"Work about work": why we're not getting enough done

Nearly half of UK employees spend most of their time on organisational, planning and other admin tasks - rather than the actual job in hand.

A new survey of 2,000 workers by productivity platform Asana has found that 42% say they spend most of their working day on what are described as "work about work" tasks. These admin tasks include meetings, managing information and organising their workload.

These practices are not just damaging productivity, they are also affecting staff retention - 31% of workers polled said they are tempted to quit their job, or have already left a role, because they are spending too much time on work admin.

"Way too much time is spent on 'work about work' instead of getting work done," said Chris Farinacci, head of business at Asana. "Information overload, combined with a lack of clarity, has led to these poor working habits, and it's now outright limiting the productivity and morale of UK business teams and employees."

According to the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) the UK's productivity has grown at just 0.2% a year for the past five years.

Rachel Suff, senior employee relations adviser at HR body the CIPD, said: "Poor management practices have long been the weak link in the UK's weak productivity performance, and we need more focus on improving the skills of line managers so that they can provide well-designed work for their teams. There is evidence of increasing work intensity in UK workplaces that does not necessarily lead to enhanced performance and productivity."

According to Asana, the problem is more widespread in larger companies. In firms with between 50 and 500 employees, 54% of employees say they spend half their day organising and reorganising their work. This compares to 36% who say the same in businesses with less than 50 employees.

"The bigger your team, the bigger your mission, the bigger your coordination problem," said Asana's Farinacci. "Collaboration seems to be at an all-time high, but productivity and morale are still quite low."

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