Over the last year, the number of IT tools and apps used at work has increased for nearly half of people working in offices across the UK, and the majority now juggle between three and six different types of desktop software, web applications, and mobile apps. This trend among UK workers however, falls well short of that seen among its Continental neighbours France and Germany, where adoption of digital tools has grown much more substantially.

According to the Wrike Digital Work Report 2016, the number of apps being used in British businesses may be rising, but outdated work practices mean UK companies aren’t necessarily being more productive as a result. In addition, our report reveals that using more apps also correlates with greater stress level for nearly 70% of respondents. Organizations need to start paying attention to where their productivity is dipping, and using an operation efficiency formula to investigate how it can be improved.

Digital working - blessing or curse?

While half the UK respondents in the survey say apps and other IT tools help in performing tasks by making work easier and more efficient, in France and Germany these perceived benefits were much higher (77% and 64% respectively), perhaps reflecting their more enthusiastic uptake for IT solutions.

Similarly, respondents across all three countries said that digital tools made it easier to work remotely and made access and sharing of information more reliable. However, for over a fifth of UK workers (22%), apps were said to hinder or be detrimental in helping perform work tasks.

Overall, productivity levels among French and German workers has risen over the past year (by 53% and 47% respectively), compared with just 26% among UK workers. The fact that app adoption levels have not been so prolific and that the UK appears to lag behind the times when it comes to new ways of digital working might go some way towards explaining this disparity between rising productivity levels:

Collaboration tools – which make it easier to work on projects together and have central access to information – are only used by 15% in the UK, compared to nearly a quarter in France (24%). Conferencing is used by 17% in the UK, but nearly three in ten in top-ranked Germany (28%). There is a similar picture for project management software (UK 17%, France 28%, Germany 25%.)

Email is the biggest productivity zapper

While email is still the most widely used IT tool by far, over a third of UK respondents say email curbed their productivity (37%). Too many ineffective meetings, having too many tasks to juggle and prioritise, and too much admin work were next in line as the major culprits affecting productivity.

This survey shows how reliant the modern workplace has become on technology to manage everyday tasks, but also how much room for improvement there is in terms of how we use that technology to best effect.

Our firm belief is that technology can only ever be part of the solution. Managers, especially in the UK, need to make sure their businesses are using the right tools for the job to help employees manage their tasks productively, without inadvertently adding unnecessary workload or stress.

If these tools are used properly, they should make people more efficient; allowing them to do a better job, and ultimately help them feel confident in the knowledge that they can properly ‘switch off’ knowing nothing will fall between the cracks.

The survey was conducted by OnePoll in August 2016 among 3,000 office workers, with 1,000 respondents each in the UK, France, and Germany.