Work about work is hampering company agility, says new study

Anne Raimondi, Chief Operating Officer, Asana

Asana, Inc., a work management platform, released its annual Anatomy of Work Index, an in-depth analysis into how people spend time at work. While hybrid and remote work trends have afforded greater flexibility for employees, the majority of their day, 58%, is still being lost to work coordination rather than the skilled, strategic jobs they’ve been hired to do.

What were the key findings of Asana’s index?

Work has dramatically changed how employees spend time the last two years. With individuals are dedicating 33% of their day to skilled work, a 27% increase year over year.

However, time spent on strategy comprises less than 10% of their working day, a staggering 36% decrease from last year, reflecting the challenges organizations have in getting distributed teams on the same page to plan for the future.

With these upwards and downwards trends, it’s no surprise that employees’ own view of how and where they maximize their day has evolved. Workers ideally want a near equal split of time spent in the office (19 hours) and at home (20 hours) each week.

The office is being favored for collaborative-centric activities like onboarding, 1:1 meetings with their manager and strategy sessions, while home is preferred for their skilled job.

What is the future of work?

Conducted by Global Web Index (GWI) on behalf of Asana, the Anatomy of Work Index 2022 surveyed the behaviors and attitudes of 10,624 workers across Australia, France, Germany, Japan, Singapore, U.K., and the U.S., to understand what’s working—and what’s not.

The lines between work and life are blurrier than ever. Regardless of whether organizations choose an in-person, hybrid or fully remote model, a lack of clarity, coupled with increasing digital distractions, are continuing to fuel challenges for workers around the world.

While employees are missing fewer deadlines — 15% versus 26% last year — they’re struggling to balance priorities and establish clear boundaries. For example, employees waste 6 working weeks each year on a combination of duplicated work and unnecessary meetings.

With 37% saying that they don’t have a clear start or finish time to their working day — rising to 53% for Gen Z employees — there’s a need to implement consistent guidelines and processes to better manage both remote and in-person collaboration.

Additional global findings include:

Managers spend most time on work coordination (62%) followed by the C-Suite (60%)

  • As an organization grows so does work about work. Employees at medium and large companies spend 59% of their day on it. That’s 5% more time than small businesses

Too many meetings (24%) and uncertain priorities (22%) are leading to missed deadlines

Overall, workers are using slightly fewer apps per day (9) than last year (10), but they still feel overwhelmed by them. Compared to one year ago:

  • 42% are spending more time on email
  • 40% are spending more time on video calls
  • 52% are multitasking more during virtual meetings
  • 56% feel they need to respond immediately to notifications

Although nearly half of employees (47%) find it easier to concentrate at home, 41% feel more isolated when working remotely according to Asana’s report findings.

What are the challenges faced by workers today?

Between grappling with work about work and navigating never-ending pings and notifications, burnout remains a persistent challenge for global employees. While overall levels of burnout have improved slightly, decreasing from 71% to 63%, the problem is pervasive among younger workers with 84% of Gen Z reporting burnout in the last year.

And with 1 in 4 workers experiencing burnout 4 or more times, 42% experiencing burnout and imposter syndrome simultaneously and 40% believing it’s an inevitable part of success, organizations need to do more to set clear boundaries and prioritize employee well-being.

“The unprecedented disruption of the pandemic has fundamentally shifted the way we live, including re-thinking work and our relationship with it,” said Anne Raimondi, COO, Asana.

“As we transition into the new era of agile work, it’s crucial for organizations to connect their teams around clarity of purpose and a shared sense of accomplishment to ensure employees feel seen, heard and valued. In doing so, we can emerge from the burnout and bottlenecks of the past two years to chart a new path forward in the future of work.”

Despite the adaptations firms have made since the onset of the pandemic, the survey findings illustrate the vast differences and opportunities to redefine work around the world:

  • Australian workers are the most likely to say better mentoring and training could alleviate burnout and imposter syndrome — 45% are experiencing both at the same time
  • Despite French employees spending the most time in the office (27 hours) they’re also missing the most deadlines each week (25%)
  • Germany is spending the least time on work about work (53%), though time spent on strategy has also halved to 7% (versus 14% last year)
  • The report showed that Japanese workers are spending the least time in unnecessary meetings compared to other markets (2 hours a week)
  • Singapore is spending the most time on work about work (69%) — rising year over year while work about work has decreased globally
  • According to Asana, United Kingdom workers spend the least amount of time in the office per week (18 hours) and miss the fewest deadlines
  • Asana also reported that employees in the United States experienced burnout an average of 2.3 times in the past year — the highest globally

What is workplace agility like?

Today, organizations have a tremendous opportunity to reflect on the challenges of the past and the progress being made as they embrace the future of the agile workplace.

One in five workers say mental health resources and clarity on organizational goals would alleviate burnout and imposter syndrome. Also, employees say they could save 5.4 hours per week, equivalent to 6 working weeks (257 hours) a year, if processes were improved.

“In 2022 and beyond, leaders must assess what their employee needs are and what sentiment on their team is like,” said Dr. Sahar Yousef, Cognitive Neuroscientist, UC Berkeley.

“The companies who will thrive in the new era of agility will be the ones who continue to evolve and, as a result, attract and retain better talent because they listen and adjust accordingly. Organizations that don’t will be left in the dust.” she concluded.

Asana’s Anatomy of Work Index 2022 is available here for download