In this 2-part series we will break down the physical damage that multiple redundant data entries can have on your workforce, and ways to mitigate these risks for a more accurate and resilient data foundation and human workforce.

Repetition often manifests through ‘band-aid’ style fixes, leaving the data owners to sacrifice any combination of the speed-accuracy-cost triangle. Permanent solutions tend to better optimize conditions in your data workflows and range from operational change, governance, or innovations in the industry.

Modern workplaces are home to an ever-growing architecture of systems and customized tech footprints. New and evolving practices change the way data flows through an organization and often falls to the employee to ensure all data is recorded effectively, timely, and accurately across each system.

When adding new systems or workflows, it is vital to approach adoption with a holistic view in mind. New implementations that fail to communicate with the current tech footprint or lack efficient integration methodology are prone to require multi-entry, or what’s often referred to as ‘Swivel Chair’ syndrome. In this article, we will touch on two ways you can expect Swivel Chair Syndrome to impact your data’s accuracy, reliability, and ultimately…your bottom line.

Repetitive Tasks & Accuracy

Repetitive data entry occurs when departments inject systems of records into enterprise architecture without regard for similar systems or the new application’s effect on the overall workflow. With the increasingly expanding market of niche/specialized software swaying your departments to a sale, a rogue addition to software-stacks can wreak havoc on an organized (or already disorganized) architecture. As tech evolves and the interest in tracking, analytics, and dashboards increases, the occurrence of employees manually entering data in multiple platforms has likely directly affected you or a peer. But what does this have to do with your organization as a whole?

When diving into the impact on employee response to ‘swivel-chair’ architecture, the repetitious and menial additional tasking to the employee’s workflow has propagating effects on the employee, the data, and the enterprise’s bottom line, according to a Journal of Occupational Health Psychology study on the impact of boredom at work (1). Exploring why requires us to dive into the mental effect of repetitive tasks.

Blind Entry vs. Practice

Typically, when you think of doing the same thing over and over, the word ‘practice’ comes to mind. This is a common scapegoat that justifies the propagation of swivel-chair workflows, supporting the idea that reentering the dataset has no immediate impact other than ‘it’s preferable not to.’ However, what may come as counter-intuitive to many, an increase in accuracy or skill has been disproven with research showing greater negative impact on dataset.  Accuracy and consistency significantly decrease with repetitive entry tasks, increasing exponentially each time a dataset is entered. When applying findings from the Journal of Business Research (2) to data entry, the recurrence of the same dataset in a manual entry process does not contribute to growing the employee’s skill or ability in that area. More so, repetitive tasks are not to be confused with the effects of “practice” to any degree, as findings confirm that repetition does not notably improve the expected performance. In fact, it is more likely to have a detrimental impact.

Meaning, each time your dataset is not automatically transferred between systems in your organization, you can count on your decision-driving data to become less and less reliable, and ultimately lead to the inability to make meaningful decisions from your KPIs.

Errors from Mental Fatigue

Relevant to the topic of critical data recording, we must approach the impact of mental fatigue on an employee. Mental fatigue is a decline in the ability and efficiency of both psychological and physical activities. This is an aspect that can overshadow the employee’s everyday tasks, as anyone who has experienced workplace mental fatigue can attest to; it is something that will follow you from a menial task to critical job functions, and even back home with you.

When a workflow forces an employee to engage in the same small activity multiple times, over both short- or longer-term periods, the fatigue caused by this excessive, strenuous, or repetitive task impacts the participant’s ability, desire, and willingness to complete it (3). Additionally, as the dataset’s value or its criticality increases, mental fatigue quickly becomes a significant risk factor.

Mental fatigue through employee disengagement has been observed as one of the most frequent causes of job errors and is directly associated with a higher level of physical workplace accidents. By causing the employee to focus on accuracy in repetitive, menial, and disengaging tasks over an extended period, data fidelity begins to suffer. Resulting in a decrease in data trustworthiness and ends up having an effect contradictory to the concept of ’practice’ or ‘skill in repetition’ (3).  This situation can be more identified as an “echo of the data” where each recurrence of the initial set is a weaker reflection compared to the initial set, eventually becoming unrecognizable. When sustained performance is paramount, such as when maintaining relevancy and fidelity in their analytics technologies, it is necessary to explore methods to mitigate any risk with strategic or tactical KPI capture.

Far Reaching Implications of Swivel-Chair Data Entry

When organizations fail to consider their overarching technical footprint, the ramifications can begin to propagate through their department and bleed into the surrounding organization. You may be unknowingly contributing to a culture of distrust due to a lack of data accuracy, employee engagement, and, fatigue.  Additionally, organizations have shown to experience an excessive loss of time, money, and morale when systems do not share an adequate level of integration, consistency, or governance.  Implications of Swivel-Chair Data Workflows can be hugely detrimental to internal operations or client/customer relationships and trust to the recipients of the reports if put into distribution.

Do you see swivel-chair effecting your department or its data quality? What is your approach to fix it?

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(1) Hooff, M. L. M. v., & Hooft, E. A. J. v. (2014). Boredom at work: Proximal and distal consequences of effective work-related boredom. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 19(3), 348-359. doi:10.1037/a0036821

(2) Albertoni, F., Elia, S., & Piscitello, L. (2018). Inertial vs. mindful repetition of previous entry mode choices: Do firms always learn from experience? Journal of Business Research, doi:10.1016/j.jbusres.2018.02.034

(3) Hopstaken, J., Linden, D. v. d., Bakker, A. B., & Kompier, M. A. J. (2015). A multifaceted investigation of the link between mental fatigue and task disengagement. Psychophysiology, 52(3), 305-315. doi:10.1111/psyp.12339

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