Most employers face the problem of their employees slacking off and wasting time. Even though the problem is basically inevitable, there are some steps you can take to minimize it.
The Problem Itself
If you own or lead a business, you want it to function at maximum capacity. This means being as productive as possible.
There are two important components to productivity – resources and time. However, the most important component is the people turning that time and those resources into a product or a service. Hence, if your employees start wasting time on a concerning level, the productivity will plummet, and so will your profit. Simply put – you will be paying for the hours your employees haven’t worked but wasted their time instead.
It is understandable for this type of behavior to be frustrating to an employer. If the scope of time-wasting behaviors is so widespread, you may want to absolutely eliminate them. That may mean taking certain corrective measures, like
- Blocking certain websites
- Tracking employee computer usage and taking screenshots
Let’s see why these solutions aren’t the best option.
Blocking Distracting Websites
Scrolling through social media is one of the biggest causes of wasting time in workplaces. Simply put, it is one of those behaviors that make people lose track of time. Hence, many employers believe blocking social media and other distracting sites will solve (at least a part of) their time-wasting problems.
Unfortunately, this isn’t the case, and the reason is quite simple. Most employees all around the world have a cellphone and a data plan that will allow them to access social media. On the other hand, you blocking these sites will create displeasure among your staff.
Finally, some of these distracting sites, like YouTube, are beneficial for your business. Many employees don’t like working in complete silence, and YouTube provides them with the background noise they need.
Micromanagement is another counterproductive method of dealing with time-wasting behaviors. This behavior creates a tense and unpleasant atmosphere and increases the chance of mistakes. The feeling of always being watched and listened to will negatively impact the company morale.
Micromanagement doesn’t have to be strictly on a personal level. Insisting on office doors being open, measuring the length of employees’ lunch breaks, and frequent conversations about productivity can all be a heavy weight on the team.
Tracking Employee Computer Usage and Taking Screenshots
This unproductive method is a combination of the first two. It doesn’t exactly block the apps and websites employees frequent during their workdays. However, simply being aware of your boss or manager knowing you’ve spent some time on Facebook can still make you turn to your phone.
On the other hand, these measures are basically a type of electronic micromanagement. Especially so if the platform you use takes screenshots, gives out inactivity alerts, or tracks keystrokes and mouse activity. This method is especially unproductive in large organizations, as it will take a lot of time and effort to go through everyone’s logs and screenshots.
So, now that you know what not to do, here are some solutions that work.
Timesheet-based Time Tracking
This type of time tracking won’t feel intrusive as the previous ones we’ve mentioned. Yet, it will give your employees a perspective on how they’re spending their time, and make them aware of the hours they waste. Simply put, it will show them the realistic picture of their work and make them more conscious of it.
Make sure the solution you choose has the option of creating templates and models suited for the different needs of your employees so they can simply track their time in a couple of minutes. Otherwise, tracking time will turn into even more time-wasting.
The most positive effect of time tracking this way is that you are approaching your employees as responsible adults you trust. This will entice them to actually act that way. Additionally, time tracking solutions based on timesheets are a good way to also track different KPIs for your company and plan your future steps.
Clear Expectations and Guidelines
If your employees don’t understand what you expect of them, they won’t understand that they need to structure their time in a certain way. Hence, it is up to you to make your expectations known in due time. We recommend putting these expectations and basic guidelines in writing. Then you’ll be able to include this document in the onboarding process.
The expectations should be as detailed as possible and represent the basic workflow guideline. You should also explain how employee efforts impact the big picture and push your company forward. This will show the importance of every employee’s work and motivate them to raise their productivity.
If a person’s tasks are repetitive or too complex, they will naturally gravitate toward wasting time. No one likes being stuck doing the same thing or working on a seemingly unending project. Hence, your employees may need some type of productivity tool to help them focus.
There are numerous productivity programs, apps, to-do lists, and calendars that notify users of their progress, block applications for a certain period, turn work into a game, etc. Now, you may be wondering – Didn’t you just say blocking apps and micromanagement are bad practices bound to reduce productivity? And the answer is still yes.
However, these applications aren’t mandatory, nor do the employees have to use them for their entire work time. Instead, they offer the benefits of using stricter monitoring strategies with the flexibility of using them on your own when you need to focus and get more work done.
This method of reducing time wasting may seem counterintuitive. Yet, it is extremely efficient. Giving your employees enough time to eat, catch up with their coworkers, have a little time for social media, etc. will reduce the time they spend on these activities during the time they should be working. This is especially important once you know the activities most time wasting goes toward are eating, catching up with their peers and spending time online.
