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TD Magazine

It’s Time to Focus on Skilled Work

Friday, September 30, 2022

Instead of completing skilled work, employees are spending more of their days on menial tasks related to their jobs.

Knowledge workers—those who work primarily on a computer or in such industries as HR, IT, recruiting, and marketing—spend more than half of their day communicating about work, searching for information, switching between apps, responding to notifications, and chasing status updates, according to 2022 Anatomy of Work Global Index.

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To get a clear picture of how employees divvy up the time they spend on individual work tasks, software company Asana surveyed more than 10,000 knowledge workers across Australia, France, Germany, Japan, Singapore, the UK, and the US. The analysis reveals that employees only devote one-third of their attention to skilled work, which Asana defines as labor that requires specific knowledge and expertise, and 9 percent of their efforts to strategic work. In other words, employees dedicate more of each day to completing work related to work rather than performing the skilled, strategic jobs they are hired to do. The report asserts that "too many workers are stuck in this black hole, sucked into a world of small tasks that add up to an enormous burden."

According to the report, knowledge workers across markets, demographics, company sizes, and leadership levels are wasting approximately six working weeks each year on a combination of duplicated work, unnecessary meetings, and email responses. They report spending more time on email and attending too many video calls, and the majority feel pressured to respond immediately to notifications. That lost time leads to reduced productivity, with the report projecting that workers are missing 15 percent of their deadlines. Not to mention, Asana found that one in four employees is burned out at least four times a year.

Larger companies see even more time spent on work-related tasks. The report highlights that employees at medium and large companies spend 5 percent more of their workweek in meetings and on miscellaneous workflow tasks.

"Work about work is an entrenched part of modern organizations and is still the biggest barrier to productivity—one that organizations shouldn't take lightly," Asana states. It advises companies to empower workers to focus on the skilled work that makes them feel valued. Further, the report recommends reducing workers' digital distractions and consolidating tools via one work management platform. "Change needs to be structural and teams need to work together to think holistically about their workflows," the report says.

About the Author

Ryann K. Ellis is an editor for the Association of Talent Development (ATD). She has been covering workplace learning and performance for ATD (formerly the American Society for Training & Development) since 1995. She currently sources and authors content for TD Magazine and CTDO, as well as manages ATD's Community of Practice blogs. Contact her at [email protected] 

2 Comments
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Hi Ryan, Greetings,
I observed the same for shop floor supervisors in manufacturing industry. They spend more time in documentation and MIS reporting activities, rather than actual supervision. Many errors, delays and safety issues attributed to ineffective shop floor supervision.
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Hi Ryan,
Thanks for the article.
I observed similar situation in manufacturing industry also. Shop floor supervisors spend significant time in various documentation and reporting activities rather than actual supervision. There are many errors, delays and human issues attributed to ineffective supervision.
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