Despite rise of hybrid working, people spend majority of time on pointless work and meetings

Businesses and workers are still grappling with barriers to productivity despite the advent of more widespread flexible and hybrid working, claims a new reportBusinesses and workers are still grappling with barriers to productivity despite the advent of more widespread flexible and hybrid working, claims a new report from Asana. According to the fourth Anatomy of Work Global Index, “work about work” – time spent on work coordination rather than the skilled, strategic jobs they want to do – remains how workers spend the bulk of their day. Conducted by GlobalWebIndex (GWI) on behalf of Asana, the 2023 Anatomy of Work Global Index surveyed the behaviours and attitudes of more than 9,615 knowledge workers across the United States, U.K., Australia, France, Germany, and Japan to understand the impact of cross-functional collaboration.

Unnecessary meetings are a time drain, sapping 3.6 hours per week from those in senior leadership roles and 2.8 hours per week for knowledge workers — a figure that has grown since last year. Executives were also 30 percent more likely to miss deadlines than the average worker because of too many video calls or meetings.

Across the board, more time is spent on audio, video, and in-person meetings than a year ago — with 32 percent of knowledge workers saying video calls are taking up more time and 22 percent saying the same for audio calls. This is unsurprising given the number of apps organisations use — 8.8 for knowledge workers on average and 10 for director-level and above. This figure has barely shifted from last year’s average — 9 apps — and is concerning as more apps equals more missed work — with 15 percent of knowledge workers using 6-15 apps missing messages and actions, rising to 25 percent for those using 16 apps or more.

“Current economic uncertainty requires enterprises to re-imagine how teams collaborate to drive greater efficiency and growth,” says Anne Raimondi, Chief Operating Officer at Asana. “Leaders have an out-sized impact on creating smarter, more productive, ways for their teams to collaborate. Instead of adding meetings and apps to already overloaded employees, they can choose to innovate and create intentional, asynchronous modes of collaboration and innovation–making the most of their employees time and talent and delivering better results for their customers.”


A new focus on collaboration

The report claims that the year will present a renewed challenge for organisations to avoid company churn, yet cross-collaboration presents a unique retention opportunity. 92 percent of workers at collaborative organisations say their work has value — versus just 50 percent at those organisations with weak collaboration. In an era of work where meaning and purpose are key employee motivators, collaboration has a critical role to play in worker achievement.

Further, cross-functional collaboration benefits the business itself, with 79 percent of workers at collaborative organisations saying they feel well-prepared to respond to challenges — a figure four times higher than those organisations with weak collaboration. Given the current macroeconomic climate, building a resilient workforce should be a critical priority for businesses as they look to remain increasingly agile and effective.

Growth is another major item on the agenda for businesses in this year and something that also benefits from effective cross-collaboration, with 55 percent of workers reporting revenue growth at collaborative organisations over the past three years — a hit rate almost double that of organisations with weak collaboration.


Going clear

The authors argue that, for effective cross-collaboration, organisational leaders must give clear, connected goals to their workers — ones tied to overarching company goals — or risk finding themselves in an endless churn of demand and delivery. It can prove a significant boost to employee retention, with 87 percent of workers with clear, connected goals saying they could see themselves working at their current company for the next year — more than double those who said their company had no clear, connected goals.

This doesn’t just come down to how workers conceive of their own role, though, but the business as a whole, with 70 percent of workers with clear, connected goals describing their organisation as “innovative” — with only 12 percent of those without these goals saying the same.

“How are your people spending their time?” Carson Tate founder and managing partner at Working Simply asks. “Leaders should ensure collaboration is connected to a very specific goal. Goals make collaboration strategic in that they advance the objective of the team or the company. Strategic collaboration is intentional. When teams collaborate effectively, they are thoughtful about who is on the team, know what must be completed to achieve the goal, and understand why it matters to the team and the company.”

Given the forecasted economic challenges, this is an increasingly valuable perception for business leaders to cultivate, with 87 percent of workers who have clear, connected goals saying their business is well-prepared to meet customer expectations — a figure double that of those without such clarity. And 73 percent of workers with clear, connected goals saying their company is ready to achieve a competitive advantage — with just 23 percent of workers with no clear, connected goals saying the same.