Back to Newsroom

UK employees waste over 40 working days a year each on tasks that could be automated by robots, according to new ABBYY survey

December 02, 2020
  • A quarter wanted to quit their job during the pandemic due to frustrating processes
  • Fewer than 2/3 of businesses started using new technologies since COVID-19 hit

UK employees believe they are wasting more than 40 working days a year each on routine tasks that could be done by technology, such as digital workers, according to new research from ABBYY investigating the impact of COVID-19 and automation technologies on office workers in the UK, US, France and Germany. While UK workers spend an average of almost 1.5 hours (1 hour 23 minutes) a day on such tasks, senior decision-makers – from senior managers to CEOs – waste almost 2 hours (111 minutes). This amounts to 54 wasted working days a year for the most expensive and time-poor staff.

Since the pandemic began, three-quarters (74%) of UK workers feel they have experienced challenges. In fact, a quarter (25%) of workers admitted that frustrating processes at work made them want to quit their jobs – even amid a struggling job market. These frustrations have a massive impact: over half (53%) say processes made their job more challenging, 39% say they wasted their time, and a third (32%) were “let down” by them. It is manual, paper-based, or overly complex processes that were the first to break as a result of the pandemic. Client onboarding in banks, claims management in insurance companies, and retail warranty claim processing – these critical day-to-day operations experienced significant delays becoming increasingly frustrating for both customers and employees. It’s no surprise, then, that 62% of UK employees want their business to simplify its processes.

When identifying the cause of their biggest challenges, 38% of workers blame a lack of information on solutions or tasks, while 33% blamed not having the right IT tools. This points to a worrying trend in workers not being able to make the most of the technologies their employer provides.

A helping hand for workers

If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that technology has played a key role in helping businesses cope and thrive. That said, fewer than two-thirds of UK businesses (62%) started using technology in new ways during the pandemic and fewer than half (44%) take advantage of digital workers (otherwise known as robots, software bots or intelligent automation).

A huge 89% of those who do work alongside digital workers agree they bring benefits, especially for those routine tasks that are the main cause of wasted time, for admin staff to the C-Suite.

The most beneficial uses of digital workers were:

  • Sorting data & documents (39%)
  • Reminding or prompting staff to do tasks (37%)
  • Digitising paperwork (36%)

Employees using digital workers believe they now:

  • Work more efficiently (37%)
  • Collaborate better (36%), and
  • Ease the burden of administration (27%)

Despite the rhetoric around digital workers, 88% of UK employees say the technology is easy to use – even older generations approve, with 4 in 5 over-55s (81%) agreeing. What’s also clear is that some businesses do have the right tools in place to help: half of UK employees (50%) said processes helped them do their job faster and collaborate better (48%), both critical during the pandemic.

Neil Murphy, Global VP at ABBYY, said: “We know that problems with business processes can cause huge bottlenecks and barriers for employees. It’s safe to say that ‘the way it’s always worked’ is often not the best route anymore – especially when technologies exist that can ease the burden. Leaders need to enable their employees’ time to be better spent fixing these roadblocks, rather than “hacking” their way around them."

“Not only do bad processes make your employees’ work harder – far from ideal in a global pandemic – but it’s also costing businesses time and money. More concerning still is that our research found senior management are using intelligent automation technologies 20% more than junior staff – despite their biggest benefit being routine tasks. The onus is on senior decision-makers to assess which intelligent automation tools will work best for their business, and ensure employees have what they need to make the most of them. This will save precious time on easily-automatable tasks, rewarding for the whole organisation.”  

UK employees waste over 40 working days a year each on tasks that could be automated by robots, according to new ABBYY survey


The COVID-19 Technology and Business Process Survey was conducted by Opinium Research in November 2020 and sponsored by ABBYY. It surveyed 4,000 office workers across the UK, US, France, and Germany – 1,000 in each country – on the impact the COVID-19 pandemic had on their working practices, the challenges they faced, and the role of automation technologies in their day-to-day work.


ABBYY empowers organizations to gain a complete understanding of their business processes and the content that fuels them with its Digital Intelligence platform. ABBYY technologies are used by more than 5,000 companies, including many of the Fortune 500, and is recognized for its leadership in Intelligent Document Processing (IDP) and Process Discovery & Mining for driving significant impact where it matters most: customer experience, effectiveness, profitability and competitive advantage. ABBYY is a global company with offices in 14 countries. For more information, visit or visit us on social on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook.

ABBYY and the ABBYY Logo are either registered trademarks or trademarks of ABBYY Software Ltd. Other product names mentioned herein may be trademarks and/or registered trademarks of their respective owners and are hereby recognized.

ABBYY Editorial Contact

Eva-Maria Hufschmitt, ABBYY

Connect with us