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60% of the Workday Lost to ‘Work About Work,’ Study Reveals

Organizations of every size and across all industries are losing countless hours to work about work: the time wasted on searching for information, switching between apps and holding status meetings.
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60% of the workday lost to ‘work about work,’ study reveals

Global workers are losing 60% of their time on work coordination rather than the skilled, strategic jobs they've been hired to do, according to Asana's annual Anatomy of Work Index.

The index surveyed the behaviors and attitudes of 13,123 knowledge workers across Australia, New Zealand, France, Germany, Japan, Singapore, the U.K., and the U.S.

Organizations of every size and across all industries are losing countless hours to work about work: the time wasted on searching for information, switching between apps and holding status meetings. The survey found that with 60% of the average workday taken up by work about work, skilled work occupies only 26% of the day and strategy a mere 14%.

To no one's shock, 2020 took a huge toll on workers' productivity, with patchwork systems and less-than-ideal workflows. Teams are spending 30% more time on duplication of work and work deemed by employees as a waste of time year-over-year. New hires spend nearly twice as much time on duplicated work as their tenured teammates.

A whopping 87% of employees are working late—455 hours every year, compared to 242 hours in 2019. The workday extension has resulted in 3 in 4 employees struggling to disconnect from work, and 7 in 10 experiencing burnout. And one-quarter of deadlines are missed every week.

Of the countries surveyed, the U.S. knowledge workforce experienced the highest levels of missed deadlines in 2020 at over 1 in 3 each week. And 89% of U.S. knowledge workers experienced burnout in 2020.

“Over the past year, there has been a dramatic shift in the way teams and organizations work," said Dr. Sahar Yousef, cognitive neuroscientist, UC Berkeley. “Work about work has skyrocketed in the form of unproductive meetings and calls and an increase in email and chat usage, especially during evenings and weekends. Considering the continued rise in burnout numbers we have been seeing, our research suggests that unless organizations take a proactive approach, productivity is projected to plummet in 2021."

“Organizations and leaders must address these issues head-on by adopting clear processes on how work gets done, so they can thrive in the year ahead and come out more resilient and aligned than before," Yousef continued.

One bane to professional and personal wellbeing is imposter syndrome, the belief that one has only succeeded due to luck and not because of talent or qualifications, which the report indicates is also on the rise.

Nearly 80% of workers who started a new job during the coronavirus pandemic report experiencing imposter syndrome. Experiences of imposter syndrome are also more common for parents and caregivers with children at home (67%) compared to those without (57%).

AnneMarie McPherson is IA news editor. 

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Wednesday, February 17, 2021
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