• Danes spend on average 22 hours of their work week on non-value adding work.

  • This according to philosopher Anders Fogh Jensen and anthropologist Dennis Nørmark, authors of "Pseudo work: How we got busy doing nothing".

  • “Pseudo work” is the consequence of an industrial society as it requires workers to fill up idle time.

  • A work week would not have to be more than 15 hours if everyone would focus on a company's core tasks, the authors conclude.

Out of the 32,4 hours that the average Dane spends at work, according to OECD, two-thirds are spent on unproductive tasks that fall under the term "pseudo work."

This according to philosopher Anders Fogh Jensen and anthropologist Dennis Nørmark.

In their book, “Pseudoarbejde: Hvordan vi fik travlt med at lave ingenting” (eng. Pseudo work: How we got busy doing nothing), the two argue that, if everyone spent their time at work focusing on problems that truly impact their business, a workweek would not have to be more than 15 hours.

The authors say “pseudo work” includes things like needless projects, unnecessary strategies and redundant meetings - the kind of work that tends to emerge when the urgent work has been done.

A root cause is the strong attendance culture that prevails in many workplaces, i.e., rather than measuring dedication by results and achievements, an employee's physical presence becomes an important measure.

"Pseudo work thrives in larger corporations and there are not many of those in Denmark. It is easier to hide away in a large organization and they tend to have more bureaucracy and a greater need for processes," Nørmark told the site Entrepreneur.

The anthropologist points out that, compared to other countries, Denmark has a high level of trust, fewer processes and greater respect for work-life balance.

On the other hand, there's also a much flatter management structure that results in extensive consensus seeking – generating more meetings, more data, more reports and even more meetings.

All this adds up to plenty of pseudo work.

“The problem is that we still have the same understanding of work as we did in the industrial society,” Nørmark told Swedish news site Arbetsvärlden. “The more hours you work, the more you should be earning.”

However, Nørmark adds that Denmark is probably not nearly the worst country when it comes to generating idle time. But still, 22 hours per week should be a wake-up call for any boss. 

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