Administrative activities are a massive time hog for managers. Prior to conducting our time studies, we ask managers in a questionnaire, “What are the most important things you need to do in your job?”. Their responses show that paperwork and administrative tasks are well down the list of managerial priorities cited. Typically, these activities are mentioned as a main priority by only 6% of managers. Clearly, handling paperwork is not what they perceive their job to be. Yet based on our work measurement studies, administration is the largest category of activities that a manager is engaged in.
Administrative tasks are not acknowledged in other analyses of managerial time, but are an unavoidable reality of work. In our time study consulting, we define administrative tasks as those that do not advance work toward achieving major objectives.. Instead, they are necessary requirements of the job. They might support the operations of the organization, such as filling out time sheets, reports, and paperwork. They might support the dissemination of information, through internal, non-planning meetings. Or they might support other workers, providing assistance by answering questions or filling in for others. Or they might be activities that could be delegated entirely to an assistant, to another department or to technology, with no changes to the manager’s performance.
In one of our questionnaires, managers are also asked “What things, outside of your control get in the way of your productivity?” Since we began asking the question in 1990, the issue of paperwork and administrative tasks continues to lead the responses to this question across all job categories. For managers and non-managers alike, the percentage is the same. 20% of respondents cite administration as an impediment. See Table 4 below for responses to the second open-ended question cited by more than 4% of managers.
|What things outside of your control get in the way of your productivity?|
|Paperwork / administrative tasks||20%|
|Customer requests -service / problems / complaints||18%|
|Computer / system / equipment problems||14%|
|Changing priorities / ad hoc / unplanned projects||13%|
|Staffing / HR issues / changes / people absent||12%|
|Phone calls / phone interruptions / inquiries||11%|
|Meetings – too many / too long / unnecessary||9%|
|Other depts. inefficient / make mistakes||7%|
|Volume of e-mail||6%|
|Fire fighting / emergencies||5%|
|Volume of work / not enough time||4%|
|Customers without appointments / walk-ins||4%|
|Central office visits, interruptions, requests||4%|
The irony is that since 1990, computers and new software programs continue to proliferate; yet there is no reduction in administrative tasks. This is because for the manager, the computer is not an automation tool; it is an information-processing tool. With the increasing number of tools, or programs available, from word processing to spreadsheet analysis and presentation software, the options have also increased. Now, more scenarios can be checked out, more reports can be printed for review, more data needs to be inputted. It is no surprise then that the issue of paperwork and administrative tasks is seen as a huge impediment to productivity.
As shown in the table below, the administrative burden is massive and takes up 11.6 hours of the manager’s work week. This is 25% of his or her time. The activities in this category are also very interruptive; 43 of them occur each week lasting 16 minutes each.
Administration is also an area where managers would like to spend considerably less time than they do. Actual hours spent versus ideal expectations are the most dramatically different for this category compared to others. Managers spend 11.6 hours in administration time, but would ideally only like to spend 7.3 hours doing these activities. No one likes doing paperwork.
Administration time increases as one moves higher in the organization (see table below). Some of the time in this category is simply staying in touch through networking, writing and responding to e-mails or communicating with head office. Nonetheless, even when communication activities are excluded (some of which are routine and some of which are people management), administration for presidents is still 11.7 hours per week or 18% of the time.
|Hours per week||Occasions||Duration in minutes||Ideal Hours||Difference vs. Ideal|
How do employees spend their time in your organization. Conducting a time and motion study is a powerful diagnostic tool to identify productivity hurdles on your way to increasing effectiviness, gettting more done, and increasing profits.