The plague of ‘work about work’ hits UK businesses hard

New study finds duplicated work, frustrating disorganisation, and micro management are widespread within UK businesses

Unproductive working practices in UK companies are a normal state of affairs, with 42 per cent of employees admitting to spending most of their day on futile ‘work about work’ (status meetings, organising work, and tracking down information), as opposed to doing their actual work and moving projects forward, a new study reveals.

As well as impeding productivity, plain-and-simple disorganisation is actually threatening staff retention: almost a third (31 per cent) of UK employees admit they have either thought about leaving or actually left a job as a result of their company simply being too disorganised.

That’s according to a survey of more than 2,000 UK employees commissioned by Asana. The company conducted the research to understand the state of day-to-day workplace productivity in the UK as its UK paid customer base has doubled over last year.

Chris Farinacci, head of business at Asana, comments, ‘Today, even at the world’s greatest companies, there are still constant challenges to keeping everyone on the same page, and way too much time is spent on ‘work about work’ instead of getting work done. Information overload combined with a lack of clarity has led to these poor working habits, and it’s now outright limiting the productivity and morale of UK business teams and employees.

‘In our research, we found that nearly one in four employees (23 per cent) spend more time organising (and re-organising) their work rather than they do actually getting it done, and 47 per cent of workers polled highlighted dissatisfaction of being regularly taken off a project before the work is finished. The plague of work about work is hitting UK businesses hard.’

Bigger businesses, bigger problems

While the study shows that companies of all sizes are still battling ‘work about work’, businesses with a headcount of 500-1000 are even more disorganised, with frustrating duplicated workloads a common occurrence. In fact, 58 per cent of people working in these-sized businesses say that a task they completed has already been duplicated by someone else in the company.

Employees within companies with 500-1000 staff also spend the most amount of time compared to other sized businesses, determining the latest updates on projects and the least amount of time getting their work done. Fifty-three per cent of people working for businesses with more than 500 employees spend half their day just organising and reorganising their work, as well as 54 per cent of those in businesses with 50 to 500 employees, compared to 36 per cent of those in companies with under 50 employees.

‘The bigger your team, the bigger your mission, the bigger your coordination problem,’ says Farinacci.

‘And because work is now conducted across a range of technologies — from email to chat to shared documents — it is especially difficult for teams inside these larger firms to get that much-needed clarity and accountability on their work, projects, and campaigns. Collaboration seems to be at an all-time high, but productivity and morale are still quite low.’

Further reading on ‘work about work’

Owen Gough, SmallBusiness UK

Owen Gough

Owen was a reporter for Bonhill Group plc writing across the and titles before moving on to be a Digital Technology reporter for the