How Much Time Are You Wasting on Manual, Repetitive Tasks?

by Katy Beloof

Conversations about how automation can improve productivity and reduce costs for businesses are often coupled with stories of how automation is taking jobs away from workers. Yet according to a report by McKinsey Global Institute, less than five percent of jobs consist of  activities that can be fully automated.

Far more common will be the automation of constituent activities for a given role, according to McKinsey. In about 60 percent of occupations, at least one-third of the activities that make up a specific job could be automated. The good news is that most workers see this automation in a positive light and are keen to take advantage of automation that has the potential to make their work — and their lives — better.

Repetitive manual tasks take up a quarter of the work week

According to the Smartsheet report Automation in the Workplace, workers surveyed look forward to spending less time on repetitive manual tasks like data entry, and to spending more time on rewarding aspects of their work. Here’s a look at how automation could do just that — and how organizations are approaching the automation of repetitive tasks for information workers.

Reduce Repetitive, Manual Tasks

One of the ways workers believe they could benefit from automation in their daily work is by reducing the number of productivity-killing tasks they execute every day to keep the business running.

Over 40% of workers surveyed spend at least a quarter of their work week on repetitive tasks

Over 40% of workers surveyed spend at least a quarter of their work week on manual, repetitive tasks, with email, data collection, and data entry occupying the most time.

Opportunities for Automation

Nearly 70 percent of workers say the biggest opportunity of automation lies in reducing time wasted on repetitive work.

Nearly 70% of workers say the biggest opportunity of automation lies in reducing time wasted on repetitive work

Which repetitive tasks would workers most like to see automated? We found that there are three productivity killers that workers are eager to automate:

  • Data Collection: Eliminate human error and manual data entry by automatically collecting, uploading, or syncing data into a system of record (55 percent)

  • Approvals: Become more efficient by automating approvals, sign offs, and confirmation requests (36 percent)

  • Updates: Reduce wasted time by automatically requesting status updates and other information (32 percent)

Workers believe that automating these tasks will reduce wasted time (69 percent), eliminate human error (66 percent), and recover hours lost to manual, repetitive tasks that could be automated (59 percent).

More Time for High-Value Work

Nearly 60 percent of workers surveyed estimate they could save six or more hours a week — almost a full workday — if the repetitive aspects of their jobs were automated.

Nearly 60% of workers estimate they could save six or more hours a week with automation

So what would workers do with that time back? Nearly three-quarters (72 percent) of workers say they would use that extra day (or more) a week of time saved through automation to do work that is more valuable to their organizations, and 78 percent would focus on the more interesting and rewarding aspects of their jobs.

Here’s how one respondent described the benefits they’d like to see from the automation of repetitive tasks: “If employees don’t have to complete so many mindless tasks, they are free to focus on creative endeavors and coming up with ideas.”

Information workers are eager to contribute to their organizations, and feel they could be adding more value through creative work and innovation. By giving workers more time to be creative, automation may lead to greater innovation in businesses. In fact, 43 percent of those surveyed believe that automation will lead to greater innovation for themselves and their teams.

More Personal Time

Workers are also interested in having more time to spend on their personal lives. Twenty-two percent would leave work earlier if they could save time with automation, and 15 percent would take a longer lunch break. About ten percent of information workers surveyed would spend some of the time they got back online for personal reasons, such as shopping and social media.

Workers taking time for themselves can also be a good thing for businesses. Taking time to relax, unplug, and cultivate a rich life outside of work can help prevent burnout and keep information workers inspired to stay passionate about their work.

Is Your Competition Beating You to It?

So how do you and your team stack up to the competition? Increasingly, organizations need to leverage automation to stay competitive: 65 percent of workers use some type of automation in their daily work, and 68 percent of workers reported that their team is actively taking steps to automate some of its work. Nearly 30 percent said their departments have plans to automate in the future. Yet despite existing automation and plans to automate, an overwhelming majority of workers — 97 percent — believe that automation can benefit their organization.

While perceived benefits are primarily around increased productivity and reduced human error,  40 percent of workers surveyed say that automation will help their company be more competitive.

The Potential of Automation

Information workers are ready to give some of their daily tasks to automation in order to spend more time on high-value tasks and stay engaged in their work. It’s time for organizations to take a look at the processes — and bottlenecks — they have in place and think about how they might automate them to make their workers more productive. Workers are ready for businesses to leverage automation to increase efficiency and free up time so that everyone can contribute to business success.