UK employees believe they are wasting more than 40 working days a year each on routine tasks that could be done by technology, such as digital workers, according to new research from ABBYY investigating the impact of COVID-19 and automation technologies on office workers in the UK, US, France and Germany. While UK workers spend an average of almost 1.5 hours (1 hour 23 minutes) a day on such tasks, senior decision-makers – from senior managers to CEOs – waste almost 2 hours (111 minutes). This amounts to 54 wasted working days a year for the most expensive and time-poor staff.
Since the pandemic began, three-quarters (74%) of UK workers feel they have experienced challenges. In fact, a quarter (25%) of workers admitted that frustrating processes at work made them want to quit their jobs – even amid a struggling job market. These frustrations have a massive impact: over half (53%) say processes made their job more challenging, 39% say they wasted their time, and a third (32%) were “let down” by them.
Manual, paper-based, and overly complex processes – like banking customer onboarding, insurance claims, or retail returns – were hit hardest by the pandemic. These critical operational processes led to frustrating delays for both customers and staff. It’s no surprise, then, that 62% of UK employees want their business to simplify its processes.
When identifying the cause of their biggest challenges, 38% of workers blame a lack of information on solutions or tasks, while 33% blamed not having the right IT tools. This points to a worrying trend in workers not being able to make the most of the technologies their employer provides.
A helping hand for workers
If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that technology has played a key role in helping businesses cope and thrive. That said, fewer than two-thirds of UK businesses (62%) started using technology in new ways during the pandemic and fewer than half (44%) take advantage of digital workers (otherwise known as robots, software bots or intelligent automation).
A huge 89% of those who do work alongside digital workers agree they bring benefits, especially for those routine tasks that are the main cause of wasted time, for admin staff to the C-Suite.
The most beneficial uses of digital workers were:
- Sorting data & documents (39%)
- Reminding or prompting staff to do tasks (37%)
- Digitising paperwork (36%)
Employees using digital workers believe they now:
- Work more efficiently (37%)
- Collaborate better (36%), and
- Ease the burden of administration (27%)
Despite the rhetoric around digital workers, 88% of UK employees say the technology is easy to use – even older generations approve, with 4 in 5 over-55s (81%) agreeing. What’s also clear is that some businesses do have the right tools in place to help: half of UK employees (50%) said processes helped them do their job faster and collaborate better (48%), both critical during the pandemic.
Neil Murphy, Global VP at ABBYY, said: “We know that problems with business processes can cause huge bottlenecks and barriers for employees. It’s safe to say that ‘the way it’s always worked’ is often not the best route anymore – especially when technologies exist that can ease the burden. Leaders need to enable their employees’ time to be better spent fixing these roadblocks, rather than “hacking” their way around them.
“Not only do bad processes make your employees’ work harder – far from ideal in a global pandemic – but it’s also costing businesses time and money. More concerning still is that our research found senior management are using intelligent automation technologies 20% more than junior staff – despite their biggest benefit being routine tasks. The onus is on senior decision-makers to assess which intelligent automation tools will work best for their business, and ensure employees have what they need to make the most of them. This will save precious time on easily-automatable tasks, rewarding for the whole organisation.”