How Email, Meetings & Automation Are Shaping the Future of Work: 2017-2018 State of Enterprise Work Report: U.S. Edition

how email, meetings, and automation are shaping the future of work

What will knowledge work look like in 5 years?

We surveyed 2,001 enterprise workers across the U.S. to capture how work is being done today, what challenges knowledge workers are seeing, and how these trends might play out in the near future. With revelations of stolen work time in the present and glorious automation in the near-future, you can take in the results of the State of Enterprise Work Report: U.S. Edition in one of 3 ways...

What Are the 10 Biggest Things You Should Take Away From the 2017-2018 State of Enterprise Work Report: U.S. Edition?

The following 10 findings should provide both a warning and a hope for forward-looking knowledge workers and their leaders…

1. Knowledge workers still struggle to get time for the work they were hired to do.

graph time for primary job duties

For the fourth consecutive year, email, meetings, and other administrative tasks have been sucking up knowledge workers’ time—leaving less than half of their week for the jobs they were actually hired to do. Naturally, if that work is still going to get done, knowledge workers will have to fit it in elsewhere...

2. Longer hours have become knowledge workers’ coping mechanism.

For better worse, technology is making it easier for knowledge workers to squeeze in work duties early in the morning, during dinner and family events, and late at night before bed. This is adding more hours to the average work week.

graph hours worked per week

3. Email and meetings are to blame for low productivity.

When we asked knowledge workers what was standing in the way of getting work done, two responses towered over the others: wasteful meetings and excessive emails. Ironically, it seems, tools and practices that were meant to foster collaboration are now being misused and eroding worker productivity.

graph things that stop productivity

And what is it about email that troubles knowledge workers most? People using it for purposes for which it was never intended.

statistics email problems

Stretching email far beyond its original purpose into some kind of makeshift work management tool has turned it into stumbling block of which knowledge workers are becoming increasingly weary.

statistic email problem

4. Knowledge workers have too many tools.

Email isn’t the only tool backfiring on knowledge workers. To a certain degree, workers must toggle back and forth through a host of tools to manage work—an average of six for most workers—and this often entails a ton of manual entry and re-entry, copying and pasting, and other time-wasting and mind-numbing foolishness.

statistic tools managing work

5. Technology is blurring the lines between work and personal life.

When it comes to the devices we use to get work done, personal boundaries are becoming a thing of the past. Take a look at the graph below and you can see just how knowledge workers are regularly using both work and personal computers, phones, and tablets for work—which is really just a reflection of the changing definition of work-life balance. It no longer means having a balance of time for both; it means doing both work and personal life at any given time.

statistic hours spent on devices for work

6. Flexibility for knowledge workers is on the rise.

As technology has evolved to let workers use a number devices, whether work or personal, to get work done, it is also opening a new paradigm in terms of where and when we can work. Remote working. Working from home. Flextime. It’s all part of the shifting definition of “at work.”

statistic hours per week working from home

Numbers from the U.S. State of Enterprise Work Report show overwhelming adoption of these ideas, with few holdouts. And workers don’t expect this to be a “here-today-gone-tomorrow” fad. Flexible work arrangements and schedules, they predict, will become a major cornerstone of the workplace of the future.

For knowledge workers, working from home is steadily becoming a fixture, a go-to for cleaning out inboxes and knocking out to-do lists. And then there is this staggering statistic: more than 8 in 10 U.S. knowledge workers have some ability to take flextime.

statistic flextime

Will this kind of flexibility end up on the trash heap of history, alongside pneumatic tubes and open work environments? U.S. knowledge workers say no.

statistic remote working flextime

7. Knowledge workers are looking for better tools for managing work.

Nearly one-third of knowledge workers lament, “If I was better organized, I would never miss a deadline”—a number which is substantially higher among digital natives. So, it’s no surprise that 59% of knowledge workers report that either they are already using project management tools or they would like to. Leaders looking to design the ideal workplace to attract and retain digital natives would do well to take note.

8. Knowledge workers are looking for better tools to increase flexibility.

statistic workplace technology future

Remember how knowledge workers are falling in love with flexibility? According to workers, this shift will be about more than policy. Knowledge workers are expecting employers to invest in technologies that will make working remotely seamless, like video conferencing, social media-based team collaboration, and other collaboration tools. And they don’t mean email.

9. Knowledge workers are looking to automation to restore productivity and innovation.

statistic work automation future

As pressures on knowledge workers have increased and the tools of yesteryear (looking at you, email and spreadsheets) have failed to keep up, few things inspire hope like work automation technologies. Unlike their blue-collar counterparts, knowledge workers see robots, AI, and automation bringing a renaissance of sorts. In overwhelming numbers, they envision automation taking over repetitive manual tasks, so they can get back to uniquely human tasks like strategy, creativity, and innovation.

10. Knowledge workers are so over “think outside the box.”

statistic office cliches

Just as work tools are always evolving, so too is work lingo. And there are some well-worn workplace phrases of which knowledge workers have had enough. However, no workplace cliche is more maligned—not by a long shot—than “think outside the box.”

office future

What Else is Happening at Work?

Overall, the U.S. Edition of the 2017-2018 State of Enterprise Work Report reveals a growing sense of optimism among knowledge workers. Nearly all of them feel prepared for the future. They see technology playing a big part in making the workplace—whether it be a cubicle, a coffee shop, or their coffee table—a more flexible, innovative, productive place.

Of course, not every enterprise will survive to be a part of this bright future. Those organizations that fail to recognize the need for greater flexibility, automation, and other technologies that will eliminate waste likely won’t make the cut. Which leaves one final question: is your team ready for the future of work?

To learn what the next five years will bring to your workplace, read the 2017-2018 State of Enterprise Work Report: U.S. Edition today.