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How many hats do you really wear at work?

13 Aug 2020

Does your job title accurately reflect everything you do? According to ZenBusiness, employees may be responsible for an average of 2.3 roles outside their remit.

Have you ever found yourself working in areas beyond your job brief? It’s often the case that job titles are too narrow to accurately capture the different aspects of your position. Roles also evolve over time in response to changing demands from your customer base, clients, colleagues or your own personal ambitions.

For some, this element of working life is a good thing. Taking on new responsibilities can help you expand your professional network, expose you to new skills and bring you closer to your career goals. For others, however, never-ending additions to a workload can stack up and stunt a person’s growth.

A lot of it depends on the types of opportunities you’re being given by your employer, how they support you in taking on more work and, most importantly, what you feel comfortable with.

Entrepreneurial services platform ZenBusiness delved into this topic, surveying more than 1,000 employees in the US about what they do at work, what they think is fair and how their workloads have changed in light of Covid-19.

Participants rated how much they agreed with various statements, such as ‘It is unfair for employees to be tasked with responsibilities beyond their specific job’, and were asked to report how many different tasks they performed beyond their specified role.

More than 90pc of respondents were familiar with doing tasks outside of their specific job. Most said they received extra responsibilities somewhat frequently and 84pc said they viewed extra work as necessary sometimes. Employees in their twenties were more likely to feel that extra work was unfair, ZenBusiness said.

How often do employees work beyond their job remit?

The survey suggested that, on average, workers were responsible for 2.3 roles outside of their specified job. Entry-level employees had the least number of additional roles, but more experienced workers like managers said they were taking on additional duties. In total, just 7.3pc of participants said they didn’t have to undertake tasks outside the job they had been hired for.

Employees capable of wearing multiple hats can be particularly important for small businesses, according to ZenBusiness. It said: “Many fledgling businesses can’t afford to hire a full staff, so having a few who can move between different roles easily can be valuable.

“This notion was certainly reflected in our data, as employees working at younger businesses reported taking on slightly more roles, on average, than those working at more seasoned establishments. Businesses that were just four years old or younger asked each employee to fulfil 2.5 roles on average, compared to just 2.3 roles for businesses older than that.”

Infographic showing how many additional roles employees take on.

Click to enlarge. Infographic: ZenBusiness

Spice of life or just extra work?

Respondents reported mixed feelings about being given additional responsibilities, but the majority said they enjoyed the variety. “However, variety isn’t the same as being tasked with performing multiple roles and we found a correlation between the latter and dissatisfaction at work,” ZenBusiness said.

Those who said they were unhappy at work reported spending an average of 32pc of their working day on duties outside of their assigned role. In addition, one in four participants said they had been given more duties on the back of Covid-19. People in management roles were the most vocal about additional assignments during the pandemic.

Infographic showing impacts of Covid-19 on additional work duties.

Click to enlarge. Infographic: ZenBusiness

However, almost three-quarters of all participants said they don’t want to be given any more responsibilities at the moment. “This could be due to the fact that the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent economic fallout have people particularly stressed, making it difficult for even the most dedicated employees to stay focused and on task,” ZenBusiness said.

In total, 61pc of people who took part in the survey said they felt companies with workers engaging in a “variety of tasks” would fare best, as opposed to each employee sticking to their own lane.

“We ultimately saw that employees expect and often appreciate having a variety of responsibilities, but there’s a delicate balance before this can be achieved,” ZenBusiness said.

Infographic showing employee preferences for addtional duties.

Click to enlarge. Infographic: ZenBusiness

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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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