As I've been writing this article, I have received: (1) an idea for a blog post from my boss forwarded via email, (2) a suggested improvement to a blog headline sent by my teammate on our Slack channel, (3) a series of comments from our SEO expert on a shared Google Doc that I'm editing for him, and (4) a Zendesk ticket sent by one of our customer support people, about someone suggesting an infographic for the Wrike blog. In order to take action on any of the four items above, I'm going to have to take note of each and where I received these instructions or comments or revisions... otherwise I'm likely going to forget I ever got them. Welcome to the age of abundant yet fragmented information in the workplace. I list these to show that even in a company as dedicated to increasing worker productivity as ours, there is a very real fragmentation problem. Because, to put it bluntly, our work information is all over the place. And this fragmentation is affecting our work speed and overall efficiency, both as individuals and as teams.

The Two Deadly Effects of Fragmented Info

1. Fragmentation Stresses Everyone Out

According to Wrike's Work Management Survey 2015, the number one source of stress in the workplace is missing information. 52% of the 1,400 survey respondents pointed out that when they need to wait for information or can't find the info they need to do their job, it results in stress. Because how can you start revising the master list of email subscribers if you're not sure where the most recently updated Excel file lives? From Wrike's Work Management Survey 2015

2. Fragmentation Wastes Time

An old McKinsey Global Institute study from 2012 found that 19% of a worker's week is spent searching for and gathering information. In a 40-hour work week, that means 7.6 hours is spent looking not just through emails, but also chat messages, shared file repositories or network drives, comments on shared files, and much more. Running searches on each of those tools takes precious seconds — assuming the search function even works. So if it doesn't cause stress, at the very least it'll wear you out. Another interesting stat: workers are only really productive for 3.5 to 4 hours a day, according to Claire Burge, CEO of UK consultancy firm This Is Productivity. So where does the rest of the supposed 8-hour workday go? Distractions, meetings, and jumping from one channel to another to gather the work information you need to actually get stuff done.

So How Do We Fix This Fragmentation Problem?

A. First, Ask Why

The root of the problem stems from the number of tools being used by any one team in your organization. If you want to fix this problem, the first step is to do the research. Find out why they picked the tool they use. What problems does it solve? What features are must-haves? What makes it so sticky for that team?

B. Then, Standardize Your Work Tool

With that research in hand, you're now in a better place to find a work and collaboration tool that can consolidate all those various sources of work information into one. But make sure it answers the needs that your people brought up in the research step, otherwise they will return to their old tools and habits. Choosing one tool for your organization to use isn't just a way to keep things neat. According to the aforementioned McKinsey study, implementing a collaboration tool can actually improve productivity by up to 25%. You could be gaining back those 7.6 hours you're currently wasting by searching through dated HipChat comments or Gmail threads. If you're looking for a suggestion on a work tool that can be used throughout your company, you're already in the right place: get a free trial of Wrike.

C. Or, Integrate the Tools You Already Use

Another option to consider is connecting your various work tools so they play nicely with one another. I'm speaking of integrations and APIs that allow your work information to synchronize across platforms. This has the benefit of familiarity and flexibility — since your teams are already used to how they work on their chosen tools, and now they needn't give up one tool in favor of another. For example: if your company's marketing team is using Wrike but your development team is using JIRA, a Unito integration exists that gives both teams a Two-Way Synchronization between Wrike and JIRA. There are many more Wrike integrations here.

How Do You Deal With the Fragmentation Problem?

Let's try something more interesting. In the comments below, list down all the different tools you have to check at work in order to get the information you need. I'll start with my own list of 7 items: Wrike, Slack, Google Drive, email, Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus. Your turn!