Menial Tasks Eat Up the Majority of the Workday for Most Employees

Employees in the U.S. spend the majority of their time at work scheduling and organizing, instead of engaging in meaningful, creative tasks, a new study finds.

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By Catherine Clifford


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Employees in the U.S. aren't doing a whole lot of meaningful, creative work because they're too busy performing administrative, organizational tasks.

That's according to a new report, which surveyed 1,072 working Americans. The study, scheduled to be released Friday, is presented by virtual assistant service Time Etc but was conducted by a third-party research and consulting firm.

Nearly half of respondents report said they spend up to 50 percent of their day scheduling calls and meetings. And almost six in 10 U.S. workers report spending up to half of their days in meetings and on calls.

"American employees are inundated with work. Not only are they responsible for tasks that are vital to business development, but they're constantly scheduling meetings, taking calls and catching up emails and admin," Barnaby Lashbrooke, CEO and Founder of Time Etc, said in a statement announcing the results of the survey. "This can result in lengthy to-do lists, filled with assignments that keep workers after hours, despite not always being related to the employee's professional goals."

Related: Don't Let Wins and Losses Get to Your Head

As employees scramble to keep up with the procession of meetings and administrative tasks, there's little time for meaningful work. More than 90 percent of respondents said they spend 25 percent or less of their day working on creative business ideas or leads.

Being scattered and distracted has consequences on productivity. Almost half -- 43 percent -- of respondents report not finishing their daily to-do lists. It's not that workers aren't putting in the hours. In fact, 59 percent of U.S. employees stay past their typical hours to take care of all of their work.

While the study did not break down the employees surveyed by industry or experience level, it did categorize employees by both income bracket and age.

Related: Check Your Ego at the Door and Keep Meetings to 15 Minutes

More money comes with more responsibilities, according to the research. More than 80 percent of respondents with an annual income of at least $80,000 said they routinely don't complete what is on their daily to-do lists. For those making between $40,000 and $80,000, 64 percent reported the same. Meanwhile, nearly 60 percent of respondents making less than $40,000 said they are able to complete what's on their daily to-do list.

Survey respondents were fairly evenly distributed between these income brackets: 27 percent reported making more than $80,000, 35 percent between $40,000 and $80,000 and 29 percent less than $40,000.

Surprisingly, millennials are more concerned with being organized than their boomer counterparts. Twenty-seven percent of the demographic said they will stay after their work day is officially over to prepare for the next day by organizing their to-do list compared to only 17 percent of boomers.

Related: Perfection Is the Greatest Obstacle to Productivity

What do you do to stay focused and organized? What tips, habits and routines have you developed that keep you on track, ploughing through that to-do list each day? Tweet at us and let us know!
Catherine Clifford

Senior Entrepreneurship Writer at CNBC

Catherine Clifford is senior entrepreneurship writer at CNBC. She was formerly a senior writer at, the small business reporter at CNNMoney and an assistant in the New York bureau for CNN. Clifford attended Columbia University where she earned a bachelor's degree. She lives in Brooklyn, N.Y. You can follow her on Twitter at @CatClifford.

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