Emails, Meetings, and Automation: Shaping the Future of Work
What will UK knowledge work look like in 5 years?
We surveyed 2,001 enterprise workers across the UK to capture how work is being done today, what challenges knowledge workers are seeing, and how these trends might play out in the near future. With revelations of stolen work time in the present and glorious automation in the near future, you can take in the results of the UK edition of the State of Enterprise Work Report in one of 2 ways...
What Are the 10 Biggest Things You Should Take Away From the 2017-2018 State of Enterprise Work Report: UK Edition?
The following 10 findings should provide both a warning and a hope for forward-looking UK knowledge workers and their leaders…
1. UK knowledge workers still struggle to get time for the work they were hired to do.
For the fourth consecutive year, email, meetings, and other administrative tasks are sucking up knowledge workers’ time—leaving far less than half of their week for the jobs they were actually hired to do. Naturally, if that work is still going to get done, knowledge workers will have to fit it in elsewhere...
2. Longer hours have become UK knowledge workers’ coping mechanism.
For better or worse, technology is making it easier for knowledge workers to squeeze in work duties early in the morning, during dinner and family events, and late at night before bed. This is adding more hours to the average work week.
3. Email and meetings are to blame for UK workers’ low productivity.
When we asked UK knowledge workers what was standing in the way of getting work done, two responses towered over the others: wasteful meetings and excessive emails. Ironically, it seems, tools and practices that were meant to foster collaboration are now being misused and eroding worker productivity.
And what is it about email that troubles knowledge workers most? People using it for purposes for which it was never intended.
Stretching email far beyond its original purpose into some kind of makeshift work management tool has turned it into stumbling block of which knowledge workers are becoming increasingly weary.
4. UK knowledge workers have too many tools.
Email isn’t the only tool backfiring on UK knowledge workers. These workers must toggle back and forth through a host of tools to manage work—an average of six for most workers—and this often entails a ton of manual entry and re-entry, copying and pasting, and other time-wasting, mind-numbing foolishness.
5. Technology is blurring the lines between work and personal life.
When it comes to the devices we use to get work done, personal boundaries are becoming a thing of the past. Take a look at the graph above and you can see just how knowledge workers are regularly using both work and personal computers, phones, and tablets for work—which is really just a reflection of the changing definition of work-life balance. It no longer means having a balance of time for both; it means handling both work and personal life at any given time.
6. Flexibility for UK knowledge workers is on the rise.
As technology has evolved to let workers use a number of devices, whether work or personal, to get work done, it is also opening a new paradigm in terms of where and when we can work. Remote working. Working from home. Flextime. It’s all part of the shifting definition of “at work.”
Numbers from the UK State of Enterprise Work Report show overwhelming adoption of these ideas, with few holdouts. And workers don’t expect this to be a “here-today-gone-tomorrow” fad. Flexible work arrangements and schedules, they predict, will become a major cornerstone of the workplace of the future.
For knowledge workers, working from home is steadily becoming a fixture, a go-to for cleaning out inboxes and knocking out to-do lists. And employers are following suit, as evidenced in this staggering statistic: more than 8 in 10 UK knowledge workers have some ability to take flextime.
Will this kind of flexibility end up on the trash heap of history, alongside pneumatic tubes and open work environments? UK knowledge workers say no.
7. UK knowledge workers are looking for better tools for managing work.
Over one-third of UK knowledge workers lament, “If I were better organised, I would never miss a deadline”—a number which is substantially higher among digital natives. So, it’s no surprise that 60% of knowledge workers report that either they are already using project management tools or they would like to. Leaders looking to design the ideal workplace to attract and retain digital natives would do well to take note.
8. UK knowledge workers are looking for better tools to increase flexibility.
Remember how knowledge workers are falling in love with flexibility? According to workers, this will be about more than just changes in policy. Knowledge workers are expecting employers to invest in technologies that will make working remotely seamless, like video conferencing, social media-based team collaboration, and other collaboration tools. And they don’t mean email.
9. Knowledge workers are looking to automation to restore productivity and innovation.
As pressures on knowledge workers have increased and the tools of yesteryear (looking at you, email and spreadsheets) have failed to keep up, few things inspire hope like work automation technologies. Unlike their blue-collar counterparts, knowledge workers see robots, AI, and automation bringing a renaissance of sorts. In overwhelming numbers, they envision automation taking over repetitive manual tasks, so they can get back to uniquely human tasks like strategy, creativity, and innovation.
10. UK knowledge workers are so over “think outside the box.”
Just as work tools are always evolving, so too is work lingo. And there are some well-worn workplace phrases of which knowledge workers have had enough. However, no workplace cliche is more maligned—not by a long shot—than “think outside the box.”
What Else is Happening at Work?
Overall, the UK Edition of the 2017-2018 State of Enterprise Work Report reveals a growing sense of optimism among UK knowledge workers. Nearly all of them feel prepared for the future. They see technology playing a big part in making the workplace—whether it be a cubicle, a coffee shop, or their coffee table—a more flexible, productive, innovative place.
Of course, not every enterprise will survive to be a part of this bright future. Those organisations that fail to recognise the need for greater flexibility, automation, and other technologies that will eliminate waste likely won’t make the cut. Which leaves one final question: is your team ready for the future of work?
To learn what the next five years will bring to your workplace, read the 2017-2018 State of Enterprise Work Report: UK Edition today.