If your company’s management team is frustrated by missed deadlines, frequent overtime hours, constant turnover, and low morale, it’s time to scan for hidden work productivity killers. It’s tempting to just point the blame on employees for missed deadlines, but that’s usually an ineffective management approach and won’t solve the problem in the long term. Missed deadlines and excessive overtime can be symptoms of unrealistic expectations and poor planning, but they can also be caused by other hidden factors.
Look to the bigger picture of how your company uses time. Company culture and workplace environment set the standard for employee behavior. You can train your team to see time as a precious resource while they’re on the clock so they do what it takes to meet deadlines, or you can show them that time doesn’t matter by permitting an inefficient workplace environment to flourish. If you want to know the secret to a self-managing department that meets deadlines and anticipates future needs, take a look at this list of the hidden time wasters. Then decide if there are any ways that you could improve your company culture so that it isn’t sabotaging workplace productivity.
Watch Out for These Work Productivity Killers
- Finger Pointing—When deadlines aren’t met, or clients cancel, there’s always someone around who wants to point the finger and decide who’s to blame. While a careful analysis is often helpful in avoiding repeated mistakes, spending too much time on lost opportunities and mistakes made in the workplace will lower morale and decrease productivity. Negativity and finger pointing are almost always seen in toxic work environments. Successful companies take a realistic look at what’s happened and learn from mistakes, but they spend more of their time and effort focused on current happenings and future goals.
- Unproductive Networking—It’s important to share thoughts, ideas, and expertise with your co-workers, but if your employees are talking with their coworkers at the water cooler all day, it’s eating up their productivity time. Encourage employees to to engage in productive networking, which includes connecting on professional networking sites like LinkedIn, paying for employees to attend industry events together, hosting team events and lunches, and encouraging your employees to follow industry thought leaders together as a team. These activities will build a strong and dynamic team focused on results.
- Ineffective Meetings—Good meetings elicit enthusiasm and inspire employees to do their best work. Bad meetings bore, demean, or rehash information everyone should already know. Each company will have different needs when it comes to meetings. Consider carefully whether meetings in your department are helping employees accomplish company goals or whether they’re contributing to declining productivity. If meetings are too long, employees may fall into a stupor or feel sluggish afterwards, which results in declining productivity for the rest of the day. If meetings are too short or infrequent, critical details are not communicated, mistakes are made, and employees lose a sense of that team spirit that can only come from meeting together. Experiment to find the right amount of meetings for your company and re-evaluate frequently to see if larger meetings could be broken up into smaller groups of more highly engaged employees.
- Unprofessional Work Environment—Are your meetings often held in coffee shops, on the phone (with background noise), or in other unprofessional locations? Occasional meetings at restaurants and coffee shops can be a refreshing change of scene and add a casual element to a work relationship, but if you’re competing with a loud talker at the next table at every meeting, it’s time to consider renting a conference room. If it’s a phone meeting, make sure phone connections are loud and clear; cell phone and Internet phone service can be spotty and may interfere with good communication. If people have to repeat information on a call, it is inefficient, so make sure every phone meeting can be heard and understood well by all critical parties.
- Lack of Direction—When management or executives fail to give sufficient direction for a project, it wastes everyone’s time. The classic example of this is a manager or client saying something like, “I don’t know what I want but I’ll know it when I see it,” and then asking for extensive revisions. Projects like this end up being redone over and over, which is a waste of the company’s resources. Have managers take the time to decide what is needed before assigning out a project. Spell out any definite requirements before the project is assigned (like the size of a billboard ad, for example, or the budget for an upcoming event that needs to be planned). If the project is truly open to creativity and you trust your employees’ instincts to create a good solution, you need to be prepared to respect your employees’ efforts and give them the creative freedom you originally promised.
The bottom line to all these workplace-generated time killers is that professionals at all levels must respect one another’s time in the workplace. If you want your employees to give your company their undivided attention, give them the same courtesy by providing clear direction, holding effective meetings, encourage productive networking, avoiding finger pointing and negativity, and ensuring that managers (or clients) are giving adequate direction for projects. By eliminating workplace productivity killers and instilling a new culture of positivity and excellence in your team, you can raise the level of productivity in your company.
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