Does App Usage Slow Down Productivity In The Workplace?


The app economy is exploding. It seems that apps can be useful no matter what task you want to accomplish. Whether it’s for social engagement, creativity or productivity, customers are relying on them more than ever.

According to a recent study done by App Annie, the app industry is expected to be worth $6.3 trillion in 5 years. That’s a lot of money, which means there is more app downloads, purchases, and usage to come.

“In 2016 the number of both iOS and Android app (on Google Play store only) downloads reached 90 billion, 13 billion increase from the previous year.” The business of Apps reported. 

Apps are created to target a variety of industries, whether it’s healthcare, finance, marketing, retail, or gaming, you can find tech startups manufacturing applications that can have a wide range of uses.

Business professionals, like the rest of the app economy, have caught onto the extensive uses that apps have, integrating this digital tool into work operations. This type of digital transformation can either help or hinder the workplace. It all depends on how many apps are being used, and for what purposes. Most of the time, productivity apps are most commonly downloaded for business professionals.

According to a recent survey done by Harmon I.e,  “productivity tools and apps saw a 125% rise in time spent by users between 2011 and 2015, the third largest rise after customization apps and mobile versions of newspapers and magazines. This rise is expected to continue: a 2016 forecast predicts the enterprise app market will grow to $287.7 billion in the next eight years.”

There are many pros and cons of the app economy, especially when it comes to using apps for work purposes. So, before we get into the results, let’s take a look at how where and when business professionals are using apps.

The Digital Workplace

The digital workplace is a buzz word that you may be hearing more and more since digital transformation is becoming so prominent among industries. The truth is, the digital workplace is the same as a physical workplace, but with more digital components incorporated through networks or the internet.

Sounds simple, right? Well, that’s because it can be. The name itself is simple, but, what is found within digital workplaces can often times get a bit complicated if you are not already familiar.

For instance, there are components involved in this workplace like cloud computing, innovative hardware, and you guessed it, apps!

In case you are not familiar with what an app is, let’s recap. Apps are a form of software that can also be known as an application. they are full of functions and features that ultimately benefit users.

Apps can be run through web browsers, on mobile phones or tablets, or any electronic device. If an app is found on a desktop, it usually contains a lot more features. Having a desktop interface gives apps direct access to hardware and other devices, and can always be accessed with an internet access.

You can download or buy apps through different resources such as Google Store, MacApp Store, and Windows Store, depending on the program you are working on.

Apps In The Workplace

Productivity apps are most commonly used in the business world. They are created in order to assist professionals by categorizing tasks based on subject, which helps users prioritize tasks and goals. This can help business professionals stay organized and up to date.

But, how much app usage, is too much? That is what Harmon I.e sought to uncover, after surveying respondents in the workplace who are frequent app users. The survey revealed patterns in professionals based on app usage, seeking to uncover if apps are harmful or helpful while getting work done.

Understanding these patterns will help establish whether productivity tools are, ironically, having a negative effect on productivity. If so, organizations need to resolve this issue to avoid a frustrated workforce, whose low level of productivity and engagement ultimately have a negative effect on the bottom line. Harmon I.e reported. 

The survey was promoted on Twitter and received responses from 545 men and 292 women. Their careers varied from marketing, sales, finance, and management and IT. The most common age ranges from 35-40 years old.

It turns out, business professionals are using quite a few apps during the day. 5-9 apps a day to be exact. To be specific, the survey asked how many apps are opened on a regular basis.

“Most respondents (46%) counted 5-9 apps open at the time that they undertook the survey, and a significant amount (19%) had 10-14 apps open. A look at the outliers is interesting. 32 of the 881 respondents had more than 20 apps open. Although this is a relatively small proportion of the respondents, it confirms that quite often, knowledge workers have to use many tools at the same time to do their jobs.” Harmon I.e reported.

These conclusions differed on the type of industry the participants worked in. For example, IT professionals operated way more apps on a daily basis than people in other careers. This could simply relate to the fact that IT professionals are always connected to technology.

Could you guess what kind of apps was being used the most? If you’re thinking apps that involve business tasks, you are correct. Email, web browser, calendar, document storage tool, and spreadsheet tool are among the apps that business professionals are using the most.

Along with these tools, apps referred to as shadow IT are also frequently being accessed. This means that these apps are not supported by the company’s network, and are usually hidden from an organization’s IT department. This can bring valid security concerns to enterprises.

