Anatomy of work - Image by Mimzy from Pixabay Asana has published its latest Anatomy of Work report. Subtitled “Embracing the new age of agility”, it highlights what is happening in the still changing workplace. From the remote work at the height of Covid, organisations are struggling to adjust to a new normal that includes hybrid work. The pace of change varies across different organisations, and there is still huge pressure on employees.

Last year’s report highlighted the extra time that people were working. This year the report focuses on the impact that extra work has on the well-being of employees and what organisations may need to do to alleviate burnout. The report is based on a survey of more than 10,000 people from knowledge workers in Australia, France, Germany, Japan, Singapore, the UK, and the US

The report itself is 36 pages long and has four main sections:

  • Change is essential
  • Location, location, location
  • The distraction tax
  • Well-being vs work

While the report has some depressing figures, it also reveals that some things have improved since last year’s report. There are fewer deadlines missed 15% vs 26% and time spent on skilled work is up to 33% (from 26%). However, only 9% of time is spent on strategy (2021:14%), and 33% said that attention spans had diminished.

Dr Sahar Yousef, cognitive neuroscientist, commented: In 2022 and beyond, leaders must constantly assess what their employee needs are and what sentiment on their team is like. The companies who will thrive in the new era of agility will be the ones who continue to evolve and, as a result, attract and retain better talent because they listen and adjust accordingly. Organizations that don’t will be left in the dust.”

Change is essential

How people work varies between different countries. In Germany, only 6% of the time is spent on strategic work, compared to 10% in Japan and Singapore. However, Germans spend the most time on skilled work, Japan (29%) and Singapore (21%) the lowest. It raises the question about what employees perceive as strategic work and skilled work. With no qualitative survey, the difference could be down to culture rather than the work done.

Too much time is still spent on work about work, though, with 129 hours spent on duplicated work each year and 129 hours on unnecessary meetings. However, it is unclear whether everyone in those meetings feels the same. Respondents felt that automation could save 257 hours every year, over a month and a half! There is a clear desire and need to improve processes at work

It is not just about what workers spend time doing. It is also where they want to work. Post-pandemic, around 25% will work from home, according to research by Professor Nicholas Bloom. The report also highlights that hybrid workers spend more hours working than either home workers or office workers. Flexibility seems to be key.

Location, location, location

Anne Raimondi, Chief Operating Officer, Asana
Anne Raimondi, Chief Operating Officer, Asana

The office has become a social space for workers to mingle and potentially innovate. Anne Raimondi, COO, ASANA, commented: “The unprecedented disruption of the pandemic has fundamentally shifted the way we live, including re-thinking work and our relationship with it.

“As we transition into the new era of agile work, it’s crucial for organizations to connect their teams around clarity of purpose and a shared sense of accomplishment to ensure employees feel seen, heard, and valued. In doing so, we can emerge from the burnout and bottlenecks of the past two years to chart a new path forward in the future of work.”

One interesting find is where workers prefer to work. For some kinds of work they prefer the home, others the office. For example, 48% feel onboarding should occur in the office (26%) at home. Skilled work is better done at home, though only marginally ( 40% vs 37%).

The inference is that people have different preferences. A  breakdown of the skilled work people are doing might have delivered more insights. Perhaps oddly, 42% prefer to attend larger meetings working from home (in the office, 36%)—the reason why would have been an interesting question to ask.

While the research did not pick up trends across job roles, it highlighted differences between generations. 60% of Gen Z and millennials see the office as a collaboration space. Only 42% of Gen X and 36% of baby boomers say the same. The report highlights four recommendations that are not new but are worth summarising:

  • Set guidelines on how to run meetings
  • Give clear start and finish times
  • Host engaging virtual social events
  • Institute meeting-free days

The distraction tax

Employees are faced with more distractions. 56% of employees feel they need to respond to notifications immediately. Email has also increased, increasing the burden for 40% of respondents. There is, if not application overload, at least communication overload, and many struggle to respond to messages. That includes 43% of the C-Suite, 41% of Managers and 36% of office workers.

Asan offers four tips for organisations looking to alleviate this, the most pertinent to “Consolidate apps and tools into a work management platform to reduce context switching”.

Well-being vs Work

Employees now see burnout as almost inevitable. One in three UK workers believes burnout is an inevitable consequence of success. Worryingly 62% of UK knowledge workers claim to have experienced burnout in the last twelve months. However, it is not clear what the definition of burnout is.

The report shares Yousef’s 3M Framework for Breaks. It suggests organisations adopt macro, meso and micro-breaks for all workers. They enable workers to disconnect from work and relax.

Women have suffered burnout more frequently (67%) than men (58%) in the UK. Age is also a factor, with 72% of 16-38 years olds burning out, compared to 56% of older workers.

Enterprise Times: What does this mean

The report is rich and insights but shares fewer data points from the research than expected. Asana will undoubtedly leverage more of the national statistics over the next few weeks. The report is well balanced and has a lot of insights and practical business theory and advice for the readers.

While the authors repeat the well-known phrase that the only constant is change, it is also clear that organisations must have a flexible approach to their working environment. One size does not fit all, and the age where organisations can expect employees to commute to an office and sit in rabbit hutches appears to be over.

The power dynamic has changed for the better. This is not just about employees working where they want but organisations finding the right balance of working environment that maximises the performance of workers to drive business success while delivering an employee experience that enables them to retain their best workers.


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