Small Business Services

Too Much Time-Wasting at Your Company? 3 Ways to Curb It

There have been many surveys done over the years about the ways that employees waste time at work. You probably already knowing the results without having them revealed. Cell phone use (including texting) is right up there, as are web-browsing and social media. Casual conversations and excessive breaks take their toll, as does email.

But most of your employees need to use computers—even smartphones—to get their work done these days. You can’t exactly ban them from the office, but neither can nor should you spend your days running around looking at screens.

It may seem like a problem without a solution, but it’s really not. It’s within your power as a manager to at least minimize the time spent playing fantasy football and shopping on Etsy. Here are three suggestions:

Set expectations early. Early, as in during the hiring and onboarding processes. If you call references, ask specifically about the candidate’s ability to stay on task. Make it clear when you’re interviewing that time management is one criterion that is included in employee evaluations. Include it in everyone’s job descriptions.

It should even start earlier than that. You undoubtedly have to set management goals for your department or division. If you keep those in mind as you’re envisioning the people who can help you meet them, you’re more likely to find—and hire—the candidates who get things done.

Rein in meetings. “Meetings” isn’t usually mentioned in studies as one of the most egregious time-wasters, but it always makes the list of the top 10 or 20. This may seem passing strange since meetings are usually work-related activities.

But there are good reasons why employees and managers alike groan about them. They’re often:

  • Too long, because their leader isn’t facilitating them well.
  • Too short, which forces workers to have additional conversations outside of the meeting to resolve everything.
  • Too unfocused, which is again caused by poor facilitation, as well as poor planning and lack of leadership skills.
  • Set an example for your employees who are charged with scheduling and expediting meetings. You know that when staff members are in meetings, they aren’t getting anything else done. Respect their time, and ask them to respect yours by keeping meetings as brief and as on-topic as possible. If your model doesn’t rub off on other team leaders, hold a training session on the topic.

Always challenge your employees. Your employees can’t waste time if they don’t have it to waste.  You don’t have to overload them to keep them on task, but it’s your job to learn about their work skills and speed, recognize problems, and make adjustments when necessary.

Unless you’re supervising an assembly line with strictly-enforced break times, there’s going to be some time-wasting in your office (you probably do some of it yourself). Trust your employees to know how much is enough, but don’t let one or two shirkers drag down the overall productivity level of your department. It’s bad for employee morale, and it’s bad for your business.

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