Wouldn’t it be amazing if your team had more time during the workday to focus on projects that are interesting, challenging, and important to them? Being motivated at work starts with knowing that the tasks you perform matter. However, research has found that people spend an average of 41% of their time on activities that offer little personal satisfaction and could be handled competently by others. According to a McKinsey Global Institute study, only 39% of a person’s time at work is spent on role-specific tasks. 

Unproductive tasks are more dangerous to your company’s success than you may realize. If your best and brightest people start to believe that their work is pointless and unnecessary, they’ll eventually find it difficult to justify staying on board. And that’s when the new job search begins. 

Believe it or not, meaningful work can even be more important than a person’s salary. One survey found that more than 9 out of 10 workers are willing to trade a percentage of their lifetime earnings for greater meaning at work. 

With that in mind, we’ve put together a list of the most counterproductive workplace tasks. Encouraging your people to do delete such drudgery from their to-do lists will free them up to be more creative, engaged, and productive

Multitasking guarantees mediocrity: Team leaders assume that assigning their people as many different projects as possible is a great way to keep them busy and productive. While diversity is key to keeping employees engaged, it’s also important to note that toggling back and forth between tasks means that they have to split their time and focus. If no workflow process is followed when leaders delegate multiple tasks at once, team members may wind up producing substandard results. Research shows that multitasking without digital support costs the global economy $450 billion dollars annually. 

What to do instead: Invest in an automated workflow tool that helps employees view multiple task processes from a holistic view and allows them to focus on work quality. 

Too many emails create motion without progress: Another workplace productivity hazard is over emailing. Constant emailing about a single project, especially once the CCs start to multiply, only produces duplicate efforts and rework. If your people are finding themselves answering the same questions from different colleagues over and over, they should cut back on their daily email engagement. One study found that being cut off from work email reduces stress and allows employees to focus better.

What to do instead: Take advantage of direct messaging platforms like Slack or Microsoft Teams to streamline collaboration and get immediate answers more clearly. 

Meetings: too much of a good thing? Sure, meetings are the lifeblood of every smooth-running company. Meetings are where ideas for how your company can adapt and thrive in this hypercompetitive economy are presented, fleshed out, and decided on. But like any virtue, meetings can quickly become a vice if they’re scheduled to discuss minor details. And meetings that have no clear agenda often last too long, veer off in a million directions, and turn out to be a colossal waste of time. Shocking but true: 91% of people admit to daydreaming during meetings. 

What to do instead: Distribute engaging videos, decks, and infographics to your people via digital tools that keep them up to speed on company milestones and details. 

Stop following up from your keyboard: Technology has made it possible for people to get through much of their workdays without a single human interaction. But if people at your company are sending emails, messages, and WhatsApp texts that are being ignored, they should be encouraged to follow up with colleagues in the old fashioned way: face-to-face. People naturally crave social interaction. We shouldn’t underestimate the beneficial impact of social interaction or the detrimental effects of social isolation in the workplace.

What to do instead: Hold periodic reviews or feedback sessions where leaders and teams can play catch-up without the extra email trail and exchange updates swiftly.  

Working 24/7: Remember the story of the tortoise and the hare? The moral of that classic fable: slow and steady wins the race, not impulsive sprints. But a workplace culture that encourages people to work late or take their work home with them can have a negative impact on long term productivity. Not taking proper breaks from workplace tasks leads to an increase in workplace accidents and lower quality results. Not encouraging people to put less pressure on themselves increases the likelihood that they will develop burnout syndrome.

What to do instead: Advocate for paid time off and let your people establish solid work-life harmony. Vacations and free time away from work do wonders for morale. 

Beyond compensation packages and perks, a workplace culture that trims these annoying, unnecessary tasks to a minimum is a place where people will be able to focus on work that matters to them. And, work that matters… really matters. 

Any company that wants to attract and hold onto the most talented people around will consider specific-role job tasks as the antidote to short employee life cycles and will actively bring meaning to their’s people’s positions using purposeful tasks and responsibilities that help them love what they do.


From Stephanie Stevens

Stephanie is Content Marketer at Hibob. She has a background in Clinical Psychology and Crisis Management, and enjoys abstract painting and watching horror films in her spare time. She believes that people can connect with themselves, their peers, and the world around them through creative writing, helping them foster a deeper sense of self and their life goals in the process.