4 Steps to Dealing with Wasted Work Time

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. The remai­ning 1% of mail that required his personal input are discussed during a 4–10 minute daily phone call with his assistant.
  4. 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?

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