Two workers working in the dark in an office.
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‘Dark matter of work’ could cost businesses millions a year, survey says

30 Jun 2022

Wrike looked into the wasted time caused by unproductive meetings, duplicated efforts and unintegrated applications.

A new report from work management platform Wrike has suggested that businesses could be losing millions each year due to unproductive work habits.

The company surveyed 2,800 business leaders and knowledge workers in the US and UK to determine the financial and human cost of unproductive work habits – which it describes as “the dark matter of work”.

According to Wrike, the dark matter of work lives in synchronous applications and unstructured approaches. This includes instant message threads and video calls, as well as the gaps between systems and applications that aren’t integrated.

It estimated that companies with around 3,200 employees – the average size of company that survey respondents work at – could lose up to $52m annually in wasted time caused by unproductive meetings, duplicated efforts, information seeking and status check-ins. It also found they could lose $8.2m as a result of delayed or cancelled projects and $427,000 in employee churn.

Smaller organisations with 100 employees could lose more than $1.65m a year, while those with 100,000 staff could lose more than $1.65bn.

Wrike’s survey also suggested that there exists a very low level of visibility among knowledge workers and leaders with the use of different tools.

For example, 86pc of business leaders surveyed said they have had to adopt new communication and collaboration tools to support remote and hybrid working. This has added to the complexity of understanding individual employees’ work.

Knowledge workers said they use 14 applications every day. Nine new applications were rolled out on average among businesses as a result of the pandemic, however, business leaders said that they can only integrate 51pc of their applications.

The average knowledge worker sends and receives 295 work-related messages each day, the survey found, and spends an average of 18 working days a year in meetings.

The majority (62pc) of respondents said they felt overworked, while 78pc said they felt they were working at cross-purposes with their colleagues.

Nearly all (94pc) said that a single source of truth for information would reduce stress in their teams. More than half (59pc) of business leaders said they found it impossible to tell how their employees were progressing on tasks because so much of the relevant information is “in a black hole”.

“The current economic climate has created an urgent need for organisations to increase efficiency and drive up productivity while providing their employees with a genuine sense of purpose in the work they contribute,” said Andrew Filev, SVP at Wrike.

“The digital era has created a new level of chaos and misalignment, which is exacerbated by the over-proliferation of apps and data. It has actually begun offsetting major projects and losing organisations their best talent. Neither of which organisations can afford as we move into a turbulent economic market.

“In order to survive this next stage with optimum efficiency, it is going to be critical for organisations to understand the depth of work complexities and what they need to do right now to overcome them.”

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Blathnaid O’Dea
By Blathnaid O’Dea

Blathnaid O’Dea worked as a Careers reporter until 2024, coming from a background in the Humanities. She likes people, pranking, pictures of puffins – and apparently alliteration.

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