Despite the constant ‘busyness’ that dominates life today, statistics show that we’re actually wasting more time than ever on trivial work activities. The computer was initially created to save time by automating tasks and doing things faster and better. However, as new apps and software solutions become available, the fear is that more employees will spend time on frivolous activities rather than work.
More technology, more solutions, and more tasks may mean a lot more time in front of the screen, but does not necessarily mean more work getting done. A study at Stanford found significant decreases in productivity per hour when working a greater number of hours.
So how can we maintain a high level of productivity during our hours at work?
Data on Wasted Work Time
Did you know that only about 60% of work time is actually spent productively?
- 40% of unproductive work time is spent on non-work related internet surfing, such as sending personal emails, browsing social networks and even looking at adult sites.
- 33% of work time is spent socializing with co-workers.
However, actual work time is also spent on unproductive activities. According to a study by Atlassian, the average worker:
- receives 304 business emails a week
- checks his or her email 36 times an hour
- spends 16 minutes refocusing after handling incoming emails
- loses 10 IQ points – the same as missing an entire night’s sleep – when fielding constant email
Furthermore, a Microsoft study found that workers average only three productive days per week, and 55% of the participants blame their software.
Are Meetings The Culprit of Wasted Work Time?
Many view meetings negatively, because they feel that meetings waste time – in fact, the Atlassian study shows that workers consider half of the meetings attended (average 62 a month!) a waste of time. That’s a whopping 31 hours a month spent in unproductive meetings. It is estimated that $37 Billion in salary costs is wasted on unnecessary meetings by US businesses alone.
But are meetings the true culprit? Or is it the organizers who schedule meetings with no set agenda, invite people unnecessarily who are not required for the meeting, and discuss items that could have been clarified with a quick phone call instead of a face-to-face meeting?
4 Ways to Deal with Wasted Work Time
Companies want to make a profit – that’s no secret. However, they are using outdated mindsets and systems to conduct business. It is time for companies to embrace new methods that use technology in ways that save time and reduce business overhead.
1. Reduce Interruptions
80% of interruptions at work are considered trivial: co-workers who want to chat; phone calls to confirm whether you have sent or received an email that was not that important to start with; someone stopping by the office to get your feedback about something that could’ve easily waited until you left work… The list goes on.
Working remotely is a great way to get some silent solitude to enable you (or your employees) to get on with the work at hand. Remote working also motivates workers to be more productive when they are at work, as they have a lot more time to enjoy living life when they don’t spend two hours a day commuting, or being interrupted.
As more people become eager to improve their work/life balance, remote working continues to grow in popularity. Up to 80% of employees see remote working as a job perk. According to Global Workplace Analytics, businesses lose $600 billion per year in workplace distractions, which are nearly completely eliminated by remote working. Computer mogul Compaq increased their productivity by 15%-45% when they allowed employees to work remotely, while JDEdwards teleworkers who work remotely, are up to 25% more productive than their office-based peers.
2. Reduce Email Overload
Tim Ferriss, author of The Four Hour Work Week, has a unique method of dealing with email overload. Instead of spending 6-8 hours a day checking his mail, he skips reading his email for days or even weeks with only 4-10 minutes at night. Here a quick breakdown of how he does it:
- He has multiple email addresses that filters emails from blog readers, media, friends and family, and so on. He gives a default email address to new acquaintances, and that goes to his remote working assistant.
- Since 99% of his emails fall into categories of inquiries that have set questions and responses, his assistants can check those mail boxes twice daily.
- The remaining 1% of mail that required his personal input are discussed during a 4-10 minute daily phone call with his assistant.
- When he’s traveling, his assistant leaves a voicemail in numerical order, and Tim can then respond accordingly via email.
If you’re a small business owner and find yourself overwhelmed with email overload, consider using this system. You can learn more about Tim Ferriss’ system here.
3. Managing Mind Numbing Meetings
Instead of a daily meeting to start the day (and suck the energy right out of your employees), do a weekly or monthly online meeting that covers all the important points. Most small businesses don’t require daily meetings, as communication is much easier nowadays.
Why an online meeting? Because it can be done anytime, wherever employees have access to a smartphone or computer and internet access. Nobody has to travel to the office and goes hand-in-hand with any remote working arrangements, which means that it not only saves valuable time, but travel costs. Even if everyone is in the same office or building, the benefit of a quick online meeting is that all attendees can join without leaving their desk.
4. Create a Social Media Policy
Consider a social media and email communication policy for your employees. While you want your employees to remain focused 100% of the time, minds do wonder and thoughts do stray. Social media and its easy accessibility is a source of such distractions. But fighting it is a hard ask when it’s human nature for employees’ minds to wonder for a minute here and there. Rather than fight it, it is possible to harness it and turn it into a benefit.
Studies have shown that microbreaks are in fact beneficial for productivity. Orca Health say that a microbreak of 30 seconds to 5 minutes can improve mental acuity and reduce fatigue. Blocking social media sites is a waste of time, especially considering just about everyone can access the sites from their phones anyway. Make the sites available to them, but communicate a clear policy that outlines the company’s views on taking microbreaks as well as the types of sites they may use, and the amount of time they spend on it. Enabling their quick social media fix could actually be beneficial and could result in greater focus when they return to their tasks a minute later.
Companies need to accept the changing work climate, and help their employees to build healthy time management habits from the top down.
Discussion: as an employer have you found ways to reduce wasted work time, or as an employee, how has your company created an environment that fosters productivity?