As the tech workforce evolves, so do office tools. Email has potentially hit the ceiling of its productivity as a work management tool and now gets in the way of primary job functions for knowledge workers, according to a Workfront survey of more than 2,000 enterprise workers. Over half of workers said excessive emails get in the way of their work, and digital natives, Gen Xers and Baby Boomers have an average of 234, 194 and 192 unopened emails in their inbox, respectively.
Respondents reported less than half of their work week is taken up by performing primary job duties, with the rest going to answering emails, administrative tasks and non-essential activities. Email is far more prevalent for internal communication and management than collaboration tools at 94% to 47%, respectively.
Close to 70% of workers said automation would help them better complete essential work duties, though only one-third said some of their job aspects were currently automated. A comparison of how much of their jobs should be automated compared to what was already automated was closely mirrored. Around 95% of respondents were confident that some aspects of their jobs would always demand a "human touch."
As old and new office tools meet in the workplace, some shifts are bound to happen.
Email continues to reign supreme in the workplace despite the growth of communication tools like Slack and Microsoft Teams, although the number of hours spent on it in 2017 declined 27% from the year before. Almost three-quarters of CIOs prefer it to communicate.
The problem with email and collaborative platforms in the survey is that they "thwart worker productivity" by getting in the way of essential tasks. Millennials reportedly spend over an hour each workday on their smartphones for non-work activities. This professional trend is not so far off from the consumer world, where the number of hours individuals spend per week on their smartphone is increasing, especially on social media.
The tradeoff between digital natives' familiarity with tech and their proclivity to waste time on the platforms poses many challenges for businesses trying to streamline inefficient pipelines. The consumerization of enterprise IT, BYOD policies and an array of tech tools for workers certainly does not help the matter.
Besides stricter policies on what workers can use IT tools for, companies need to try to limit non-essential tasks, emails and meetings. This task, however, is far easier said than done, and automation and AI may be key to offsetting the problem.
While wider automation may cause some initial disruptions, fewer than 5% of jobs are expected to be replaced and many new jobs are expected to be created. Many companies have found successful ways to train employees to use the new technologies or shift the workforce around, demonstrating that automation is not a death sentence for jobs.