There are only eight hours in the traditional work day, and for your business to remain as profitable as possible, you need to make the most of those hours. Productivity is typically defined as how much work, or how many tasks, you and your employees can do within a given timeframe.
Businesses attempt to optimize this by hiring more talented workers, buying better tools and equipment, and improving internal processes. But how many of those daily hours are wasted, and what’s causing your employees to waste them?
Top Time Wasters at Work
Though organizations and individuals vary, these are the most common time wasters you’ll need to watch out for:
How many emails seem to drone on and on, with no meaningful information contained in them? You spend countless minutes a day wading through unnecessary information, like all your coworkers, and on top of that, your original senders are spending even more time writing those emails. The majority of employees are careless with how they organize, write and send emails, and ultimately, this adds up to hours of wasted time per day.
2. Social Media
It should come as no surprise your employees are likely using social media at work, whether reading the news or messaging their friends and family members. According to a recent study, two-thirds of American emloyees log into social media at least once per day while at work, with 20 percent of survey respondents spending an hour or more of their workday on social media.
Considering self-reporting bias may be in play here, the numbers may be even more higher than this. What’s worse, there’s no easy way to prevent this. You may block social media websites on your company internet, but it will be tough to block employees from using their personal devices to access social media.
Meetings may not initially seem like time wasters. They may seem like vital components of a business’s success. But they’re dangerous for many reasons, including the fact they include multiple people at the same time and generally require prep time in advance of the meeting. As an illustrative example, consider a case study by Bain, of one large (unnamed) company, where a single weekly meeting ended up costing the company 300,000 man-hours every year.
The numbers add up quickly, especially when your meeting discussions can be replaced with email, or when you include people who don’t need to attend. Getting your meetings under control, by reducing your total number and your meeting time, can help you avoid this waste. Meetings, for many organizations, are a necessary evil, so rather than eliminating them, you can work to make them as productive as possible. Make sure you have a clear agenda before every meeting.
4. Talking and Texting
Non-work related communication is another major cause of wasted time at work. Employees gossip and chat with their coworkers, and spend time talking and texting on their phones, presumably with friends and loved ones. According to a Harris survey, “talking and texting” on a phone was the leading self-reported cause of wasting time, with 50 percent of respondents claiming it as a cause of time waste. The second-highest cause was gossiping, with 42 percent of respondents admitting to it on a regular basis.
Again, consider self-reporting bias here, meaning the real numbers may be even higher. This is another mode of time waste that’s difficult to correct. You don’t want to prevent employee communication, or you could damage the teamwork dynamics and morale of your organization. You also can’t easily confiscate your employees’ phones when they come into work.
Why Wasting Time Isn’t Always a Bad Thing
After reading this article, you might consider time waste to be one of your business’s top concerns. You might be tempted to start policing your employees, monitoring their use of social media and personal devices, and ensuring they remain as productive as possible. However, don’t venture into micromanagement. Studies show micromanaging your employees has a negative effect on productivity and also lowers morale.
Besides, some time wasters may actually be productive in the long run. For example, taking a five minute break on social media could help employees relieve stress and feel closer to their family and friends. The proper approach, then, is to be aware of these potential time wasters and guard against them — but not too strictly.
Productivity may be a bit of a numbers game, but not everything about employee effectiveness can be reduced to numbers.
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