Digital amnesia in the workplace leaves reputation and productivity at risk

Imagine you are stranded at the airport on your way to an important customer meeting. You urgently need to get a message to the office or the customer but have lost access to the data on your phone. What do you do?

If the answer is “nothing”, because you can’t recall the numbers, you are not alone. You have probably got digital amnesia. Chances are that most of your colleagues will have it too.

Earlier this year Kaspersky conducted an international study that explored the influence of digital devices and technologies on people’s ability to remember.

Among a number of worrying findings, around half (51%) of the working adults surveyed in the EU would be unable to phone their place of work – let alone contact the customer – if they lost access to their connected device or the data stored on it.

In other words, they couldn’t let anyone know where they were, what had happened or what needed to be done, such as rescheduling the meeting.

This is digital amnesia: the experience of forgetting information you trust and allowing a digital device to remember for you.

The research revealed that, when unexpectedly without a device or data, many people would find it impossible to call the people and places most important to them, including the office, their children (53%), partners (34%), or even their parents (26%).

The impact on business of digital amnesia can range from mere inconvenience to something far more serious – such as damage to corporate reputation and productivity.

Of the two, corporate reputation is probably the more difficult to quantify, but that makes it no less important.

Research shows that four out of five (81%) executives consider reputation to be their most valuable business asset. It is also one of the hardest to manage because unlike ‘brand’, which is created and controlled by the business, reputation is decided by others.

Every negative interaction a client, partner or supplier has with an organisation, such as the failure of an employee to show up for a meeting or to communicate a change of plan, can potentially damage its reputation.

Without their phones, how many people would remember or be able to find the location of their next meeting, or know who to call if they’re running late? Their reliance on devices to provide the most basic of information could have far-reaching consequences.

Then there is the impact on productivity of employees unable to work effectively while on the move.

>See also: Are you losing your memory? Reliance on smartphones creates digital amnesia, finds research

Mobility has transformed the way businesses work, largely for the better. Around half (47%) of IT leaders say their organisation has experienced substantial productivity gains from the introduction of connected mobility, and 90% believe even greater benefits are possible.

These advantages are at risk if employees can suddenly and unexpectedly disappear off the connected radar, unable to access phone numbers, corporate information, applications and the internet.

Companies need a solid and reliable enterprise mobility strategy that includes appropriate employee guidelines and a comprehensive security solution – one that will protect devices from malware and data loss, and ensure data remains accessible wherever possible.

Data backup and the encryption of sensitive and confidential information should be included as standard.

It is unreasonable to expect employees to do this themselves – Kaspersky’s study found that just one in three (35%) EU businesses install extra IT security, such as an anti-malware software solution on their smartphone, and only a quarter (23%) add any to their tablet in their personal lives, let alone their business life. One in five (21%) don’t protect any of their devices with additional security.

Corporate reputation and productivity depend on people, and people are only human. Digital amnesia is a natural human response to an increasingly connected world. Things that we don’t need to remember, for example because they are a touch away on a digital device, we simply forget. 

Compelling staff to learn off-by-heart all necessary client numbers and directions before leaving the building is probably not the answer, and neither is leaving it so they have to ask strangers to search online for a key client’s number.

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Ben Rossi

Ben was Vitesse Media's editorial director, leading content creation and editorial strategy across all Vitesse products, including its market-leading B2B and consumer magazines, websites, research and...

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