Study: Majority of white-collar workers perform ‘soul-crushing’ busy work


Dive Brief:
A new Conversica poll of 1,000 knowledge workers found that half of them spend much of their workdays performing repetitive tasks bordering on drudgery. The boredom and frustration that result have negatively affected their emotional wellbeing. The survey also uncovered optimism from respondents about new artificial intelligence (AI) developments, which could free them up to perform more fulfilling tasks that are challenging and creative.
Other findings in the survey showed that 80% of respondents find aspects of their job below their skills level; 62% said their work has a significant amount of drudgery; 42% spend 30 minutes of every hour doing “busy work”; and 71% said that too much busy work makes them feel as though their lives are being wasted.
Half of respondents advocated automating their busy work, and almost all (97%) said their brains work better and they’re happier, smarter and more efficient when they’re engaged in new and challenging work. If freed up by AI, 44% of respondents said they could focus on more rewarding work; 42% would be motivated to get more work done each day; and 32% could showcase their true abilities and talents.

Dive Insight:
HR professionals know well how technology has freed them up from a range of burdensome administrative tasks. Sourcing applicants, scanning resumes, administering benefits, maintaining employee data and using analytics to measure outcomes are just some of the HR tasks automation has streamlined. In fact, technology has allowed HR professionals to focus on higher-level, more strategic initiatives. AI could also free up white-collar workers to focus on the duties they were hired to perform, based on their skills and knowledge.

According to a recent study by the University of London, workplaces that adopt AI and robotic process automation (RPA) are 33% more likely to improve the employee experience and see higher returns on performance than workplaces that don’t leverage the technology. The negative impact of repetitive, mundane tasks on skilled workers’ self worth, mental health and other human emotions brings up concerns about employee satisfaction, productivity, engagement and the employee value proposition (EVP), in general. HR leaders can step in to see that EVP is a priority in their organizations and that technology has a decisive role in achieving that mission.


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