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Part 2. Major Time Wasters: What Managers Can Do to Enhance Employee Productivity

Time at work can be wasted in so many different ways. While some employees end up wasting time due to boredom or job dissatisfaction, others have simply never learned how to cope effectively with their workload and obligations. In Part 1 of Major Time Wasters, we discussed some of the common ways in which employees tend to waste time at work, as well as how their unproductive behaviors eat into the company’s bottom line. We also identified a number of strategies employees can adopt in order to help them increase their productivity; for example, getting better at prioritizing, minimizing distractions and streamlining routine tasks.

While employees can take some steps to improve each day, it is also the manager’s responsibility to coach and motivate their staff. Many employees really want to bette themselves and become more efficient. Taking simple steps, such as were outlined in Part I, will eventually improve their productivity. However, the working conditions themselves can often be a hindrance to really streamlining efficiency. Because many obstacles are not in the employee’s control, it is up to the management to help employees remove the obstacles to success and give them the tools they need.

Of course, every office has its unique dynamics and environment, and every boss is different. The dynamic between boss and employee is also a factor. Many other factors, such as corporate structure and culture, and company policies, values and objectives, will have an impact on the managers’ strategies and approaches to dealing with their specific combination of people and circumstances. No matter what your work environment, let’s look at five areas of opportunities for managers to make a time-efficient impact.

Development of relevant guides and manuals

While many bosses chafe at the idea of processes and rules, having a rulebook or set of guidelines actually helps people to become more effective. Knowing what to do, when to do it, and how to do it for some of the work activities can help avoid the time wasted in confusion and wondering who is accountable. Simple housekeeping things such as policies on attendance, lunch and coffee breaks, internet usage, and other rules of the workplace need to be written down and circulated. While most employees do not like someone looking over their shoulder, it is important to be clear about what’s acceptable and what’s not. The clearer things are, the less time people spend wondering and discussing.

Internet monitoring

The internet presents a temptation that is too hard to resist for many office workers. Social media and website browsing, online shopping, checking personal email and a number of other internet activities may seem like a much better alternative to working on a tedious assignment or a project for many employees. There are plenty of different kinds of website blocking software on the market today that a company could easily obtain and install on the office computers. Various types of internet activity-monitoring software and website tracking tools are also available for purchase and quick download.

Of course employees now have smartphones, tablets and other personal digital devices, and can find their way around these sophisticated internet monitoring programs. However, they will be less likely to waste time browsing the internet, if they are aware of the fact that their company is taking the issue seriously enough to go into such lengths. Additionally, introducing strict penalties for violation of the internet usage policies can discourage even those repeat offenders who are tech-savvy enough to outsmart the internet monitoring software.

Meeting optimization

Unnecessary or poorly organized meetings are nothing but a waste of time. American employees spend too much time in preparation for and attendance of various meetings, time that could otherwise be used for more productive purposes. Various studies suggest that the cost of work foregone and productivity lost is in the millions of dollars per year.

Eliminating all unnecessary meetings is paramount to recovering employee productivity. Any meeting that has no real goal or clear agenda should not be held, period. Any such meeting is a waste of everyone’s time, as it bring more confusion than clarity and usually heralds more of these redundant meetings to come. Meetings that do have a clear purpose should be limited to a certain number of attendees, have a facilitator, begin and end at the agreed-upon time, and perhaps most importantly have a clear follow-up plan of action that everyone understands and agrees to and which is circulated.

Offering challenges and reward

Employee boredom, lack of genuine enthusiasm and having a negative attitude towards the work or the workplace will naturally lead to many time-wasting behaviors and habits. Managers need to understand what motivates employees and offer them relevant challenges and rewards in order to incite employees to become more invested in their work. Motivating employees is the least costly thing managers can do to boost their morale and productivity. Challenging workers doesn’t equate to increasing their workload, though; any challenge, big or small, will do the job, as long as it can provide a positive stimulus to employee engagement with the company and their work. Tangible rewards such as bonuses, or gifts or intangibles such as Employee of the Month awards, are usually welcomed. However if the overall culture is negative, or the work is unclear or the team is dysfunctional, these things alone won’t help with efficiency. Creating a work environment where employees do what they are best at, where they thrive and can excel, is the fastest way to get people to make good choices about what they do with their time.

Leading by example

In order to inspire employees to become more invested in their work, managers need to be the role models and set positive examples. Employees watch their management for cues and clues on what’s acceptable and what’s not. For example, if a company manager comes to work on time, maintains an upbeat and friendly attitude, doesn’t browse social media sites during office hours, all while staying organized and doing his/her job well, it will create a good example for his/her subordinates to follow. This manager is more likely to succeed in changing employee behavior than the one who doesn’t hold him/herself to the same standards as the rest of the office.