Today's state of work: The productivity drain

David Oakley

The Internet has created radical changes in our personal lives. We now live in a "consumerised" online world where we shop for products and services with a few taps on a smartphone.

Social media gives us a global forum where anyone can speak their mind. We expect the web to be automated, on demand, and always on -- delivering instant gratification no matter where we are. So why doesn't this apply in the workplace?

Enterprises today -- both large and small -- spend significant amounts of time and money on manual administrative work, using emails to onboard new employees or file an IT request for example. But this routine work is creating devastating productivity losses to employees and organisations as a whole. In fact, a recent survey by ServiceNow found that managers spend approximately two days per week on administrative tasks.

Not only is this trend causing managers to be less productive, but is inhibiting organisation's ability to access one of the most crucial avenues to business growth -- innovation.

It's clear -- organisations need to change their approach to administrative tasks. After all, who wouldn't want their work tools to be just as efficient as those applications used in everyday life? It seems odd that in an age where companies are so relentlessly focused on cost cutting while increasing productivity, it is so common to waste so much on inefficient processes.

When it comes to thinking about the business impact of today's inefficient work tasks, there are four major areas of concern for managers.

These include:

1. Lack of time for strategic initiatives

According to a recent survey by ServiceNow, almost 50 percent of managers surveyed agreed that administrative work leaves them less time for strategic activities. Not only do companies pay a high price for administrative work itself, they pay a heavy opportunity cost in terms of lost strategic work.

2. Slow administrative processes lead to delays in work activities that depend on them

Managers are also concerned about how long routine work processes take. It seems that managers spend their time trying to drive administrative processes, but they still do not get the responsiveness they need to move their business forward. For example, work is delayed if a supporting purchase order is not opened in a timely manner, or if a manager's computer is out of commission for too long.

3. Unstructured, manual tools reduce the company's productivity

The survey also found that managers spend an average of 15 hours per week on admin work -- that's two whole days spent on repetitive activities that are necessary to business operations but not core to the job function. These include emailing updates, requesting support services and filling out forms.

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