Overcoming App Fatigue: Understanding the Risks

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Overcoming App Fatigue: Understanding the Risks

The volume of app notifications and messages we receive daily makes it easy to feel helpless. You’ll remember during the lockdowns how much time was spent at your computer on Zoom calls, while your smartphone was reminding you of your next meeting, all the while trying to homeschool. 

You might have thought things would return to normal. But instead, there continues to be a rise in the number of apps and web tools you need to use regularly to get work done. As a result, many businesses rely on between 40-60 digital tools. And unsurprisingly, 71% of team members believe their work has become more complex due to the number of apps they use daily.

For example, we get a “ping” when someone mentions our name on a Microsoft Teams channel. We get a popup notification when a software or app update is available. In addition, we receive alerts of errors and security issues.

So app fatigue is a genuine workplace issue, and it’s fast becoming a cybersecurity concern. 

The more people get overwhelmed by notifications (literally, my phone is pinging as I’m writing this, I should have put it on silent or do not disturb), the more likely they are to ignore them (as I am…)

Consider how many digital alerts you receive in a day and where they come from:

  • Software apps on your computer
  • Web-based SaaS tools
  • Websites where you’ve enabled alerts
  • Mobile apps and tools
  • Email banners
  • Text messages
  • Team communication tools

It’s common for many employees to receive the same notification on two different devices simultaneously. This worsens an existing problem, potentially leading to a loss of productivity and cybersecurity risks. Also, each time you introduce a new app or tool, it typically means a new unique password. It’s said that your team members are, on average, using about 191 passwords, adding to the fatigue from app usage. 

How does app fatigue impact your business?

Disengaged employees ignore essential updates

Every interruption, alert and notification whilst working can make your team feel like they can never catch up. So this often leads to them ignoring small tasks that seem insignificant or not time-sensitive – for example, missing or delaying installing an app update. Sometimes employees are overwhelmed with too many notifications; they switch off, so when notified of an update, they swipe or click it away. The pressure to act seems less critical with their current workload, and they fail to understand how long the update will take (or if the update will power off their device for an unspecified period). 

You know that ignoring app updates on a device can have severe consequences for your business, including missing crucial security patches for found vulnerabilities. Failing to act and install the update exposes the device and its network to security vulnerabilities, enabling cybercriminals to attack.

Team members recycle and reuse passwords

It should be no surprise that it’s estimated that employee passwords are typically reused 64% of the time. Reusing passwords is a surefire sign of app fatigue amongst your team. Unfortunately, the more SaaS accounts your business uses, the more likely the risk of recycling passwords will occur. Often the same password is used across multiple SaaS accounts, which becomes a credential breach allowing easy access to your systems by cybercriminals. 

Employees choose to switch off notifications

Of course, given the staggering volume of alerts and interruptions, it’s understandable some employees switch off some notifications.

In many cases, it makes sense to do so. For example, do you need to know every time someone comments in a group thread in Microsoft Teams? Or should you only be notified if someone’s @name you? 

However, it would help if you never switched off critical security alerts. 

App fatigue remains a real issue, and some team members may take a firm stance by switching off all alerts across their devices so they can focus. However, this remains the inherent issue with the volume and mix of notifications they receive. 

What can you do to beat app fatigue?

Your business and employees must find a way to work with appropriate notifications. Therefore, it makes sense to implement a strategy that hands control to your people, not the devices, around how to be alerted and notified. 

Audit and streamline your business applications

From both a productivity and cyber security perspective, fewer apps will have an impact and lessen the risk. Equally, this will lead to your employees needing to remember fewer passwords and deal with more periodic notifications. Audit your existing SaaS accounts and tools to uncover where you can reduce. For example, your business may use two tools or apps with similar functions. 

Consider switching or introducing if you’re not using platforms like Microsoft 365 or Google Workspace. These platforms include several work tools, but team members only need one login.

Ask your IT team to create notifications

It’s difficult for users to know the most important types of notifications. So ask your IT team to create app notifications for your employees. This ensures they aren’t overwhelmed with messages but receive critical updates. 

Introduce automatic app updates

You’re probably aware it’s considered cybersecurity best practice to automate device and software updates. Not only does this ensure the updates happen as delivered, but it removes wasted productivity by your employees needing to respond to the notification. 

You can also automate device updates through an IT-managed service provider to assist in tightening your cyber security defences, mitigating the chance of a vulnerable app putting your network at risk.

Encourage two-way discussion about alerts and notifications

People leaders should have an honest and open discussion with team members about notifications. Many employees will be reluctant to switch off an alert as they may feel that jeopardises their employment. And leaders may need to be made aware of the impact the alerts and notifications have on employee productivity and morale. 

Spend time communicating with your teams so they feel comfortable about raising issues and understand how to use apps to remain productive. 

Does your Melbourne business need help managing your apps?

We understand it’s challenging to streamline your business’s apps and tools. That’s why we offer a no-obligation discovery call to see how we can improve your team’s productivity and morale, avoiding app fatigue.

About the author

Yener is the founder and Managing Director of Intuitive IT. Prior to running his own business Yener worked for a number of corporate organisations where he gained invaluable experience and skills, as well as an understanding of how IT can complement and improve business outcomes.