Repetitive tasks involve the same or similar activities being repeated at short intervals. These are generally undemanding, simple tasks that usually only cover part of a more comprehensive process. The classic example of repetitive tasks is traditional assembly line work in industrial manufacturing.
But in the office, there are also many tasks that need to be done over and over again. Examples from the back office include email processing, document tagging for filing, capturing and reconciling master and customer data, creating reports, and reviewing travel expense reports. Manual data entry tops the list of most hated tasks, followed by email management and digital filing.
Underutilized work time
Routine tasks are huge time-wasters. Estimates vary depending on the study, intention, and question, region, industry, or gender of the respondents, but the proportion of repetitive tasks is high everywhere. Some examples: According to a survey by UiPath, more than half of office workers in Germany feel that their work consists primarily of repetitive tasks; according to a study by Asana, office employees spend almost two-thirds (about 62 percent) of their workday on repetitive tasks. According to Kryon, one-third of employees spend 50 percent of their work time on repetitive tasks, and nearly half of employees spend 30 to 50 percent.
The high proportion of routine tasks leads to boredom, frustration, and anger among many employees: According to a YouGov survey in 2019, half of office workers in Germany are annoyed by this, and 47 percent of 10,000 office workers in eleven countries are bored, according to a study by Automation Anywhere. They feel underutilized, see no development opportunities for themselves, and would rather use their time for value- adding work such as customer service, new or more appropriate tasks for their skills, or further training.
Relief through Automation
Many employees have a clear idea of how they could be relieved of their repetitive tasks: through process automation. According to Automation Anywhere, 85 percent of respondents believe that repetitive office work can be easily automated. According to UiPath, 52 percent would like parts of their jobs to be automated, while Kryon found that more than three-quarters of the 300 respondents from accounting, HR, finance, and call centers would like more automation to relieve their workload.
The respondents in the studies generally understand “automation” to mean the use of Robotic Process Automation (RPA), programmable software bots that can perform computer-based processes similar to humans using AI. Like humans, they log into applications, enter data, copy data from other applications for certain tasks, etc. This makes them ideal helpers for time-consuming, error-prone routine tasks, such as in back- office, accounting, or customer service. Smart, AI-powered tools such as those from Laigo use text recognition, data classification, data extraction, and other functions to eliminate a significant portion of repetitive tasks – and lay the groundwork for further automation steps.
The potential for savings
It is not possible to make a general statement or estimate about how much can be saved through AI-supported tools and RPA in repetitive tasks. In industries with a traditionally strong tendency towards automation and a high proportion of repetitive work, such as in banks and insurance companies, cost reductions through AI are likely to be higher than in other areas. Estimates of cost reductions in such industries are around 20 percent.
However, another factor is likely to be of great importance across most other industries: freed from at least part of the time-consuming, annoying, and boring tasks, employees’ work performance is likely to improve and their satisfaction is likely to increase. They gain space for value-added tasks, new ideas and their implementation, additional qualifications and thereby benefit the company in the long run.