Are you wasting your time on work that's already been done?

Are you wasting your time on work that's already been done?
(Image credit: Pixabay)

We all know the feeling. Spending time working on a task and then discovering a colleague has completed the same work. Or pouring hours of effort into a project only to have your work fall by the wayside. It kills employee morale and it drains productivity across an organization.

About the author

Simon O’Kane, Head of EMEA at Asana.

As we approach the one-year anniversary of the UK’s first lockdown, the limitations of shifting traditional office practices to a remote work environment have never been clearer.

In 2020, the average UK knowledge worker spent 227 hours on tasks that were already completed or deemed a waste of time. That’s almost an entire month, per employee, of work down the drain, according to Asana’s new Anatomy of Work report.

Translate that to lost productivity, and enterprises could be throwing millions of pounds away annually. Organizations can’t afford this, particularly given the economic impacts of Covid-19 and Brexit that will reverberate for years.

Business leaders must think differently if they want to build resilience in the year ahead. And it starts by recognizing the core issues employees face in a distributed workplace.

Start saving hours by consolidating apps

Duplicated work isn’t just confined to a remote work environment. Regional offices and separate departments have historically worked in isolation. But it’s far more jarring today given the abundance of apps at our disposal.

Despite herculean efforts by businesses to roll out digital transformation strategies- enabling teams to work at home in lock-down - we’re overloaded with apps. In fact, workers in the UK are using an average of 10 apps and switching between them 26 times a day just to do their job, creating more confusion than clarity.

This confusion is also fueled by businesses rolling out new tools without replacing legacy ways of working. Despite having more ways to collaborate than ever, teams are still relying on email, and holding unnecessary meetings to manage work. It’s no wonder that work is falling through the cracks and one in four deadlines are missed every week.

If businesses want to fill these cracks in the virtual office, their teams need clarity, and they need it now.

Imposter syndrome is surging

Last year, over two thirds (69%) of the UK’s workforce experienced imposter syndrome (a feeling of self-doubt over achievements). Among new hires, who are particularly in need of support, this rises to 84%.

Getting the virtual office infrastructure right has a big part to play in mitigating the causes of imposter syndrome.

If workers don’t have visibility into how their work is contributing to the business, they can’t take pride in achievements, or have confidence in their success. And without the natural flow of support and shout-outs that comes from sharing an office, employees need new ways to connect and engage with each other.

How can businesses build back stronger?

There’s no silver-bullet to tackle wasted time or falling confidence at work. These issues have complex roots, and each business needs a unique approach to overcome them.

Now more than ever, leaders must focus on the Three C’s - content, communication, and coordination.

Businesses have invested heavily in the first two. Content systems, like cloud storage, and file sharing, and communication tools like video conference apps, have rapidly become staples of the workplace tech suite. Yet without effective coordination, the potential of these tools is limited. That’s why UK workers are still losing 157 hours every year to unnecessary meetings, as they struggle to have clarity on who is doing what by when.

Coordination means arming employees with one platform to view, track, and share progress on their responsibilities. By phasing out email and spreadsheets - artifacts of the old way of working that create silos of knowledge - businesses can roll out work management to help coordination. Through integrations, work management platforms make existing content and communication solutions more effective.

A dedicated work management platform creates clarity for everyone on the company’s mission, its objectives, projects, and workflows. This nurtures confidence in how individual responsibilities ladder-up to bigger business goals and cuts time lost to work that’s already completed.

Through empowering teams with the tools of the new virtual office, leaders can actively manage resources - for example taking pressure off those with care duties - and new joiners have a one-stop-shop for all the info they need on projects, and where their work fits.

There’s no doubt individuals, teams, and organizations want to build back after a challenging year. It’s time for business leaders to take the initiative on rethinking how teams effectively coordinate work, and the platforms that will empower them to do it.

They’ll come back stronger for it.

Simon O’Kane, Head of EMEA at Asana.