It’s an issue that most employers inevitably have to face – employees who waste time at work and procrastinate on tasks they should be getting on with.
Wasting time impacts productivity, but it is not automatically a terrible thing, says Steve Hammond, director of Kingfisher Recruitment. “There are certainly times when taking a break or taking some time to collect your thoughts are essential to solving a problem or coming up with an answer outside of the box,” he says. “The proliferation of ‘break-out zones’, table tennis tables and coffee stations in modern workplaces reflects the realisation that people do not perform at their best if they don’t ‘waste time’ occasionally.”
That said, Hammond is careful to point out that there are times when time wasting is just that and projects do not get completed on time because an employee was not efficient enough. Ultimately, there is a balance that needs to be struck and this depends on the workplace or individual. “The ‘eureka’ moment or piece of creative genius in one place may come at the end of an epic pinball session, whereas the forensic accountant may find the mistake only after six hours of intense scrutiny,” says Hammond.
How are employees wasting time?
While you may think that social media platforms such as Facebook are the biggest time wasters for employees; it’s actually face-to-face time with colleagues. In terms of what Australians do when they’re wasting time, just under half (48%) spend time talking with colleagues face-to-face, followed by time on social media (39%) and cleaning their work space (30%).
The worst habits that people thought had the biggest impact on workplace productivity were people interrupting or disrupting them while they worked, poor planning/not delegating, followed by doing personal things during work hours.
On the upside, the amount of time wasted relative to working productively was low for most Australians, with 72% of people stating they waste less than 30% of their total work time in an average week.
Encouraging the productivity of employees
“Incentivising performance, financially or even just with recognition is a great motivator,” says Hammond. “Likewise, recognising and addressing poor performance can be a motivator as well.”
According to Hammond, one of the most effective ways to motivate staff is communicating why they should be productive and providing the appropriate structures and tools to ensure they can be.
In Australia, one in four (26%) people mentioned that their employer provides some type of service, tool or resource to help them be more productive at work, with the most common tools being ‘task managing tools’ (35%), messaging tools for easier communication with colleagues (28%) and the supply of food (such as fruit and other snacks, breakfast or lunch) at 21%.
How managers can help employees avoid time wasting at work:
- Provide dedicated zones or times for catching up with colleagues
- Provide ‘bite-sized’ goals that keep employees focused
- Involve employees in setting goals
- Provide regular updates on targets and rewards
In the end, says Hammond, in order for managers and employers to boost productivity they need employees who want to be more productive. “Consequently,” he says, “it may be a question of simply hiring the right self-motivated high performers who are striving to be the best they can be or giving the employees a reason to strive - be it financial reward, promotion or just keeping their job!”