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Repetitive Tasks Cost $5 Trillion in Lost Productivity Annually


Office workers are spending around 69 days per year on administration tasks, globally this represents lost productivity in the region of $5 trillion annually. Workers are relying on increased automation to improve this situation and improve their work satisfaction.

These figures come from a multi-national research study into global productivity just released by Unit4, a leader in enterprise systems for services organizations. On average across all of the countries in this study, office workers spend 552 hours a year completing administrative or repetitive tasks; the equivalent to 69 work days or roughly one-third of the working year.

The research shows that the cost of this lost productivity to the service industry in 11 countries is more than $5 trillion USD annually. The United States ($2.87 trillion) has the largest administrative cost annually based on responses to this study combined with official figures1. Singapore ($26.3 billion) has the lowest administrative costs in monetary terms.

The most productive workers from the countries surveyed are in Norway, spending 81% of their time on primary duties, followed closely by Sweden (78%) and France (76%). Respondents in Singapore spend the least time performing the primary duties of their role at 60% but also the least time on repetitive administration.

Most striking are the differences between generations. Professionals over 41 spend more time on primary responsibilities than those between 26 and 30. At the same time, people over 50 spend the longest collating and entering data. Despite this, workers aged between 26 to 35 say they support automation more than those aged 36-40 and 56-60, and younger professionals are more likely to think it will improve their happiness. They are confident this technology will be available soon (even within a year).

When asked if they would trust technology – such as a digital / virtual assistant or software application – to manage repetitive tasks, around 9 in 10 workers in Spain, Sweden and the Netherlands said they would, while fewer than three quarters of respondents in Germany and Australia said the same. Two-thirds (67%) agreed that implementing this type of technology would be important to remain competitive. The 26-40 age group is significantly more likely to think this than those over 56, and those with management responsibility are also more likely to agree.

“Unit4 strives to make software self-driving to unburden the services industry. We commissioned the research to understand the views of workers, like those employed by its customers, on how adopting new technology to help automate non-value add tasks, could help them be more productive,” said Stephan Sieber, CEO of Unit4. “To compete effectively for talent in the future, service organizations will need to make systems automated and self-driving to ensure productivity, but also to help younger workers to better engage at work by delivering them a similar experience to what they are used to at home. This will help them to feel they are spending their time on the right things, on their primary work and being effective. Left unchanged, the situation could be crippling for business, particularly services organizations who rely on the strengths and output of their people.”

The survey was conducted by DJS Research in April/May 2017 among office based employees in the US, Canada, United Kingdom, Australia, Singapore, Spain, France, Netherlands, Germany, Norway and Sweden. The findings are based on responses from 1,505 employees of companies with at least 100 staff members, and with at least 100 responses from each country (400 in the US). The findings of the survey have been summarized in an infographic.

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