Take ordinary Facebooking, the 2016 presidential election, and the impending start of March Madness; add in a dose of warmer weather with spring break right around the corner, and a deluge of technology and employers everywhere have a serious case of the “productivity blues.”
Surveys have shown that as many as 70 percent of employees admit to wasting time at work on a daily basis. The amount of time wasted ranges from 30 minutes to several hours and includes activities like talking with co-workers, online activities and texting. The same surveys show that the reasons given by workers for why they waste time were not being challenged enough, not having an incentive to work harder, lack of job satisfaction and being downright bored.
Assuming that the surveys are correct, it’s not the undeniable draw of college basketball or the burning need to know whether your Facebook friend found her missing three-legged cat that leads to all that wasted time, but rather that the job itself is missing something.
So, what’s an employer to do? Short of eliminating technology from the workplace, spying on employees’ online behavior and disciplining the March Madness fanatics – none of which I can actually recommend – here are a few suggestions on how to get your employees back to work:
- Set clear, big-picture expectations so that every employee knows the company’s vision and goals. Let each employee know his or her specific role in achieving the company’s goals and base performance evaluations and informal feedback on those contributions.
- Identify, in advance, times when employees may have an increased temptation to waste time. Then, find ways to curb the temptation. For example, March Madness. Rather than forbidding employees from watching games in their offices, wheel a TV or two into the lunch room and invite employees for a mid-afternoon break to catch-up on the scores. Turn the potential for time-wasting into an opportunity for employees to socialize and bond over their common passion for the Hoosiers (insert Wildcats or Boilermakers, if you must).
- Reward employees who maintain or improve productivity close in time to the performance. Many employers offer productivity bonuses at the end of the year, which can certainly serve a motivational purpose all year long. But, providing more periodic bonuses may help to remind employees that their performance is being considered regularly and that good work does not go unnoticed.
Of course, if an employee has a chronic problem and is not getting the job done in a satisfactory manner, counseling and discipline, up to and including termination, may be appropriate. Before taking those steps, consider what proactive measures you may be able to take to get the job done without losing otherwise solid employees.