No worker can stay on task 100% of the time; especially in our digital age where it’s easy to hop online to post a Tweet, update Facebook or get lost clicking through slideshows of failed red carpet fashion looks.
Despite the weak labor market forcing employers to demand workers do more with less, a recent survey from Salary.com found that the amount of time Americans waste at work jumped 5% from last year. Talking with co-workers was the biggest time killer followed by surfing the web and using social media. When it comes to surfing the web, news sites are the No.1 culprit of taking up workers’ time.
To no one’s surprise, the industry with the most wasted time is government followed closely by the energy and utility industries. Employees on the West coast tend to waste more time than their East coast counterparts.
What’s more, the survey also found that 69% of respondents are unhappy in their job and 77% are considering looking for a new job.
In light of this data, employers really need to consider ways to keep their people engaged, happy and productive if they want to succeed in this economy. In my conversation with Abby Euler, general manager of Salary.com, we discussed some tips for managers to consider to keeping workers both happy and productive:
Take The Pulse. Not feeling appreciated or challenged were top reasons employees were actively looking for new jobs. More often than not, managers and executives don’t really have their finger on the pulse of what’s going on with their employers. They are so wrapped up in keeping their own heads above water that they forget about those who actually do the work.
When managers are too engaged in their work, they aren’t leading their employees. Successful leadership starts with having conversations. Every manger should be having one-on-one conversations with their direct reports on a weekly basis to get regular updates on productivity and needed resources. The more time managers spend engaging their team, the less likely their workers are to jump ship.
Be Flexible. The survey found that most of the slacking off at work occurred between 3:00 and 5:00 pm. Knowing this, managers should slot this time for meetings, breaks, or urge workers to take leave during these hours.
With the exception of some jobs, employers can be far more flexible than they realize. Successful companies focus on getting the work done, not time punched on the clock. Euler says there isn’t such a thing as “work-life balance,” it’s more about creating the right work-life blend. There are some personal tasks that have to be completed during work hours, and employers should try to be accommodating.
It’s also important that employers pay attention to how people work and try to find ways to work with the natural strengths and rhythms of stars instead of working blindly against them.
Be Selfish. The survey found 43% of employees claim their No.1 time killer is talking with coworkers. This is hard for managers to combat because everyone wants their ear. As important as it is to engage workers, it’s also important to disconnect from time to time to get centered.
Euler says managers need to “be selfish with [their] time” to remain sane and need to learn how to differentiate between idle chatter and quality engagement. Managers shouldn’t be afraid to close their door or even work out of the office periodically to get work done.
“The notion of wasting time at work in its essence is subjective,” says Euler. However, it is an issue managers need to take into account. We no longer live in a 9-to-5 world where the divide between work time and personal time is clear. Time is something we can never get back, so be sure to use it wisely.
Michael “Dr. Woody” Woodward, PhD is a CEC certified executive coach trained in organizational psychology. Dr. Woody is author of The YOU Plan: A 5-step Guide to Taking Charge of Your Career in the New Economy and the new on-line course The YOU Plan for Career Change on Udemy. Dr. Woody is the founder of Human Capital Integrated (HCI), a firm focused on management and leadership development. Dr. Woody also sits on the advisory board of the Florida International University Center for Leadership. Follow Dr. Woody on Twitter and Facebook.