Tax & admin · 13 December 2016

Revealed: The back-office time drains costing one working day a week

Back-office time drains
Almost half of employees claimed that they worked at weekends to compensate for back-office time drains

Overly complex back-office time drains like admin tasks cost professional employees almost one day each week, according to a new study by software firm Adobe.

The report, titled “Document Drain: How Back-Office Processes are Shredding Productivity”, surveyed the day-to-day working habits of professional workers in countries across Europe, including 2,000 in the UK.

By far the biggest back-office time drains, according to 96 per cent of survey respondents, were the printing and emailing of documents. Some three quarters admitted that both processes were “boring, time consuming or challenging”.

The research concluded that businesses of all sizes were suffering at the hands of inefficient and time consuming activities.

According to the study, almost half of all European professionals had at some point lost out on a contract due to office admin going wrong, highlighting the potential damage of training deficiencies and under-skilled staff.

Commenting on Adobe’s findings, John Travis, the company’s vice president of Europe and Middle East marketing, declared that the research represented “a big wake-up call for businesses across Europe”.

“Outdated processes are draining employee productivity and morale —potentially leading to a loss of revenue and a poor customer experience,” Travis said in a statement.

Throughout Europe, almost half of all employees cited inefficient technologies as the main back-office time drains behind poor office work flow, while 45 per cent of UK professionals said that stronger investment in company-provided mobile apps would aid productivity.

Travis added: “Reimagining administrative processes through apps, digital documents, and other technologies provides the opportunity for companies to transform the experience for employees and customers alike—and ultimately is an investment in future growth and success.”

The report found that almost half of employees compensated for slow office processes – such as raising purchase orders (POs) and filling out forms – by working at weekends.

The survey also asked professionals how they would prefer to spend their free time.

While French workers claimed that they would rather be doing exercise, the report found that British workers would prefer to focus on entrepreneurial side-projects than take their work home with them.

Adding to the time drain troubles of employees, business owners have been reported to face admin problems of their own.

A recent study by small business banking platform Tide revealed that 63 per cent of entrepreneurs spend at least one day a month on financial admin tasks such as accounting and tax calculations.

Writing for Business Advice, CEO of cloud accountant FreeAgent Ed Molyneux identified the most common back-office time drains within small companies, providing tips on how to combat the distractions and speed-up processes.

Alongside better delegation of office responsibilities and removal of key distractions, Molyneux advised business owners to set aside “appointment time” for specific projects in order to prioritise workloads.

“You should find that you spend less time alternating between things on your schedule and more time actually doing your work,” Molyneux said.

Workforce productivity: What seven mistakes could you be making?

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ABOUT THE EXPERT

Simon Caldwell is a reporter for Business Advice. He has a BA in politics and communications from the University of Liverpool, and previously worked as a content editor in the ecommerce industry.

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