Think of all the news stories that you read and promptly forgot about (or repressed in the back of your mind). Events that happened five weeks ago feel like they occurred in 2017. Time feels compressed. It’s entirely too much to handle. There’s simply too much content, including this very article.
But I want to draw attention to this effect because we deal with it in workplaces, too. And that’s a problem.
Every day we face an onslaught of new info coming our way: files, articles, initiatives, policies, people, and apps. Once organizations reach a certain size, this can quickly get out of control. In fact, the amount of information that comes at us every day has never been more daunting. We’re overwhelmed! And it can make work itself very frustrating.
Intranets historically have been the proposed solution to this problem. The intention of all intranets is to organize information and deliver it in a way that reduces clutter, streamlines communication, and keeps people informed.
Overwhelmed at work? An intranet can help
Of course I’m not saying that all intranets actually achieve this transformation. On the contrary, most intranets don’t. But the intranets out there that’re able to condense information into organized, relevant categories, while maintaining simplicity and keeping us focused on what matters, might be exactly what overwhelmed workers need most.
Here are a few of the key features a successful modern intranet should include.
More often than not, the information we encounter every day is not for us, which means it’s mostly irrelevant. I’m talking about an event announcement that your team isn’t invited to, an urgent news bulletin that really only concerns a satellite office, or an incomprehensible reply-all email thread that no one can make sense of. Together, these create the noise, clutter, and unnecessary distractions that interrupt our day. And often there’s no real way to keep them at bay.
An intranet that’s up to snuff solves this problem with targeting.
Targeting ensures that specific people, teams, departments, and offices receive only information that’s relevant to them. When an event announcement goes out or a news article gets published, the author can choose which groups will see the post. There’s no more sifting through the clutter to find the file or news article you need. Instead, targeting creates filters, which can be customized by admins or leaders, so that people only see what’s relevant to them.
2. Open communication
The onslaught of useless information isn’t the only problem people have to contend with in modern workplaces. When there’s an overabundance of chat apps and notifications, communication can quickly break down. Growing organizations especially understand that, at a certain point, instant messaging in the workplace can be a bit overwhelming for people. It can actually get in the way of work.
Since a lot of intranets do include a chat feature, it’s a little more difficult to understand what you should be looking for. To boil it down, a chat feature should ideally include options for all types of communications and communicators. That means a chat option for internal communicators who want to publish an org-wide announcement, as well as an option for private 1:1 conversations between employees. Video calls are also a must-have for your remote workers.
Open, free-flowing communication isn’t only about chat features; more importantly, it means encouraging interdepartmental discussions between people (and office locations) who might not otherwise interact with one another. This can be done by including comments sections for news articles and announcements, or through open discussion groups people can join to share ideas or collaborate on a project.
An intranet that makes communication a priority recognizes that over-communication can be an obstacle to productivity. It should include an opt-out feature for those of us who can’t handle all the notifications and cross-chatter, either in the form of a mute button or the ability to leave group discussions.
3. Purposeful categories for different types of content
Page-based intranets—that is, intranets that require a new ‘web’ page for each piece of new content—can quickly get unwieldy in larger organizations, where new information comes at you fast. Having to search through pages to find the right file or track the status of a project, and coming up empty-handed, is a frustrating experience. It’s yet another unnecessary interruption of our work day.
View-based intranets, on the other hand, organize content by category so that any employee can immediately click over to a new stream of content to find what they’re looking for. If there’s a new post in your News view, for instance, you’d be notified by a red dot and you’d click over to that view knowing that the news article is specific to you and your team.
Intranets based on purposeful categories help condense and filter the information we receive into more manageable compartments. They cut down on the amount of noise we have to deal with on an individual level, but they also encourage teams to operate on the same playing field, each member armed with the crucial information they need to do great work together.
4. Task management
In the same vein, task management is an important aspect of our daily working lives. If we don’t know what we’re working on, where the right files are, who our collaborators are, or when the project is due, we’re lost.
When your organization relies on separate project management apps for different teams and departments, that means cross-functional teams are already at a huge disadvantage. Teams that aren’t aligned are isolated, frustrated, and overwhelmed.
An intranet with a task management feature makes things a whole lot easier. Instead of having to sift through a collection of dispersed project management tools, your intranet would serve as a single destination for task planning org-wide. That way, your people can keep better track of the projects they need to get done, assign work, and communicate with collaborators—all without having to open up a secondary program.
The reason we feel overwhelmed at work is because our working world has gotten infinitely more complex than it needs to be. In the midst of that complexity, the eternal struggle to stay productive, engaged, and aware of what’s happening has become almost an information architecture problem. Taming complexity isn’t easy, of course. It’s going to take more than an intranet. But the right intranet is a great first step.