Why Employees Waste Time at Work and How to Fix the Problem

You Can Solve the Problem of Employees Wasting Time at Work

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The easiest option for any manager is to blame their employees for wasting time at work through poor time management that results in quality slips and missed deadlines. This translates into poor customer service, strained internal relationships, and ultimately loss of business.

If left unchecked, it can become a nightmare for the Human Resources staff, who are then overwhelmed with performance and disciplinary issues, higher than normal turnover, and continuous recruiting to fill the vacancies. This is why it is so important to realize first why employees are wasting time, then taking the correct actions to prevent it from happening in the future.

Where Employees Waste the Most Time

In back-to-back surveys conducted by Salary.com in 2012 and 2013—the most recent data available—regarding the wasted time at work, the following was discovered:

  • Sixty-four percent (in 2012) to 70 percent (in 2013) of survey respondents admitted wasting time at work on a daily basis. Time wasted ranged from 30 minutes to several hours each day.
  • Top time-wasting activities were: 43 percent talking with co-workers, 34 percent online activities, and 4 percent each on texting and personal calls.
  • The most significant reasons given by workers for why they waste time were: 35 percent were not challenged enough, 32 percent felt that there was no incentive to work harder, 30 percent got no satisfaction from what they do, and 23 percent were just downright bored.

The Reasons Why Employees Waste Time at Work

In both the 2012 and 2013 surveys, employees identified too many meetings as the biggest waste of time within their workplace. Other interesting responses to the survey question, “What’s the biggest distraction in your workplace?” were:

  • Inefficient co-workers: 17 percent
  • Other co-workers: 17 percent
  • Office politics: 13 percent
  • Busy work: 13 percent
  • Other: 11 percent
  • And finally: My Boss: 8 percent

Blaming your employees may be the easiest way to explain the time wasting. It is easier, but much less productive in the long run, which is why more teams need to look inward for the source of their employee's dissatisfaction.

Optimization Starts With the Leadership Team

An effective leader is only as good as the team they develop (properly train) and lead (set expectations and goals). If the leader is not effective, the team will not perform well on a consistent basis.

It’s no wonder that when surveyed as to why they waste time, dissatisfied employees give answers like “not challenged enough,” “no incentive to work harder” or “lack of job satisfaction.” Leaders get paid to produce results through the combined efforts of their team members. When the leader does a poor job of leading, the team decides what they will do and when they feel like doing it.

Heading Off Employee Time Wasting at Work

The solution to the wasting time challenge starts at the time of hire. If a leader doesn’t have a clear vision of where they want to take their organization in the future, then there is no way they can hire the right people. Many large companies have clear methods of delivering the leadership employees need in order to maximize productivity.

Team Members Need Clear Expectations:

Once employees are hired, make sure that each of your team members knows specifically what they are supposed to do and how and when they are supposed to do it. Most importantly, each team member must understand why they do what they do. They need to know how what they do fits into the vision you are creating.

When people see how what they do contributes to the total effort, it’s easier for them to rally around the cause and see their purpose. Teams that have a purpose, and perceive their contribution to the purpose, tend not to get distracted and waste time at work.

Set, Communicate, and Measure Performance Expectations:

The leader needs to recognize how to set and communicate realistic performance expectations for what needs to be done. This needs to occur in such a way that the leader and the employees share a mutual picture of what constitutes the desired outcome.

Follow Up and Hold Team Members Accountable for Accomplishing Required Goals:

Once set and communicated, the leader must follow through and hold the team accountable for meeting those expectations. If employees know that their performance is being measured objectively, consistently and in a constructive way, they are less likely to wander off and waste time.

Adopt these three major measures and you will significantly reduce the time that your employees waste at work.