The death of innovation: 58% of US workers too overwhelmed with daily tasks

Employees are so busy with day-to-day tasks that innovation is put on the backburner, according to the 2018-2019 State of Work report.

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While 64% of employees reported their workplaces encourage them to try out new strategies for completing tasks, 58% said day-to-day work prevents them from doing so, according to Workfront's State of Work report on Monday. The report uncovered how the stress of these daily to-do lists is stifling innovation in the workplace.

The fifth annual report surveyed more than 2,000 US employees, all of whom work for companies of at least 500 employees. Conducted by Regina Corso Consulting, the purpose of the survey is to get an accurate snapshot of the modern workplace, said the report.

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One of the main findings was how employees struggled with finding opportunities to innovate. Employees said they actually only spend 40% of their workdays on primary tasks, with the rest of the time devoted to "emails and pointless meetings," said the report. While an average of 61% of employees do feel like the work they do matters, they also feel like a lot of their daily tasks waste time.

Surprisingly, the majority of employees are turning to automation for help. Some 86% of employees believe that automation will help them make time for innovation, as well as inspire them to find new ways to innovate, said the report. Additionally, 44% of respondents are requesting more tools to help better manage their work, indicating automation may be the solution.

Not only are daily tasks affecting innovation, but also productivity. Some 63% of employees believed that their productivity would improve if they weren't so swamped with day-to-day activities, and 58% reported being unable to even think beyond their to-do lists, said the report.

Managers need to give employees time to innovate, said the report. Some 54% of employees said that if they were given as little as four hours a week to focus on innovation, then they would. Currently, 37% of employees don't feel like innovation is a remote priority for their teams.

The report specifically found how much time during the week employees spend on each time-consuming task. Employees attributed 12% of their week to emails, 10% to administrative tasks, 8% to wasteful meetings, and 6% to interruptions for nonessential tasks, said the report.

The big takeaways for tech leaders:

  • While many employees want to innovate, 58% don't have time because of day-to-day tasks. -- Workfront, 2018
  • 86% of employees think automation of meaningless tasks will make more time for innovation in the workplace. -- Workfront, 2018

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