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The world’s most-hated office tasks – and what to do about them

12 Feb 2020

New research suggests that data entry is the most-disliked office task in the world.

Can you guess what the world’s most-hated office task is? According to new research from software firm Automation Anywhere, data entry tops the list. The robotic process automation company, which develops software bots for businesses, conducted the study with OnePoll and interviewed more than 10,000 office employees in 11 countries late last year.

Participants came from a range of job levels, industries and company sizes. According to the results, the majority of respondents (87pc), with more than eight in 10 in the UK, feel they shouldn’t be spending their time on tasks that can be automated.

In the UK, workers said they spend more than 40pc of their day on digital admin, including data entry and other “manual, repetitive computer tasks which aren’t part of their primary job and are ripe for human error”.

The digital workplace

Nearly three-quarters (73pc) of those in the UK said they find digital admin tasks boring and a poor use of their skills, while 69pc said it gets in the way of their main job and 78pc believe it reduces their overall productivity.

Principal analyst at Futurum Research, Shelly Kramer, commented on the report’s value in highlighting feelings of being undermined and unhappy in contemporary workplaces. “There was a time not so long ago when workplace technology was viewed as liberating,” she said.

“The PC age freed office workers from rigid processes, placing each of us in control of our own workflow. But there’s been a trade-off and today those tasks have become a significant burden.

“If you work in an office, likely your productivity and happiness are significantly undermined with having to be responsible for manual computer administration tasks that could easily be automated and eat into your day.”

In terms of the most-hated tasks, data entry is joined at the top of the list by compiling reports from IT and software systems, and invoice management.

Automation Anywhere said that many of these tasks can be addressed by a ‘digital workforce’ comprised of bots, preventing the loss of up to 60 hours a month for a single employee through automating repetitive tasks.

“Employees could be given back a quarter of their annual work time – four and a half months – to focus on more meaningful work and boost productivity,” the company said.

The impact on work-life balance

Manually doing repetitive tasks that could potentially be automated is also impacting work-life balance, the research suggested. The report said that almost half of people surveyed globally feel that digital admin tasks often prevent them from leaving the office at a reasonable time, with that number rising to 63pc for workers in the UK.

Overall, it found women to be more impacted by this type of admin work around the world, with women spending more than three hours each day on repetitive, manual tasks, while men spend around 2.8 hours on the same.

Workers who took part in the survey said that without these tasks they would feel more able to carry out their main job, to improve productivity levels in their teams and to learn new skills.

‘Freeing workers to focus on higher value tasks is the fundamental promise of a digital workforce’

Automation Anywhere’s chief strategy officer, Stephen DeWitt, said that “freeing workers” from menial tasks will be central to the work of the future.

“Worker productivity and morale are negatively impacted by the volume of repetitive manual business processes that characterise their workday,” he said.

“Freeing workers to focus on higher value tasks is the fundamental promise of a digital workforce. Companies embracing this immediately derive a competitive edge in worker productivity and a huge boost in the ability to attract and retain their valuable talent.”

Lisa Ardill
By Lisa Ardill

Lisa Ardill joined Silicon Republic as senior careers reporter in July 2019. She has a BA in neuroscience and a master’s degree in science communication. She is also a semi-published poet and a big fan of doggos. Lisa briefly served as Careers Editor at Silicon Republic before leaving the company in June 2021.

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