Do your employees spend a lot of time on administrative tasks instead of their actual jobs? New research suggests that, on top of reducing productivity, this wasted time could be contributing to a negative work environment and low engagement.
According to the 2016 State of Work Report released by Workfront, a provider of cloud-based enterprise work management solutions, workers spend only 39 percent of their days on their actual jobs. Tasks outside of the duties employees were hired to perform fill up the rest of their time. The top three things that get in the way of work are excessive oversight (42 percent), excessive emails (43 percent) and wasteful meetings (59 percent).
These extraneous tasks have led workers to skip or take shortened lunch breaks (57 percent of respondents take 30 minutes or less) and log longer workweeks. Workfront found that the average workweek for office workers in 2016 is 45.1 hours, compared to 44.3 hours in 2015. Nearly 70 percent of workers surveyed said they felt negatively toward working after hours and on weekends to catch up on their tasks. [See Related Story: What's Your Most Productive Work Time? How to Find Out]
"Meetings and email are a necessary part of today's workplace. Unfortunately, they are often misused, decreasing, rather than increasing productivity," Joe Staples, chief marketing officer at Workfront, said in a statement.
Despite these bumps in the road to productivity in the workplace, survey respondents also reported some upsides to being at work, primarily related to their in-office relationships. Fifty-five percent expressed that dealing with their co-workers makes them feel happy; 88 percent said that at least one person at work has their back, while 84 percent stated that they felt their boss listened to them, and 77 percent revealed that they felt empowered at work.
Solving the problem
So how can leaders confront inefficiencies, capitalize on camaraderie and help their employees feel excited to work? Alex Shootman, CEO of Workfront, advised focusing on igniting employees' motivation and passions. These attributes are vital to success and suitability in the workplace, and they have to come from within, he said.
To assess your employees, ask yourself if they know their roles, are convinced that those roles matter and are proud of their work, Shootman said.
"These items emerge from leadership that has a consistent and constantly communicated vision and [that] takes action to create a culture that breeds motivation," he added.
The Workfront report also recommended allowing employees to implement "do not disturb" periods during the workday. A quarter of survey respondents said these uninterrupted blocks of time would help workers be more productive.
Finally, employers can make sure their work culture champions the right values. Workplaces should respect three specific values, Shootman said:
- Merit. Employees should be deserving of their treatment but not entitled to excellence without putting in the work.
- Accountability. Employees should take responsibility for their actions and deal with appropriate consequences.
- Straight talk. Direct confrontation and honesty are more beneficial than taking passive-aggressive approaches.
"Without judgment, straight talk can thrive. With straight talk, people have the best chance of success. When they are successful, they are less concerned about their job[s]," Shootman said.
This survey was based on responses from 606 employed U.S. adults who work at companies with 500 or more employees.