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October 21, 2019

Productivity drain: 60% of work is about work, survey finds

By Robert Scammell

From email to spreadsheets, there are many ways in which technology has made our working lives easier. But new research suggests that technology doesn’t always mean that we are working smarter, resulting in a drain on workplace productivity.

A survey of more than 10,000 office workers across the UK, US, Japan, Australia, New Zealand and Germany found that more than 60% of their time is spent doing work about their work. That includes searching emails, talking about projects and sitting in meetings.

This means that just 27% of knowledge workers’ time is spent doing the job they were actually hired to do – a huge drain on workplace productivity.

The survey, published by work management platform Asana, highlights a problem unique to the knowledge economy, an economic model where growth is tied to the quality and quantity of information – rather than the means of production.

Duplicated work drains workplace productivity

Paradoxically, despite workers being better connected than any time in history, a large chunk is of work is being accidentally duplicated. Globally, each worker wastes 4 hours and 38 minutes per week doing work that’s already been done.

Contrary to Germany’s reputation as being highly efficient, the survey showed its workers spent the most time on average doing duplicate work – five hours and nine minutes per week, or 270 hours per year.

In the UK, five hours and five minutes per week spent doing work that has already been done, or 30 days per year.

And around the world, respondents said that two-thirds of meetings are unnecessary and a waste of time and a further drain on productivity.

Technology has made it easier than ever to work remotely and at any time of day, but that has resulted in 30% of workers often or always working lake. That’s despite research suggesting the ‘always on’ work culture of checking ‘one more email’ has been shown to negatively impact worker’s health.

“Despite having more ways to communicate and collaborate than ever before, the majority of teams are still turning to antiquated tools like email and spreadsheets that were never designed to synchronise work,” said Dustin Moskovitz, CEO of Asana.

“As a result, they’re spending more time managing the chaos of coordination rather than on the actual job they’ve been hired to do. We believe this represents a tremendous opportunity for teams to streamline their processes and better orchestrate their work — ultimately giving them valuable time back in their day to focus on what matters most.”

The Anatomy of Work Index was conducted by Sapio Research on behalf of Asana.

Read more: How to build a workplace where your team can flourish

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