The biggest everyday office struggles for Americans

Isabella Roland • 29 Nov 2023 • 6 min read

Ask any office worker in America about the little everyday things that get in the way of doing their job and they’ll probably have a laundry list of items to tell you about.

From attaching fiddly documents to emails and setting up complex Excel tables needed for reports, to formatting a simple Word document, there are numerous small hurdles that can impact workplace productivity.

But just which tasks take up the most work time, and perhaps more importantly, which do people struggle with doing the most?

To find out, we surveyed 2,000 office workers across the US to find out which office admin tasks got in the way most often, and which they found particularly tricky to sort out or took the most time out of their day.

With these results in hand, we can now reveal exactly what the biggest everyday office struggles for Americans are, as well as highlighting just why workplace training is so important.

Which minor office tasks do office workers most struggle with?

When it comes to the task that seemed to impact office productivity the most, the answer was overwhelmingly anything to do with working in Excel. A full 81% of those we spoke to said that they didn’t know how to properly use formulas in Excel, while a further 79% said they found it tricky to set up even basic Excel tables.

However, that’s not to say Excel proved the only sticking point. Another 77% of those we surveyed agreed that formatting Word docs could be a finicky process, as was reviewing Word documents with tracked changes applied – something 76% of workers said they weren’t a fan of.

Other high problem areas included formatting PowerPoint presentations, a problem experienced by 75% of office workers, with a further 74% saying that setting up meetings via email wasn’t particularly intuitive. Even the scheduling software designed to help with this hasn’t proved that beneficial, with another 73% saying that it complicated the process.

In fact, when looking at our results as a whole, there was not a single sticking point that sat below 70% in terms of survey participant struggles. In other words, more training might need to be done to help office workers understand these basic office admin tasks.

How much office time is lost to these admin tasks?

So, we know what areas of office work cause the most issues, but just how much time is being lost to these tasks?

Well, when it comes to Excel formulas, the majority of respondents (20%) said they were losing at least 1-2 hours each day to this task. It’s a similar story for Excel tables, with 20% of people again saying they lost up to 2 hours sorting these out as well.

This pattern then appears to repeat itself with every sticking point highlighted in our survey, with roughly 20% of those we spoke to stating that roughly 2 hours of their workday, almost a quarter of the time they spend in the office, was being lost to these sorts of tasks.

How much do these tasks impact work expectations?

As you may have already guessed from the results of our survey, a large portion of those we spoke with agreed that these sorts of tasks directly impact their ability to deliver work in their current job role.

Unfortunately, around 37% of workers said that they struggled a lot with these sorts of tasks, though interestingly, this was countered by another 32% saying they didn’t struggle to do them at all, which may hint that these sorts of tasks are time-consuming no matter how good you are at them.

In terms of the age of workers that struggled the most, it perhaps might come as a surprise to learn that it was workers aged between 35-44 who struggled the most (48%), despite having plenty of experience in the workplace. They were then followed by 18–24-year-olds, 39% of whom mentioned having issues with these sorts of tasks.

But while knowing the age of those having issues in these areas is all well and good, what about the states and industries in America experiencing the highest number of these issues?

Well, when looking at US states, it seems that Texans have the most technical issues in the office, with at least 54% admitting to struggling with the tasks mentioned to some degree. This was then followed by New York and Arizona, where 49% and 41% of workers respectively noted the issues they had with these areas.

As for industries, it seems employees in the agricultural, forestry, and fishing areas struggle the most with these software problems, with 72% of people working in this sector having issues with such tasks.

This then falls sharply but remains high, for the next industry, construction, where 51% of those we spoke to agreed with having problems with these office tasks. This was then followed, perhaps a bit ironically, by those working in IT, with 46% of employees finding issues in the areas mentioned.

Do office workers need more job support and training?

With all the stats and struggles we’ve highlighted, you might be of the mindset that there’s further room for job support and training when it comes to helping US office workers be more productive in their roles.

But, with that being said, 64% of respondents did say that the training they received in their current role benefited them, with just 24% saying that it was inadequate for what was required by their role.

With training issues in particular, it seems that 18-24-year-olds are seeking the most additional training (33%), followed by those aged 25-35 (28%), perhaps hinting at a generational skills gap that needs filling to meet the supposed complexity of these tasks.

How effective is job onboarding in the US?

As with any role, onboarding into an office environment – that being the process of integrating a new employee into any organization’s current ways of working – is an essential part of hiring any new employee. Which begs the question – is the onboarding being provided to US employees enough to facilitate doing their role properly?

Interestingly, just 14% of respondents said that they hadn’t received any form of onboarding and training for their new role, while a full 65% said they did receive onboarding, and that it helped them settle into their new position.

However, it should be noted that 22% of those we spoke to said that the onboarding they received was not sufficient to prepare them for their work, with 18-24-year-olds again being the highest to say this at 31%.

What do US office workers do when struggling with such tasks?

While we’ve looked at just which areas of office admin work cause the most work issues, it’s also worth asking just what workers do when they’re faced with such problems. Do they have a go-to solution they opt for each and every time?

Well, perhaps it should come as no surprise that most workers choose to Google the answer to their issue in order to solve it. This is certainly the go-to option for 49% of those that we surveyed.

But perhaps most surprisingly, just 18% of employees said they would reach out to a manager or colleague for help, which might indicate embarrassment at not being able to do these common IT tasks.

How often do office workers raise these issues?

Last, but not least, despite their prevalence as issues in the workplace, it’s unclear as to whether or not such problems are regularly raised with employee management or bosses.

While plenty of employees did state that they caught up with their manager on a day-to-day basis (35%), it was not mentioned if these sorts of issues were highlighted as work blockers, perhaps indicating that these sorts of issues are much trickier to solve than you might think.

So, now you know just what the most impactful and common workplace struggles are for US office workers. Based on our findings, there certainly seems to be room for additional staff training in these areas, particularly for new and younger employees, while refresher courses could go a long way towards helping those further along in their work.

It’s also worth noting that, while many we surveyed said these areas could prove problematic, a large portion of recipients stated they could still do the tasks without issue – implying that the tasks themselves are simply time-consuming to do regardless of skill level.

And speaking of time-consuming, one area of office life that can get particularly hectic is answering the inevitable calls and tech support questions that might come your way, which is why you might want to consider working with VoiceNation.

Our Answering Services, Virtual Receptionists, , and Live Chat options can do wonders for helping you meet all your customer service needs. Get in touch with our team today to learn more about how we can grow your business further.

By Isabella Roland

Isabella Roland is a Marketing Assistant at VoiceNation. She is currently pursuing a Bachelors of Arts in Interdisciplinary History and a Minor in Business Administration at Georgia Gwinnett College and often spends time at school as an active member of the GGC Honors Program. In her free time, she can be found reading, exploring, or cooking.