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Why it’s time to reinvent work for the modern age

(Image credit: Image source: Shutterstock/gpointstudio)

It’s an average Monday. You sit down at your desk to prepare a report. In the meantime, you get five emails that need your attention, someone pings you a message for a progress update and you spend an hour in a weekly team catch up. Before you know it, it’s midday and that report has barely been started. If that sounds familiar, and frustrating, don’t worry, you’re not alone. According to our 2020 State of Work report, the average UK worker only spends 40 per cent of their working week on the primary tasks they were hired for.

While this might seem like employees are hanging out by the water cooler too much, our report makes it clear that actually the opposite is true. Three quarters of respondents say that their job is more to them than just a pay cheque, while a further 85 per cent of workers state that being fulfilled at work is just as important as getting paid. It’s clear that today’s workers are engaged and want to do fulfilling work.

But our survey found that employees are being held back by outdated technology processes and workplace distractions. According to our respondents, they are spending nearly a day and a half each week on unnecessary distractions, such as excessive emails, which drain 15 per cent of their time. Even more time is lost because of wasteful meetings and interruptions, which each take up eight per cent of the average working week. So, how do we remove these distractions and improve the way we work?

Finding purpose in the workplace

Despite the rapid growth of technology that now drives the workplace, our overall approach to work hasn’t changed much since the 1900s. We still largely do a 40-hour work week in return for a regular pay cheque. But today’s workers are no longer willing to accept the office slog or become slaves to their inbox. Instead they are looking to do purposeful work and take pride in what they do.

Our report backs up findings by Gallup that millennials (those born between 1981 and 1996) in the workforce want purpose, professional growth and a role with meaning, not just a hefty pay rise. While this millennial approach to work, which places importance on a better work-life balance, has sometimes been dismissed as laziness or a lack of resilience, not listening to these requests can actually affect your business.

Ignoring staff calls for less stress, greater flexibility and more meaningful work can lead to high levels of employee burnout, and this can come with a big cost. According to the World Economic Forum, when you factor in time off, lost work and related costs like turnover and low productivity, the estimated global price tag of employee burnout is $322 billion. That’s a lot to lose because you haven’t considered the way your staff work best. By 2020, millennials are set to make up 50 per cent of the global workforce, so this issue won’t be going away any time soon. Evidently, now is the time to pay attention to this generation of employees and reinvent work for the modern age.

More technology doesn’t result in better work

One of the clearest findings from our report is that today’s workers crave the modern technology that helps them to do their work more strategically and efficiently; 91 per cent of UK workers say that we need to reconsider the way we think about tech in the workplace. Thanks to years of using Instagram and Google, millennials and Generation Z workers are used to easy, streamlined and delightful technology tools in their personal lives. They are frustrated not to have access to that same ease at work. As a result, nearly every worker, (96 per cent) states that it should be as easy to find information at work as it is on Google, showing there’s a demand for a single, uncomplicated way of accessing work updates and messages.

Although European businesses are spending hundreds of billions of pounds on digital transformation initiatives, communication apps and tools to improve our approach to work, they’re not making things better. Today, 87 per cent of workers feel that businesses are missing opportunities by not moving to more modern tech solutions.

With software purchasing often taking place at a department, or even team level, today’s workers are finding themselves bogged down by so many different office apps – for planning, project management, communication and more – that they are struggling to keep up. In fact, it’s often preventing them doing their job. While these tools are frequently brought in to make work easier, 43 per cent of workers say their company actually has too many tech options and that hinders their productivity.

The modern work approach

So, clearly, it’s time for a more considered approach to the way we work. Modern work management takes a holistic approach to everything in the workplace, from technology solutions, to ways of allowing teams to focus on the work they’ve been hired to accomplish, as well as ensuring all staff are aligned with the company’s strategic goals. By listening to the concerns of their workforce and encouraging fulfilment and meaningful work, businesses will be able to tap into the enthusiasm and energy of their modern workforce, while driving company goals forward.

Engaged employees who are working hard but not getting their best work done is a massive missed opportunity for businesses. That’s why it’s time for business leaders to adopt a new approach to work. Today’s employees (91 per cent of our respondents) are proud of the work they do and want a distraction-free environment where it’s easy to do significant work that makes a difference to their companies and their own lives. For that, they need better, more focused technology solutions. By shifting to strategic work management, enterprises will equip their people and their business for the future of work.

As we transition into a new way of working for the modern age, businesses need to embrace modern work management to align strategic goals, empower their teams to accomplish extraordinary things, and finally finish that report with ease.

Jada Balster, Vice President of Marketing, Workfront

Jada Balster the Vice President of Marketing at Workfront.