UK employees waste 400m days a year

Hannah Sims · 05 Jul

New research shows UK employees spend 441,827,088 days a year on ‘time wasting’ office tasks such as responding to hundreds of emails, attending meetings for meetings’ sake, and completing unnecessary admin.

The research conducted explores everyday office tasks and considers where businesses could improve employee output per hour to help tackle UK productivity issues.

What did the research find?

The Productivity in the Workplace report, commissioned by Red Letter Days For Business, found that almost two-thirds (60%) of UK employees said they spend at least half a day every single week performing tasks they deem as a waste of time in the office.

Employees also listed the top six areas that restrict them from doing their job well, which are:

  1. Too many meetings that go on for too long (46%)
  2. Too much admin (38%)
  3. Too many emails (29%)
  4. People management – i.e. misbehaving colleagues (25%)
  5. Technology is slow (24%)
  6. A micromanaging boss (21%)


Exploring the top three office time-wasting tasks further, the research discovered that:

  • Employees spend an average of 1.2 hours every single working day in meetings, equalling six hours every week
  • A quarter (22%) of employees said they waste time every week at work completing administrative tasks such as filling out timesheets
  • Two-fifths (40%) of employees said they receive between 26-75 emails every day
  • Nearly half (45%) of employees said they have to respond to emails outside of their contracted working hours due to high volumes received
  • A quarter (26%) of employees said every single week they have trouble finding a document due to email volume

James Kelly, Director at Red Letter Days For Business, said: “It seems our modern office environment has developed bad habits. Technology, such as emails, should be speeding up processes – not slowing them down. Something is going very wrong here. Businesses’ need to work together to retrain on areas like email etiquette in the workplace and to encourage better collaboration and efficiencies.”


The research also asked employees what they thought would help improve their output per hour levels. The top five answers were:

  1. Flexible working (22%)
  2. Better technology (19%)
  3. A happy workplace (17%)
  4. Increased job satisfaction (15%)
  5. Better recognition from senior management (14%)

“The fact that flexible working is at number one is very interesting,” he continues. “Most jobs now require us to be flexible with our time; in fact nearly half (44%) of employees polled confirmed they did overtime because they have a flexible role and work to complete a job, rather than work specific hours. Yet, with 57% of employees confirming they only work from the office, it seems businesses need to catch up with the flexible working idea.”

Finally, the research asked employees what action their company had taken since 2015 – when the government launched its Fixing the Foundations plan – to improve productivity levels in the workplace. Over two-fifths (42%) said their company had done nothing.

“Businesses need to be aware of the smaller time-wasting office tasks that could be having a bigger impact than they think on output levels,” said Kelly. “Yes each business is bound to have larger issues to tackle, however, the good news is the smaller time-wasting issues can easily and quickly be solved, with little, if any, investment. The positive impact of the changes could also be huge.”

3 tips to improve productivity in the workplace:

  1. Flexible working: Allowing employees to work from home or the office during hours that suit them will increase productivity.
  2. Meetings: Ensure all meetings are totally necessary. Where possible, solve problems with quick phone calls or informal chats to free up diary space.
  3. Communication: Offer alternative communication methods to emails. Encourage people to walk over to a colleagues desk, pick up the phone, or even use messaging services such as Skype. This will reduce admin time and create efficiency.

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