprise that desensitize workers to the things they need to pay attention to– and it’s no wonder that employees are experiencing high levels of burn out as a result of cognitive overload. 

Digital noise pollution

So, what’s the result of all these apps and the deluge of information they deliver?

Unfortunately, it’s digital noise pollution. Being constantly peppered with “noise” - all the pings, alerts, signals, emails, @mentions, tasks, and to-dos - none of which are prioritized - that constantly clamor for our attention. It’s exhausting. It’s also incredibly problematic for both businesses and their employees.

Human beings have finite attention spans as well as a limited capacity to retain and process data. Think about your own experiences. When an uncontrollable flood of information and signals is coming at you, what generally happens? In all likelihood, your stress increases as your brain struggles to process it all. Consequently, it becomes difficult to make good decisions (or even make any decision), and overall performance suffers.

"...the average Global 2000 employee uses 35 different tools a day, switching back and forth more than 1,100 times." (Source: CIO)

Digital friction is ruining employee experience and it’s bad for business

We’ve talked with employees about the impact digital friction has on their digital work experience. What we learned isn’t good. Digital friction isn’t just increasing frustration, it’s also causing a domino effect that’s bad for business:

  • Missing Important Communications - Employees frequently miss important announcements and time-sensitive reminders.

  • Delayed Approvals - Managers lose approvals amongst other emails, blocking important work or requests from being completed.

  • Time Wasted From Context Switching - Employees lose valuable time jumping from one system to another to complete tasks or lookup common information.

  • Ignored Intranet Content and Communications - Information on the company intranet and other communications isn’t personalized enough for employees to actually stop and read.

So what can be done to stop this pervasive threat to the health and wellness of both your employees and your business?

Guiding employees’ attention for a better digital work experience

NYU Professor Clay Shirky is famous for saying, “It’s not information overload, it’s filter failure.” That sentiment resonates because it gets to the heart of what’s really holding back the digital workplace today. Workers need a digital workplace that prioritizes what truly requires their attention and streamlines interactions with technology, so they focus on high-value work.

So what’s the best way to address this issue and give employees the simpler, more intelligent work experience they need and deserve?

The ideal solution lies in creating an experience layer that insulates employees from all the technological complexity that stands in their way.

The theory of an experience layer is that it abstracts just the tasks, information, and communications employees need from across the enterprise, creating a unified experience for everything they need to know and take action on

This experience layer takes the form of a digital assistant, which streamlines the digital work experience by integrating with top enterprise applications to: 

  • Surface the right notifications, signals, alerts, and information when employees need them 

  • Nudge workers on important information that matters or tasks that need action 

  • Simplify and automate complex workflows and processes 

To understand what a digital assistant is and how it works, let’s see one in action… 

Digital assistant - improving employee experience by simplifying the work day 


Liberty Mutual insurance recognized they needed to provide employees with a simplified, seamless, and consumer-like digital experience.

They implemented the Workgrid digital assistant tool bar on their intranet to create a centralized experience for their most important applications, including Workforce, Oracle HCM, Chrome River, SAP Fieldglass, SAP Ariba, Power BI, and BMC Remedy.

  • To Knows created a personalized, contextual news feed that included global corporate news, as well as news targeted by location, strategic business unit, and job function.

  • To Dos created a unified notification stream that enabled workers to view and act on routine tasks that needed their attention, such as approvals.

  • Microapps gave employees seamless access to the specific functionality they needed from core enterprise systems, making it easy to view payslip and time-off data, assign tasks, and view talent and metric reports.

  • The enterprise-grade chatbot delivered fast, personalized answers to common questions and automated routine tasks, like submitting support tickets.

AES had created a successful remote work experience during the pandemic but wanted to take their digital workplace to the next level.

They implemented the Workgrid digital assistant on their SharePoint intranet to seamlessly connect their people, information, and systems across the enterprise, creating a centralized experience for their most important applications, including ServiceNow, SAP Ariba, SAP Concur, Workday, ADP, and Power BI.

The digital assistant:  

  • Provided personalized updates on important communication and information. 

  • Delivered relevant tasks and approvals to people where they were already working, to keep things from getting lost in their inbox. 

  • Consolidated approvals from systems across the enterprise so employees could quickly process high-volume, routine tasks. 

  • Made it easy to share pulse surveys, enabling HR and internal communications team to get immediate feedback on employee engagement. 

Simplifying work for a better digital employee experience 

There are many reasons to utilize a digital assistant in your digital workplace. Beyond simply helping employees work smarter and not harder, digital assistants are the ideal solution for addressing digital friction. Better yet, in the case of the Workgrid digital assistant, it’s available in all the channels employees prefer to work in, such as the intranet (as a web-based toolbar), on mobile, or integrated with MS Teams

To learn more about how the Workgrid digital assistant can create a better digital work experience for your employees, request a 1:1 demo!