A study by the University of Copenhagen and Roskilde University has revealed that computer problems are responsible for us wasting between 11 and 20 per cent of our time.
How The Study Worked
The study involved 234 participants, in varying jobs (and education) including students, accountants, consultants and IT workers who spent between six and eight hours in front of a computer in their day-to-day work. The researchers told them to report the situations in which the computer would not work properly, or where they were frustrated about not being able to perform the task they wanted.
The results showed that on average, we waste between 11 and 20 per cent of our time in front of our computers on systems that do not work or that are so difficult to understand that we simply cannot perform the task we want to.
Some of the problems most often reported by participants included: “the system was slow,” “the system froze temporarily,” “the system crashed,” “it is difficult to find things.”
The two biggest categories of problems revealed by the study were insufficient performance and lack of user-friendliness. Also, the participants in the survey said that 84 per cent of the episodes had occurred before and that 87 per cent of the episodes could happen again.
According to Professor Kasper Hornbæk, one of the researchers, one the main reasons they still malfunction so much (even though computers are now better than 15 years ago), is “ordinary people aren’t involved enough when the systems are developed”.
Professor Morten Hertzum, the other researcher behind the study, also highlights that some issues seem to keep occurring, saying: “The frustrations are not due to people using their computers for something highly advanced, but because they experience problems in their performance of everyday tasks. This makes it easier to involve users in identifying problems. But it also means that problems that are not identified and solved will probably frustrate a large number of users.”
Also, the Professor points out, user-expectations play a part in their experience of computer issues. For example, the professor says that although “Our technology can do more today, and it has also become better” it seems that “at the same time, we expect more from it”. He cites the example that, “Even though downloads are faster now, they are often still experienced as frustratingly slow. ”
With 88 per cent of Danes using computers, laptops, smartphones, tablets, or other mobile devices at work (2018), the results of the study show that computer problems could be having a massive impact on productivity, perhaps a half to an entire day of a normal working week may be wasted on computer problems.
Also, as Professor Hornbæk points out, daily computer problems cause “a lot of frustrations for the individual user.”
What Does This Mean For Your Business?
If the UK businesses experience similar levels of computer problems as those suggested by this study, many may be losing money daily from the negative effects on productivity. There’s clearly room for improvement and, as highlighted by the researchers suggest, “there are no poor IT users, only poor systems” and that IT developers involving users more when designing the systems to make them as easy to use and understand may go some way towards reducing time lost through computer problems.
As the researchers highlighted, making users look at an incomprehensible box with commands or a frozen computer screen when problems occur may likely cause frustration and stress. Instead, if the computer could solve the problems without displaying commands/boxes while providing a back-up version of the system for users, this could help by enabling users to continue their work. Those designing computer systems / operating systems therefore need to take account not just of modern demands and expectations of computers, but should also focus on maximising user-friendliness, addressing common problems, and providing simple backup / workaround routes that could keep work and productivity flowing and save businesses money.
This may be an area of opportunity where AI could help in designing systems, monitoring, and diagnosing problems, ironing-out faults as they occur, and in providing help and directions to users.