Employee productivity could be the biggest variable in whether your business thrives or struggles. Yet according to a recent survey reported in Forbes, a staggering 89 percent of employees waste time on the job. Sixty-two percent of employees said they wasted between 30 minutes and one hour; 26 percent wasted two or more hours. One study estimated that the annual costs to U.S. employers may add up to $134 billion annually because of such distractions. Here's a closer look at how employees commonly waste time and how businesses can help prevent these distractions.
Understanding the causes of wasted time
While it's important — and often legally mandated — that workers get adequate breaks for lunch, to use the bathroom, and take a breather during the workday, time wasting goes well beyond these dedicated blocks. Inc. found that the top causes of wasting time include:
- Cell phones and texting
- The internet and social media
- Snack and smoke breaks
- Distractions from noisy colleagues
- Personal email and other forms of completing personal business
How employers can respond
What steps can you take to help prevent these common distractions while also creating a positive work environment?
Use internet filtering: Many companies have embraced internet filtering policies that block certain sites on their network. Commonly, companies block social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, personal email providers not used for work, and news sites and blogs where workers might spend idle time browsing. Ensure that you're not blocking sites employees need to do their jobs. Some employers use software that caps the amount of time that can be spent on these sites each day, without blocking them entirely.
Provide alternate team building opportunities: Gossiping and chatting with coworkers is another common time waster. Companies can capture the benefits of employees connecting by providing opportunities for them to collaborate on existing projects. Regular staff meetings, team meetings, and manager and employee check-ins can keep the lines of communication flowing, while keeping the focus on the most important tasks.
Use time and attendance technologies: Another time waster is an established break running too long. It's important that employees get necessary breaks to help relieve stress and let them refocus on the important work at hand. But it's easy for a 15-minute break to become twenty, or an hour lunch to run over by fifteen minutes. Use time and attendance software — which can often be downloaded to a mobile device — to help keep non-exempt workers accountable for their time. This can help them stay more aware of their time, and you can quickly identify and address problems.
Employment policies and education: Do you have clear workplace policies for activities such as internet use, conducting personal business during office hours, or gossiping on the job? Remind employees that mocking clients, or speaking poorly of colleagues in any of these situations can have negative consequences and is not a productive use of time. Put clear policies in place about these important areas and take the time to discuss concerns with your employees. Awareness is the first step toward prevention.
Be visible and proactive in your management: While it may not be beneficial to micromanage your staff, there is an argument for being more visible in the workplace. Managers who check in with employees, spend time circulating the office, and pop in to discuss the status of a project from time to time can create a sense of accountability. By proactively managing your team — and promptly addressing issues when they occur — it may be easier to keep your team focused and productive.
Employee productivity is an important issue for businesses. The right combination of clear policies, proactive management styles, and technology can keep your team on track and productive.