How to avoid collaboration burnout

While collaboration tools are pervasive in the enterprise, practices for smartly managing the flow of information created by and in them is not. As a result, these tools often lead to overload and burnout.

a burned out, frazzled man in disheveled shirt and tie
Ryan McGuire / Gratisography (CC0)

Collaboration tools are pervasive in the enterprise, but less so are practices for smartly managing the flow of information created in them, according to researchers and tech leaders who find these tools often lead to overload and burnout.

Anyone adding a new workplace chat app, for instance, could pick from dozens of options, and that’s part of the problem. They’re powerful tools for working across teams, time zones and distance. But the volume and velocity of the demands created, and the diversity of channels employees are expected to constantly monitor are wearing people out, said Rob Cross, a professor of global leadership at Babson College. 

“Collaborative overload feels good right up until it doesn’t, Cross said. “You’re the king of the world. These drivers that you have personally taken on — accomplishment or status or helping — are being met right up until burnout. And then it's really hard to get out because of the demands you put on yourself.”

Cross says he has interviewed dozens of successful business leaders who often say they’re stretched too thin across multiple apps for chat, email and meetings. 

“You're hearing stories that they're overwhelmed,” Cross said. “They're managing across nine of these platforms: Slack or Teams channels, IM, video, work management systems, gratitude recognition systems.”

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