• Larry You

Feeling burned out? You are not alone! Burnout - Cognitive overload, and how can we fix it

Larry You

We all know that work can be stressful. As a result, we often get burned out both physically and mentally. With the fast pace of society the need for employees to process tremendous amounts of digital communication data is increasing since social media is becoming a permanent working basis. The impact of this transformation is associated with the employees experience and may bring a new negative impact called cognitive overload.

You may wonder what cognitive overload is! In cognitive psychology, cognitive overload means, people have trouble learning new things and performing tasks efficiently after receiving, and processing too much information. For example, after a 4- hour business meeting, it is difficult for employees to make sound business decisions with a strained mind. That means cognitive overload has an adverse effect on employee’s working performance and mental health. A recent research from the University of North Carolina found that workers who suffered from cognitive overload were less productive with a decrease in their performance quality and accuracy. This decrease was especially strong in workers whose work is associated with technology.

While employees in charge of digital communication data are an important component of an organization’s operating system especially in the digital age, it is hard to imagine the loss and cost to the company itself if employees are 15% less productive. That is why cognitive overload is becoming an important part of employee experience metric and demanding employers attention.

So how can companies alleviate cognitive overload on their employees? First of all, companies should try to limit the number of things their employees should prioritize. Not everything can be a top priority and it is not possible to muti-task all the time. Companies should offer employees’ rights and access to decide how to arrange the timetable and amount of work they need to accomplish every day. For example, it is a good idea to set rules for returning emails outside of work hours.

On the other hand, companies can consider using advanced technology such as Artificial intelligence (AI) to alleviate burnout by increasing employee engagement, improving customer experience and providing a more emotionally empathetic workplace.

Such technology capitalizes on a combination of behavioral science and Artificial Intelligence (AI) to observe the changes of employee’s emotional states and provide them with relevant alternatives during stressful customer interactions. For example, when AI observes that there is tension between an agent and customers, a simple cup of tea/coffee to the agent can effectively decrease stress level, which may help avoid unnecessary conflicts thus promoting the working performance.

We need to recognize the importance and benefits of preventing cognitive overloads on employees, because there are human elements in every organization's department. That means this measure of subjectivity from employees will influence business decisions and outcomes, while there is the correlation between the quality of this subjectivity and the cognitive load that employees have to process.

I believe that companies will develop ways to measure and adjust cognitive load for their employees, not just for their working performance, but more for creating a positive working environment.

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