What’s the Risk of Busy Work?

CNBC recently reported on the amount of time employees believe they spend on busy work. Just think about it for yourself, your day-to-day on average or over the course of the week, how much of your time is spent on busy work? Well, after surveying over 10,000 employees, they found that over half of the day is spent on busy work, or “work about work.”

So communication about work, chasing down status updates, switching between apps – work about the work that needs to be done. And among that time, they are estimating that about five hours per week are absolutely wasted time. If we take that five hours per week and we compound it over the year, that adds up to six weeks; six weeks that employees are feeling like time is wasted.

Okay – do you even take six weeks of vacation?

Now imagine that you’re spending more time on complete wasted activity compared to even your vacation; time that could actually be well spent to make you more productive. So, besides the obvious reason of lack of productivity, lack of efficiency that this busy work and time wasted adds up to, what’s really compelling is that this busy work, this wasted time, is making burnout worse.

We have been sitting on this peak of burnout over the past two years, yet things like wasted time and busy work are just making it even worse as we’re trying to come out the other side.

One of the top reasons, one of the top causes of burnout is unmanageable workload. So if we have true priorities as a leader that you have given to your team, and it’s already unmanageable, when we pile on things like useless meetings, meetings that could have been done over an email or done within 15 minutes versus an hour, or when we pile on duplicate tasks, things that we’re asking people to do when the process already has somebody else doing it. When we pile these meaningless, useless, waste of time things on top of an already unmanageable workload, we are making burnout out worse for the employees.

Not to mention that employees now feel that they’re not using as much of their time for the skilled work that they were even hired to do. They need to be engaged, challenged, and developed. We’re in the middle of a resignation, a reshuffle. We need employees to feel like they’re contributing to the skillset they were hired to do.

And finally, a small percentage of their time is used for strategic planning. They’re spending less time on strategic planning than they are on busy work. Yet, a second cause of burnout is unclear communication. So if we have employees who are not spending an adequate amount of time on strategic planning, working hand in hand with you as their leader, this lack of communication about planning and priorities and goals of the organization, again are just compounding this burnout when we want to be coming out the other side of burnout.

As a leader, I challenge you to really assess where duplicate task are, where are these meaningless meetings? And I spoke about this not too long ago, so if you’re looking for some ideas on how to make your meetings more productive and effective, take a look at that video. We need to help support our employees, our teams to get on the other side of burnout, versus staying up here at this peak, or even worse, increasing their levels of stress and anxiety with a bunch of busy work; a bunch of meaningless tasks.

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