Get Employees To Stop Wasting Time To Improve Office Productivity

If you were to be honest, how much time would you say that you spend actively engaged in work tasks during working hours? Chances are if you were to accurately measure how much time you spend really working each day, it’s significantly less than the eight to nine hours of work you are being paid to do. In fact, if you said that you actually work more than five hours each day, you are probably a relatively high performer.

It’s startling, but true: According to a survey by, only about 10 percent of workers claim to never waste time on the job. The rest of us? Well, we are spending anywhere from 30 minutes to two hours, every day, doing tasks that aren’t related to work, such as surfing the Internet, handling personal errands, using social media, texting, and grabbing coffee or a snack. However, it’s not just these outside distractions that are eating into productivity at work, though. In fact, there’s a good chance that many of your employees actually want to be working, but certain facets of their job or your company make it impossible to get work done.

Stop Wasting Time In The Work Day

Consider a typical workday: An employee arrives at the office, greets co-workers, and grabs a cup of coffee. He’s probably in the office for close to 30 minutes before even turning on the computer, where he then spends another 30 minutes or longer checking and responding to emails. Then it’s time to prepare for a meeting, which lasts an hour and accomplishes nothing of consequence. He returns to his desk after a bathroom break, then spends another 30 minutes on emails and returning phone calls. Between interruptions from co-workers and the phone, by the time lunch rolls around, he’s had about 30 minutes of actual uninterrupted work time.

The afternoon isn’t much different. After another meeting for a panel interview, he attempts to work on a report that’s due later in the week, but a glitch in the software requires a call to tech support, and nearly an hour getting the problem fixed. He then spends more time adjusting the template, because the data isn’t working. Add in more interruptions from email, etc., and he leaves the office at 5:30 with most of the to-do list undone and a feeling that the day was a waste.

Sound familiar? You aren’t alone. Many workers report feeling like they could do more at work, but they are held back by certain cultural aspects of their office, such as a reliance on meetings. Coupled with the fact that it takes the average person up to 23 minutes to regain focus on a task after an interruption, it only makes sense that productivity is so low in the typical office.

What Causes Inefficiency — And How to Fix It

So what are the most common work-related time wasters in most businesses and payroll companies?

  1. Pointless Meetings. Excessive and unnecessary meetings are most often cited as the leading drain on productivity. Most people spend as much as half their days in meetings, often with little to no return on investment in terms of productivity.
  2. Inadequate Tools. When employees do not have the right tools and equipment to do their jobs, productivity suffers. This could be as simple as a fax machine that consistently jams, or something more complex, like a reporting system that is cumbersome or poorly suited for company needs.
  3. Email. Email is another time waster that comes up repeatedly. Some experts even estimate that employees spend more than a quarter of each day dealing with email. A culture in which co-workers rely on email compounds this problem.
  4. Inefficient Team Members. When co-workers rely on each other to complete tasks or provide information, individual inefficiencies cause a ripple effect.

Clearly, most wasted time stems from an office culture that creates and feeds inefficiency. Therefore, wasting less time requires a cultural change that focuses on valuing everyone’s time, and eliminating the time wasters. For example, only scheduling in-person meetings when absolutely necessary and agreeing to limit email usage — or developing your own policy of checking email no more than twice per day — can give you back several hours each day. Investing in tools that increase efficiency, such as reporting software from Windward, can increase productivity and decrease wasted time and frustration.

Cut Out Procrastination

Have you caught yourself checking for emails only 10 minutes apart? Or, perusing Facebook when you have already replied to your wall posts? Then, you are probably, silently, procrastinating. You may not even realize it because surfing the web and checking for updates have become a normal practice. However, you stop wasting time by first identifying these habits. You are indeed procrastinating. Then, you can cut them out and focus on your to do lists and goals.

Eliminate Distractions

Eliminate distractions for employees. The less distractions there are when employees are working, they better focused they will be. This is even true in the building trades. It will help them to become more productive in their work. Encourage employees to limit distractions for themselves by storing cell phones out of sight with sound and vibration notifications turned off and turning off their email notifications on laptops or desktops. It is certain to get employees to stop wasting time during the workday.

It’s completely normal — and understandable — to want to take a break for a few minutes to check Facebook or grab a snack. However, if your employees leave work each day frustrated that they’ve put in a full day without much to show for it, look at how they’re spending your time. You might find that by changing the culture and providing tools to improve efficiency, productivity, and employee satisfaction, increase.

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