Longer or more frequent breaks also allow employees to rest and reenergize after a productive period. You cannot expect your employees to be at their top performance at all times. Hence, allotting time to breaks and recuperation is a great solution. Especially so if you compare it to time theft, which will occur if you don’t give your workforce enough time to rest.
If you are looking for a way to create a more positive relationship with work, different incentives are a great way to go. Of course, we are talking about positive incentives, also known as perks and rewards.
A positive incentive is proven to be more effective than a negative one. The rewards you pick should be as personalized as the size of your company allows. For example, if your coworker is a passionate reader, you can get them a bookstore gift card or a book they’ve been coveting. On the other hand, if a team is doing particularly well, you can get them a collective gift, like a treat or a day off.
You need to make sure the rewards are fun and your employees really want them. you also need to treat all your employees the same way. This means always rewarding good behavior and being consistent when it comes to the rewards.
This is a good tip for managing a remote team. Create the basic timeline for the projects and let your employees organize their time. It is basically impossible to lead a remote team with members all over the globe without time zone-related problems. That is why you should make sure all parts of the work are done in time, but individual tasks can wait until the deadlines.
On the other hand, there are simply people with different work rhythms (and we’ll talk about them in our next tip). In their case, the flexibility reflects on their most and least productive periods during the day. You should only strive to have all daily tasks done by the end of the day. If let’s say, answering emails is not crucial for the day’s work, you should let your employees do it at their convenience.
This step in preventing time wasting is also great for building morale. You are approaching your employees as responsible professionals who are accountable for the work they finish or don’t finish. Hence, they will see themselves as such as well.
Creating a Schedule
This tip seems counterintuitive when you compare it to the last one. Well. Let us tell you a little secret: a strategy that works for one employee doesn’t have to work for each of them. In other words, you will have to adjust to different rhythms. In that sense, allowing employees to create schedules for themselves is also a kind of flexibility.
A personal schedule often involves time blocking as a successful practice. This method is comprised of analyzing an employee’s work habits through time tracking. After conducting a successful time audit, an employee will be able to recognize their most productive periods during the workday. They will also probably notice a pattern of breaks and decreased productivity.
Time blocking is the practice of setting aside the hours when you’re most productive for your main and most responsible tasks. In contrast, your less productive periods should be used for breaks and lower priority tasks. This way you won’t be losing productive hours or forcing yourself through the more difficult ones.
Any other way of organizing your time is good as well, just as long as it leads to heightened productivity. Some of the most common ones include:
- Focusing on one task at a time
- Having a certain amount of time allotted to a specific task
- Grouping similar tasks one after another
- Using to-do and goal lists
- Delegating if possible
- Not picking up coworkers’ work (unless urgent)
Setting up Priorities
Whether it’ll be a meeting for the entire team or a department or a personal session, each employee should understand their priorities. Each complex project should contain smaller milestones, so everyone working on it can measure the progress tangibly.
This means that a portion of work should be done by a certain point in time. This is impossible if your staff gets carried away with smaller and less meaningful tasks instead of focusing on their priorities. In other words, creating a priority list, on a personal and team level is a necessary process before you start a project.
Yet, people tend to forget the way they need to do certain things. Especially if it doesn’t fit their personal criteria for priorities. That is why it’s important to hold regular meetings to make sure the most important work is treated as the highest priority.
The frequency of these meetings should match the scope and importance of the project at hand. They can be individual check-ups or official meetings for the entire team, department, or the company.
Make the Atmosphere More Relaxed
Working in strict conditions is one of the reasons people start wasting time. Simply put, not enough positive stimulus can make the work tedious more quickly. This is where the need to diverge from your planned tasks.
A simple change, such as allowing music in the office – whether through a sound system or headphones – is a good step to making your employees more productive. It also reduces the inclination to waste time, as it gives every employee a chance to have some time to themselves even while they’re working.
Other changes that increase the atmosphere include having occasional lunches as a team, allowing casual banter among the coworkers, and offering high-quality equipment and furniture in the office. Make their workspace as non-disruptive as possible and allow your team to flourish with small nudges of appreciation.
Being constructive when approaching the problem of time wasting among your employees is always the best option. A negative reaction or reducing their free time are bound to drive the general atmosphere down.
In other words, your attempts to reduce time wasting will only increase it if you don’t approach it in a nurturing and understanding way. On the other hand, if you manage to do that, you will allow your employees to bring their best game while not micromanaging or making them feel overwhelmed.
Don’t forget, people from different industries will be interested in different perks. So, you should avoid generic incentives and be as creative as you can. Smaller teams also allow for more personalization, as most people in the collective know one another well.
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