How much time do your employees squander on various distractions that take their time and attention away from work? Recent surveys from staffing organizations suggest that almost half of participating employers believe the majority of their workers lose one to two hours a day in productivity due to distractions. In some instances, employers estimated that workers were distracted for as much three or even four hours a day.
If you are thinking that personal technology is the problem here (it is an important factor), be aware that good old-fashioned gossiping and snack breaks also feature in the top issues cited by major employers. Here’s a list of the most common distractions:
- Internet, including social media
- Cellphone use and texting
- Gossip and coworker chit-chat
- Email (personal communications)
- Interruptions from coworkers
- Breaks for snacks or smoking
- Meetings (onsite)
- Disruptive, noisy coworkers
What can an employer do to help employees manage their time well without coming down too hard on employees? The following are a few strategies to help boost individual productivity.
Good Two-Way Communication
Get your employees involved in identifying not only the issues but also possible solutions. Make this a two-way process from the very beginning.
- Start by scheduling a short meeting—one hour should be the maximum (onsite if possible or by video if not) to let employees know that the firm is launching an effort to boost productivity by identifying and reducing distractions. Before the meeting, provide a short briefing document to share general statistics on daily time loss. Identify some of the biggest productivity busters (see above list) and explain how greater productivity helps everyone.
- Ask workers to come to the meeting prepared to suggest ways to reduce or eliminate some of the named issues and identify any others.
- Provide a meeting agenda and keep the discussion on track. Make it clear that the goal is to find ways to reduce distraction and that finger pointing will not be allowed. Try to make sure everyone who wishes to contribute gets a chance to share their ideas.
- Be prepared to kick off the meeting with some examples from your own experience. Share how you manage your emails or deal with well-intentioned (but disruptive) drop-in visits by colleagues. Be candid about where you fall short of your own goals, and strategies you use to address this.
- If you have developed some ideas for tackling the problem, let your workers know what you are considering. Your goal here is to solicit buy-in rather than to impose measures that may seem punitive or breed distrust. You might share ideas that other companies have implemented to gauge how your employees react. For example:
- Block certain Internet sites
- Install programs that monitor individual email and Internet usage at work
- Schedule break and lunch times
- Limit personal calls during work hours by having cellphone-free zones (particularly useful in open office settings where noise levels can be problematic)
- Have a meeting secretary record discussion items and decisions made/or tabled for further discussion. Distribute copies of the meeting minutes—noting not only decisions made, but deadlines and who is responsible for each action item.
Trying to get a handle on productivity is not easy, and there is no foolproof way to enforce and monitor it. Encouraging employees to take ownership of their own issues and be proactive in developing practical solutions is a good start.