More than half of the work within an organization is not visible to key stakeholders.

Photo by Vladimir Kudinov on Unsplash

As I was reading an article on physics, I came across an interesting figure from the European Organization for Nuclear Research. Only 5% of the universe is visible to us, according to the physicists at CERN. The rest is not as bright. I thought that the same thing could be said about work nowadays. We get hundreds of messages, calls, and files every day. There isn’t much visibility into that work at the team or company level.

Over the past two years, the digital era has made work more distributed, more mobile, and more invisible. The Dark Matter of Work is the amount of work that isn’t captured, tracked, or measured against goals because it takes place in communication tools.

It used to be that leaders and teams would be able to provide feedback, solve problems in face-to-face meetings and collaborate on progress. Business leaders can’t see more than a tiny fraction of the work their employees are doing because of the growing complexity in the way we work. It’s hard to empower employees with the right guidance and recognition because of this. The Bureau of Labor Statistics recently announced the biggest decline in productivity since 1947.

Work is becoming complex and difficult to manage.

Employees have to juggle many systems in order to get work done. There isn’t a clear unified system of record for the mass of work they feel in their stress levels. It travels through space and time in a variety of ways that are hard to track.

Wrike wanted to investigate the impact of this new complexity on businesses, teams and individuals. The report “Dark Matter of Work: The Hidden Cost of Work Complexities” was compiled after we surveyed 2,800 business leaders and knowledge workers.

The first step in understanding the dark matter of work is understanding.

According to our research, 61% of workers are stressed out because they don’t have all the information they need to do their job, and up to 45% of work that takes place within an organization is not visible to key stakeholders. This is costing organizations up to $60 million a year in wasted time, delayed or canceled projects, and employee attrition.

What is the source of low visibility? The increased use of synchronous applications and other remote collaboration and communication platforms, along with existing systems, has created a vast amount of data, paths, and workflows that are not intuitive in many cases. This lack of visibility makes it hard for business leaders to track progress, provide guidance, and motivate employees, leading to missed deadlines, inferior outcomes, and a general lack of productivity. Our report shows how to understand and identify Dark Matter of Work and how to begin to take action to prevent it, which will make employees and organizations more productive and less stressed.

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Human and hard costs are not imaginary.

Stress is a major source of stress for employees. It adds confusion and inefficiencies and deprives them of their time. Knowledge workers are stressed out because their work is eating into their lives. Five days of personal time is costing employees because of the Dark Matter of Work. The work is not getting the credit it deserves due to poor visibility. Knowledge workers think their employers don’t understand how hard they work, and many have missed out on a pay rise or promotion because their contribution to a project wasn’t recognized The cost of this is $427,000.

The Dark Matter of Work can have a financial impact through a number of activities, from repeating work that has already been done to attending unproductive meetings or following up on actions. The activities waste time and cost businesses millions of dollars a year. Organizations with 100 employees will lose $1.65 million annually, and organizations with 100,000 will lose $1.65 billion.

Visibility and full understanding of work prevents businesses from anticipating, preparing, or reacting to risks. More than half of business function leaders encounter problems with projects at least every week that could be avoided with real-time insight into project status, which costs them $8.2 million in delayed or canceled projects.

Shedding light on the dark matter of work is a single source of truth.

The companies that are able to understand, uncover, and harness the Dark Matter of Work will be the ones that will succeed in this turbulent economic climate. It’s necessary to connect teams on a single platform that is able to capture all projects and use cases. This will allow leaders to govern, connect, and supervise the work that leads to happy, productive employees. Knowledge workers say that a single source of truth would reduce stress in their teams. It is worth the effort.