What is the Disengagement Cost of mundane work?

A recent survey established that 40% of workers spend at least 25% of their working week on repetitive tasks.   

Look around most modern offices and there’s usually a lot of people sat at desks with a double monitor.  Look deeply at what they are doing and they’re flipping in between applications or combing through emails or spreadsheets in order to get the job done.

With a software / business analyst’s hat on, these are the tasks that can’t quite be dialled out commercially by developing a software integration. 

But with a user’s hat on, they’re often the tasks that are repetitive. Tasks that are boring.  Tasks that make us feel like robots. For the business, they are essential. They need doing to allow us to provide a service, bill for a service or identify the need for intervention to prevent cost.   They need doing, and if a job needs doing, somebody needs to do it.  

Are we taking the full cost of this work into account?

Economist Adam Smith talked about the concept of ‘alienation’ in the 18th century.  The negative impact on wellbeing and activity of boring and mundane work. Whilst working conditions have undoubtedly improved in the 200+ years since – the principles still apply.

There is much written on the value of employee engagement – most organisations will take employees’ ambitions and personal development seriously.  But are we considering the impact of the work they do on their engagement?

There’s a much higher awareness now of the need for employers to take their team’s mental well-being into account.   In the UK, the Office for National Statistics calculated that 1 in 8 sickness absence days could be attributed to mental health conditions.   Based on 2017 figures, that’s over half a day per year – per employee.  

The term ‘presenteeism’ – turning in for work when not fit – has risen to prominence.   As firms proactively manage sickness absence it creates an unintended consequence – unfit employees.   In their recent report, the Chartered Institute for Personal Development cite 86% of employees surveyed having witnessed presenteeism in their firm. 

Mental Health Charity, Mind UK, recommend “Providing your team with meaningful work” in addition to focusing on personal development in order to support employee well-being.  

The impact of disengagement – what could mundane and repetitive tasks really be costing?

Gallup estimated in 2017 that a disengaged employee costs an organisation and additional 34% of their salary.  That’s due to higher absenteeism, lower productivity and lower profitability.

Disengaged employees leave more frequently.  According to Linkedin, the cost of replacing an entry level employee is 50% of their annual salary – with this figure rising to 250% for senior / leadership employes.  This is a function of recruiting, hiring, onboarding and training the employees.

Is the 25% of their time doing mundane tasks (possibly much higher for some back-office roles) be costing much more than you think?

Release the people!

For many people – and many writers of scare stories – the rise of automation is seen as a threat to their jobs.   

But the reality is very different.  McKinsey’s analysis suggests that less than 5% of occupations consist of activities that can be fully automated.   

The real benefit is that automation can free humans from mundane, mind-numbing, repetitive tasks and release them for higher value – more engaging – work.

When the workers themselves are asked, 97% of responders feel that automation would benefit their business.  It’s very likely that it will benefit the workers themselves.

Automation will alleviate bottle-necks, increase productivity, reduce processing costs and create capacity.   

Digital workmates (software robots) can work on the front-end of software applications – alleviating the need for costly development and integration.  

Better still, these software robots can do the tasks that make the humans doing them feel like robots.   

What could you do with reduced costs, increased capacity AND a better engaged workforce?