Shadow IT is constantly a concern on IT department’s radar because of past events that have occurred when dealing with shadow IT. According to an example found on Retail Dive, just last year, a tech team working within the federal government received permission to use Slack, a communication app into workplace operations. Things went south when the team connected Slack to Google Drive and secured Google Drives were left subjectable to a data breach.

This occurrence can be common in the workplace when employees are interacting with shadow IT applications.

The concern regarding shadow IT can often be found when a modern digital work environment is encouraged, one that incorporates BYOD (bring your own device) to the workplace, which supports multiple app usages among professionals.

These apps are usually installed on mobile phones, according to the recent survey.

“Mobile devices are playing an ever more important role in the modern workplace, and 61% of respondents said they have 1-5 work-related apps on their phone. A significant percentage (20%) said they had 6-10 work-related apps on their devices.”  Harmon I.e reported.

So, what do these results mean? Well for starters, it proves our previous point about how the app economy is huge, and growing! So big in fact, some professionals have 20 apps open a day. These apps are usually operating at the same time, which as you can imagine, can often time create multitasking issues.

“When you open an application, it runs inside the operating system until you close it. Most of the time, you will have more than one application open at the same time, which is known as multi-tasking.” GCF reports. 

Since apps give users more opportunities to be multitasking on digital devices, it may cause an overall problem when it comes to getting work done due to feeling confused and overwhelmed.

Are Productivity Apps… Reducing Productivity?

That sounds like a bit of an ironic statement, doesn’t it? But, it could be true.

As a business professional, you are constantly juggling between, it seems like, a million different tasks. From communicating with coworkers, emailing clients, taking notes in meetings, and finding time to breathe, it may seem like you need help to complete all tasks in a timely fashion.

Although there is no denying that certain apps are created to help professionals increase productivity during work, there is also a downside to constantly using apps. Some users admit that using apps throughout the day can actually be frustrating, and burdensome when it comes to completing a task

The Problem

An app overload can lead to users feeling overwhelmed, which can affect how their job is being done. The survey proposed an example of how apps can reduce productivity, based on if it takes a long time to find information because professionals are not sure what source it is coming from. For instance, if you are working with a document, but you aren’t sure which app you stored it on, it may take longer to find it, in order to complete the desired task.

“Multiple studies have found people spend up to 20% of their time at work just looking for information. Think about a project you or your colleagues worked on last year. How confident are you that you could find one of the early draft proposals for the project within five minutes?” Harmon I.e reported.

The responses ranged from “I don’t know” to “quite confident” to “I would not be able to find it within 5 minutes.” The figures signified that most people would not be able to find a document within 5 minutes.

So, this proposes a problem to work professionals. If apps are taking time away from productivity, what is the solution? Since we are confident that digital transformation is the future of all things business, there has to be a way to incorporate app like qualities into the workplace, without taking away from present-day goals and operations.

The Solution

According to the survey, even respondents agree that using more than 20 apps in a week is too much. In fact, 27% reported that this could get confusing and another 21% said that it will get in the way of work.

From these answers, it is clear that business professionals are all on the same page when it comes to app usage. They all have one common goal: to get their work done, regardless of what platform is being used.

So, the solution would be to limit the number of apps used in a digital workplace and to aim to make all tasks do-able on one single app, or platform. This can reduce security concerns, boost productivity, but drive digital innovation in an encouraging way


The Millennium Alliance is thrilled to present the second 2017 edition of Digital Enterprise Transformation Assembly, put together by the industry, for the industry. Join us November 16-17, for a series of executive education roundtables, keynote presentations from speakers like Robin Bienfait, CEO of Emnovatecollaborative think tanks, educational workshops, and networking sessions will offer industry-specific topics and trends to ensure your company sustains its competitive advantage.

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As we approach 2018, it is clear that new digital trends are being used in the workplace. Business professionals are using mobile apps more than ever in work environments, which affects the overall productivity of the enterprise and operations. With so many digital transformation trends approaching different industries, business leaders must adapt to these trends in order to stay ahead.

It is important to understand what digital tools employees are working in order to understand exactly what trends are most popular among your company. By knowing this, you can form a strong infrastructure that supports digital transformation in a way that does not take away from productivity or business goals and objectives.

As we move towards a “Digital Industrial Revolution” it is important to prepare IT departments for the changes that are to come. This means understanding the ins and outs of mobile apps, social, and cloud. It is critical for organizations to create new opportunities with these tools in order to stay ahead of the competition and involved in work structures. The convergence of the digital world is the foundation of the modern workplace, and it is only preparing enterprises to become agile and innovative.

Learn from the best of the business by joining Digital Enterprise Transformation Assembly.

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