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The way we work isn't working

Molly Talbert contributor headshotMolly Talbert
February 12th, 2024
3 min read
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Getting work done at work is hard. You can probably feel it in your own team. With so many tools and constant connection, the workforce is exhausted, burnt out, and spending their time on activities that don’t add value. Every day is filled to the brim yet, at the end, too often it feels like you and your team didn’t accomplish enough.

Although meant to help, email, spreadsheets, messaging apps, and other tools actually make work more complicated and harder to do—especially when it comes to collaborating. Why? Because, as it turns out, these tools create a lot of work about work.

Work about work: a global problem

According to Asana’s Anatomy of Work Index, which surveyed over 10,000 knowledge workers from around the globe, the average person only spends about a quarter of their time on skills-based work—like coding, designing, or creating marketing campaigns—and another 13% on strategic planning. The remaining 60% of their day is spent communicating about tasks, hunting down documents, and managing shifting priorities.

This means the majority of your day is consumed by work about work. It’s all the activities that you do throughout the day that take time away from the meaningful, skilled work you were hired to do.

Although many people take work about work for granted—it’s all that busywork that comes with almost any job—it only exists in such large quantities when teams lack coordination and don’t have clear processes in place.

2023 Anatomy of Work Global Index

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How work about work wastes time and energy

Work about work makes inefficiencies more pronounced. With so many communication channels, tools, and processes, it’s easy for information to become fragmented and for projects to be siloed within a company or even within a single team. This slows teams down and makes it harder to get to the real work that produces results.

With distractions, like endless notifications and redundancies, people have to work later or more hours than necessary to meet deadlines. In fact, according to the Anatomy of Work, responding to a constant barrage of emails and notifications is the primary reason that nearly one-third of employees regularly stay late in the office or work from home after hours. The top three drivers causing people to work late? They are:

  • Responding to constant emails (41%)

  • Unexpected meetings (36%)

  • Chasing for approvals (34%)

All that added time and stress at work pile up, resulting in delays. The vast majority of knowledge workers (88%) agree that time-sensitive projects and large initiatives have fallen behind or through the cracks due to the volume of tasks they have on their plate.

In other words, there will always be a little work about work to do. But spending three quarters of your day on work you can streamline and simplify is unnecessary and is making our teams less productive.

How did we get here?

The short answer is: tools are being misused. While email is meant for communication, spreadsheets are meant for quantitative analysis, and messaging apps are meant for quick updates, they are often used to manage projects and workflows. And that leads to scattered information, siloed communication, and wasted time trying to piece things together.

The right processes don’t exist since, according to the Anatomy of Work Index, 83% of teams say they would be more efficient if the right processes were in place.

Tame work about work with work management

Is there a solution? Can we really decrease the amount of work about work that we do every day?

The key to reducing work about work is to realize that the problems you need to solve aren’t communication and collaboration problems, therefore communication and collaboration tools aren’t the silver bullet. What you’re actually struggling with are coordination problems and, to address them, you need to embrace work management.

Work management is all about orchestrating work—from time-bound projects to ongoing processes—within a team and organization to improve clarity and collaboration. Work management tools that let teams plan, manage, and execute all the work, from daily tasks to strategic projects, and communicate about that work in one place enable you to put work management into practice. With a work management tool, your team—and even your entire organization—can be on the same page across every facet of the business.

Collaboration problems and inefficiencies begin to diminish when your team embraces work management. How? Work management empowers each team member to focus on the work that moves your business forward rather than getting stuck in work about work. For example, email goes back to being a true communication tool rather than a way to manage work.

But how do you get started? Learn more about work management software and how it can be implemented and scaled for nearly any team or organization to reduce work about work and start collaborating more efficiently.

2023 Anatomy of Work Global Index

Learn how collaboration helps businesses drive more revenue—plus what leaders can do to help their teams move faster.

2023 Anatomy of Work Global Index CTA thumbnail image

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