Research sponsored by Breathe, and undertaken by Opinium Research, has dug deeper into a recent Sage finding that £39.9 billion is lost each year due to poor productivity. The Opinium research was based on more than 2000 respondents. It found that approximately one hour each week was wasted on administration. Combining with the Sage numbers, Breathe extrapolates that £19 billion is lost each year because of administration. It argues that automation using technology can help to close this gap.
The lost hour
The research found that an average of 62 minutes is spent on admin each week, this equates to more than seven days each year lost to administration work.
Jonathan Richards, CEO of Breathe, commented: “One hour a week doesn’t sound like a lot, but when you think about what else employers could do with this time, it really adds up. Right now, it’s a challenging time for businesses and their people. Working in a decentralised environment means that day to day tasks are harder to manage and simple tasks become more time-consuming. Looking after people working remotely isn’t always straight forward either, especially if employers don’t have the time to reach out for a chat or focus on creating wellbeing initiatives to support their people, which is critical at the moment due to the pandemic.”
One solution is technology, Breathe claims. The move to remote teams can increase business teams’ pressure. Yet many have not yet adopted technology to ease that burden. 55% do not use technology yet to manage their administration. Richards continued: “Using technology to simplify admin tasks gives business leaders the space to focus on their people and drive business goals. There’s a real business case for using technology to alleviate the time pressures admin creates, using a product can literally give you time which you can invest back into the people and the business, to create long term productivity and engagement which furthers business goals.”
Is it really an hour?
Opinium did give some breakdown on the figures revealing that:
- Microbusinesses spend up to 49 minutes a week
- Small businesses spend 80 minutes a week
- Medium-sized business spend 59.5 minutes a week
While Microbusinesses spend the least time, they are also the smallest. It is the challenge for many startups. At what point should you invest in technology to save time. What technology should you invest in? HR, finance, task management, communication? There are a large number of potential applications out there, many not suitable for small businesses, the Breathe HR solution is, helping to automate employee-centric tasks. It can also reduce the administrative burden and increase employee satisfaction and engagement.
Enterprise Times asked Breathe some questions about the research, and Jonathan Richards, CEO responded. With 62 minutes spent on admin, is 100% of it wasted? Richards replied: “It’s true that admin is an important part of any job. However, it’s spending time on tasks that can be automated – such as managing holiday requests and leave requests – that we are striving to eliminate. The optimal level is giving teams the tools they need so that admin doesn’t have to take up too much time or headspace. This then allows more time for other important areas of the business – such as employee wellbeing and company culture.”
A look at the use of technology
There were some surprising findings in the data around the use/ or non-use of technology. Technology to help with administration is still uncommon. Only 45% of all respondents were using technology to manage administration. That number rises to only 69% for medium-sized business despite the amount of time they spend. There is either resistance to technology or a belief that it will not solve the problem of administration. 65% believed that there is no need for such technology.
For some, this may be shortsighted and certainly, some organisations should consider the return on investment of such solutions. Administration is a drain on resources that are better spent either earning revenue, investing in the business or indeed on work-life balance. It is the latter, not just for oneself, but for employees that was highlighted in another finding. Two in five respondents believe that they should spend the time saved on workplace wellbeing and mental health support.
Wellbeing was not the only area that respondents want to spend more time doing though.
- 38% wanted to focus time spent on admin on employee development
- 16% would rather spend that time focusing on employee culture
Richards summarised: “Using technology to simplify admin tasks gives business leaders the space to focus on their people and drive business goals. There’s a real business case for using technology to alleviate the time pressures admin creates, using a product can literally give you time which you can invest back into the people and the business, to create long term productivity and engagement which furthers business goals.”
On mental health
Could administrative tasks be a contributing factor to poor mental health? 23% of respondents have found that day to day tasks are now harder within the remote working environment. 21% found that the administration associated with ongoing training and development is harder to keep up with. Holiday and sick leave administration caused difficulties for 24% of respondents, mainly, according to Richards, because of communication.
Administration may be a factor in the wider mental health crisis that the pandemic is causing according to the ONS. Yet only 53% of SMEs have introduced measures to support mental health during the crisis. Enterprise Times asked Richards what Breathe is doing internally.
He replied: “The past year has been especially tough for business leaders everywhere – and their teams too. Working from home and the various lockdowns have been challenging and negatively impacted workers’ mental health, demonstrating that employers need to exercise empathy and put measures in place to support their staff.
“As a way to support our own team, we have introduced buddy schemes, created a safe space to chat and turned our culture digital by setting up virtual quizzes or yoga sessions. We’ve found that these are a great way to maintain team connections whilst remote working continues. If we can find a silver lining with this pandemic, it’s that it has proven how much people are the lifeblood of every company – and just how critical it is to look after them.”
Interestingly none of these initiatives is likely to have introduced high costs into the business. If the time spent on administration is focused on giving back to employees, it could become a win-win situation. Despite some simple solutions, 39% found that providing support was a major difficulty during the pandemic.
Enterprise Times: What does this mean
There may have been some further insights one might have drawn from this survey with access to the raw data. For example, how much difference technology made in those medium-sized companies compared to those that didn’t have technology. This could have been a powerful message for Breathe to help push its easy to use and comprehensive HR solution for SME firms.
The positive finding is the awareness that mental health is a growing factor of concern across all businesses. As Richards demonstrates, there are some simple solutions that any organisation can undertake. These do not have to have a huge cost either. If businesses do take action it may help to mitigate what some perceive a significant risk to the business, the health service, and the wider economy.