There are plenty of reasons for feeling burnt out at work right now, from longer hours to understaffing and side hustles. But there might be one you haven’t thought of: the Alt-Tab toggle. 

A study published in August by the Harvard Business Review reported by Bloomberg found workers were toggling between different apps and websites up to 1,200 times a day. 

This meant employees spend just under four hours a week reorienting themselves after toggling to a new application. “Over the course of a year, that adds up to five working weeks, or 9% of their annual time at work,” the study said.

That “toggling tax,” another study suggests, might be helping make employees decide to quit. 

Okta, an identity and access management company, told Bloomberg its clients deployed 89 apps last year, up from 58 in 2015. Large companies now deal with an average of 187 apps. A survey by WalkMe found nearly 30% of these apps are duplicative or add no value.

But the biggest issue might be the toggling tax’s contribution to employee burnout. WalkMe’s big companies found an average of 76 employees at big firms left in the past year due to “technology frustrations.”

The figure speaks to growing digitization in the corporate world, but not always for the better.

The switch to home working triggered by the pandemic supercharged the Software as a Service (Saas) market, with investors putting a record $90 billion into promising startups, per OPEXEngine. Companies flocked to communication apps like Slack, Zoom, Monday, and Microsoft Teams. 

But for some, Rohan Narayana Murty, founder and chief technology officer at machine learning company Soroco and co-author of the Harvard Business Review study, told Bloomberg the value of different apps might be outweighed by the admin of using them. 

“How we work is itself a distraction. All day long, we just repeatedly switch between disparate applications,” Murty said.

Indeed, Tori Paulman, senior director analyst at Gartner’s employee experience technology group, told Bloomberg an HR manager asked her if there was an app to address the fatigue their employees were feeling from operating all these apps.

“Technology has gone from the great enabler to the great inhibitor,” she said. 

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