IT issues swallow up workplace productivity in UK

Less digital transformation, more IT support? A survey reveals lost hours down to common IT issues and email overkill.
8 October 2019

A dreaded combination. Source: Shutterstock

Conversations around cloud migrations, enterprise resource planning software and artificial intelligence investments seem somewhat moot when a fifth of the workforce doesn’t know its way around a PC. 

That’s the fundamental finding of a UK-based survey of 2,000 office workers by SoftwareOne, conducted by OnePoll, which found that 20 percent of workers feel their day-to-day work is hindered by a lack of IT knowledge.

Another 15 percent added that they were too shy or embarrassed to ask for help using office suites. 

Hours lost to technical issues mean organizations— especially those grappling with the complexities of digital transformation— would do well to address basic IT literacy among their teams to ensure a chunk of money isn’t going down the drain. 

The report follows another in June this year by Capita, which found UK employees reporting to lose at least an hour a month to IT problems. That equates to £4 billion (US$5 billion) worth of lost productivity across industry each year. 

With business investment and overall productivity falling in the UK attributed to a climate of uncertainty around Brexit, companies can make up for shortfalls by addressing ‘quick-win’ areas. While full-scale investments in artificial intelligence, robotics, and automation may be on the backfoot compared to European and US rivals, ensuring equipment and tools function adequately, and basic IT support is in place and responsive, is worth the investment. 

If IT isn’t up to scratch, employees shouldn’t expect staff to hang around either. Tech factors into ‘employee experience’ today, and companies that focus on enhancing in that respect can see increased loyalty and ramped up profitability as a result. 

In a recent article for TechHQ, Clear Review CEO and Founder, Stuart Hearn, wrote: “To uncover ideas to streamline and facilitate workflow, managers should regularly ask employees for feedback and suggestions on how they can improve the current software and technology provided by the organization.

“Not all proposals need to be implemented, but employees represent a goldmine of ideas that stand to increase your company’s productivity and performance greatly.”

Workplace culture and comms

Aside from technical issues, SoftwareOne also found email and internal communications to be a black hole for time spent on actual tasks. 

Respondents claimed to spend an average of two hours a day browsing their inbox— with regular checking hampering productivity and focus for more than half (54 percent). At the same time, 10 emails per day were sent to colleagues, when it could be simpler and clearer to speak face-to-face or via instant-messaging tools.

In total, needless time spent on email accounted for around five hours per week, or 230 hours per year in lost productivity. 

But that “needn’t be the case”, said Andy Dunbar, Service Lead, Technology Services at SoftwareONE.

“Collaborative tools like Microsoft Teams, which many office workers have access to but aren’t aware of, make it easy to message, chat or collaborate on documents with co-workers without reverting to email. 

“If email is needed, simple things like only opening up your email once per hour can transform your efficiency.”

Interestingly, the report did find that employers are becoming more lenient in their attitude towards flexible working. Half of those surveyed said their employer allowed them to work from home for at least one day a week. The other half were likely to consider current policies “old fashioned”. 

“We need to look at how maximizing the functions of available tools and technology can revolutionize our organizational skills and boost output,” said Dunbar. 

“Tools like MyAnalytics can help you manage your email usage better by cutting out unproductive use, while collaborative tools allow groups of people to work on documents simultaneously from remote locations. 

“This helps to empower staff, enhance productivity and improve work-life balance.”