Radical changes over the past quarter-century have revolutionized work. Globalization, personal computing, flextime...even the internet was unheard of less than a career span ago. These changes have radically increased what an individual can accomplish in a typical workday.

Yet each new development has also increased the complexity of work:

  • Technology enables a constant flow of information, creating new demands on employees' time.
  • We now check our phones more than 150 times a day.
  • The average business user sends and receives 121 emails a day, spending more than a quarter of each workday reading and responding to them.

And as work has grown more complex, organizations have also increased their complexity, adding levels of approval and layers of management. Compliance requirements have increased as well.

The paradoxical result is that while more is possible, it's increasingly difficult to get things done.

And employees, battered by information overload and tethered to their jobs 24/7, are stressed and overwhelmed.

It's a problem that was identified by the writer Henry David Thoreau, more than a century and a half ago. "Our life is frittered away by detail," he wrote. "Simplify, simplify."

Today, companies are beginning to seek ways to simplify. A survey published by Deloitte University Press found that 10 percent of companies have a simplification plan in place, while 44 percent are working on one.

Simplification can be as easy as banning employees from sending and reading work-related email on the weekends. Coca-Cola recently eliminated voicemail from its offices: one less information stream to worry about.

Other employers see simplification as a company-wide challenge. For several years, GE has placed simplification at the core of its competitiveness strategy, implementing a leaner management structure and incorporating a set of organizing principles called "GE Beliefs" that encourage employees to simplify each task by considering how it can be altered to provide the best and fastest results for customers.

Whether you are up for a total systems revamp or are mainly interested in streamlining a few processes, it's likely your company can benefit from participation in the simplification revolution. And while the process of simplifying may seem impossibly -- ahem -- complex, we have a few tips for getting started.

First, get HR involved.

They are your best allies in clearing out the clutter, as they have an overview of job descriptions and employee satisfaction (or the opposite). HR should be tasked not only with bringing the best skills and talent to the table, but with helping ensure those talents are not wasted once on board.

Now, start getting rid of the stupid stuff.

Rules that nobody follows? Gone. Layers of approval that serve no discernible purpose? Out the door. Routine meetings that clutter up the workday and don't serve the bottom line? End them.

Scrutinize how employees spend their time.

  • Rein in email. If email occupies two or more hours a day, examine the content. How can your team reduce email traffic, while continuing essential communications? Google has implemented a set of nine "rules for email." If it doesn't meet the criteria, it shouldn't get sent.
  • Consider time-management software. A great tool for streamlining work flow, time management software helps employees to better understand how they really spend their time. Wasted time and redundancies are revealed, helping individuals to create their own simplification strategies.

Look at your workplace technology.

For years, we've been layering on new functionality as it came online, hoping to increase efficiency by adding machines, apps and software. Now it's time to start paring back. What software and equipment steals more time than it adds? Time to let it go.

Consider "design thinking," which engages process experts, user interface design professionals and graphics people in the task of improving systems. Viewing your company as a product of which each employee is a user will reveal new ways to make it more functional.

As you examine processes, consider first whether each step is necessary. If not, cut it out. Then, when you've pared away the fat, consider whether you can combine or otherwise streamline processes to create a simpler way to get things done.

Get help from your staffing partner.

In a rapidly changing market, intelligent hiring and flexible staffing are keys to helping your company "Keep It Simple, Stupid."