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Productivity Suffers When Workers Are Distracted or Disengaged

not-working-squareDo you ever feel like employees aren’t living up to your expectations? Do productivity numbers remain consistent – or even falter over time? If so, your office clearly isn’t as productive as it should be. The key to getting out of this rut is identifying where your employees are wasting their time.

The Common Causes of Workplace Disengagement

According to a 2015 Gallup Poll, just 31.5 percent of American employees report being “engaged” in their jobs. While this number is actually the highest reading since 2000, the troubling fact remains that 51 percent of employees are “not engaged” and 17.5 percent are “actively disengaged.” These aren’t numbers you want to see, but if you employ a large number of people, the chances are pretty high that some of your workers aren’t meeting expectations.

While some people simply don’t have what it takes to stay engaged – and this is more of a hiring issue than anything else – the truth is that most employees are disengaged due to a few common causes. “It’s time to take action,” says Revel Systems, a leader in POS software, “and make your employees more engaged, resulting in less turnover, better employee and customer experiences, and thus more sales.”

Let’s highlight a handful of the common culprits to better understand what’s going on.

1. Email

Email is designed to help businesses communicate more efficiently. Unfortunately, it often has the opposite effect. In many offices across the country, email actually ends up killing productivity and zapping precious hours from employees who are already bombarded with responsibilities.

Here are a few situations in which email actually kills productivity:

  • Company-wide communications. Companies often send large “blast” emails to everyone in the organization. While the intentions are fine, the result is a lot of meaningless back and forth conversation and distraction.
  • Long-winded emails.  If you ever catch yourself writing a long-winded email (i.e. anything longer than two or three paragraphs), you probably shouldn’t be sending an email. Not only does this take time to write, but it also takes time for the recipient to read and respond. Instead, pick up the phone and make a call. It’s much more efficient.
  • Too much clutter. Many employees are notoriously bad at deleting, archiving, and organizing emails. As a result, their inboxes become like messy closets that are distracting and worthless.

How can you ensure email doesn’t kill your company’s productivity? Use a messaging app, establish rules about who gets CC’d on emails, and encourage people to be as brief as possible.

2. Text Messages and Smartphones

According to a recent survey by CareerBuilder, the use of cellphones in the office is the number one productivity killer. A whopping 52 percent of survey respondents claimed that talking and texting on their phones is what costs them the most time.

Specifically, 83 percent of workers have smartphones, and 82 percent keep their devices within eye contact while working. This means they’re distracted every single time the phone lights up or makes a sound.

3. Gossip and Workplace Drama

You may be surprised to learn that one of the biggest productivity killers in the average office is gossip and workplace drama. This actually came in second on the CareerBuilder survey, with 42 percent saying gossip ruins productivity.

This is a hard problem to solve, since gossip, by its very nature, happens in secrecy. The key is to call out gossip when it’s present and solve conflict as soon as possible. While it’s tempting to pretend you don’t hear things, the longer you let issues fester, the bigger the impact they’ll have down the road.

4. Not Enough Breaks

Ironically, one of the biggest productivity killers is a lack of breaks. While this may seem strange, it actually makes sense. When employees don’t get adequate break time, they end up compensating by using work time as break time. So, instead of fielding phone calls, grabbing a snack, or surfing the internet during break, they end up doing that stuff while they’re on the clock.

When employees have adequate breaks and are allowed to handle personal responsibilities during them, they will feel more refreshed and be more engaged during the hours they work. As a rule of thumb, employees should get a 10- or 15-minute break every two or three hours.

Take Control of Your Employees

Instead of pointing the finger at your employees and blaming them for being disengaged, maybe you need to own up to your mistakes and establish an environment that’s more conducive to productivity.

While nobody wants to have an office that’s strict and boring, the reality is that your company needs some structure. It’s the only possible way to engage employees, increase productivity, and grow your bottom line.

Now that you understand the common causes of disengagement, you can respond accordingly.


About Jenna Cyprus

Jenna is a freelance writer who loves the outdoors; especially camping while relaxing with her family.

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