The success of your business depends on keeping productivity levels high. You probably think that you do a pretty good job of this, but the truth is that there’s always room for improvement.
The following ten workplace practices are known to waste time — and are widespread in many organizations. But managers don’t always realize how much time these seemingly benign practices waste.
So, read through this list of ten habits that waste time — and think about whether you do any of these and how you might improve workflow by making some changes.
1. Inviting the Wrong People to Meetings
Getting input from a variety of people is a good idea, but each person invited to a meeting should be there for a reason. If a worker isn’t there to provide some input or to learn something new, they’d be better off working on their other tasks. Likewise, if a key stakeholder is not present at a meeting that requires their input, you may find that the meeting stalls.
As you plan any meeting, think carefully about who really needs to be there. Do you need an entire department present or could you get by with a representative who will relay important information to the rest of the team? Are all of the decision makers able to attend? If not, you may be better off rescheduling.
2. Forgetting to Plan Your Meetings
According to TED speakers David Grady and Jason Fried, executives waste approximately 7.8 hours each week in meetings that are poorly run. That may not seem like a lot, but over the course of a year, it’s over two months of time that could have been spent on something more productive.
Each meeting you hold should have an agenda and a list of goals. If you’re meeting just to get updates on a project, you might ask yourself whether there are better ways to get updates.
3. Copying Everyone on Emails
Each day, employees sort through a virtual mountain of emails that are unnecessary. An article in SmallBizDaily reports the average worker spends around 474 working hours completing this task each year. People often think they’re doing co-workers and managers a favor when they include them in email conversations, but most of the time, it’s unnecessary.
Encourage your workers to only send emails to the people who need to read them. Tell them to pick up the phone to ask a question or resolve a problem rather than going back and forth with emails. If someone does eventually need to be brought into a conversation, they can read the full thread at that time. They don’t need to be following the conversation as it happens.
Study after study shows multitasking doesn’t work, yet many people think they’re the exception to the rule. Today’s connected society makes things worse by pressuring people to respond to emails, texts, and phone calls as soon as possible. If your employees are constantly trying to do more than one thing at a time, they’re probably not doing any of those tasks well.
Create a company culture that encourages workers to be more mindful and focus on a single task at a time. Don’t expect immediate responses to emails, and be sure managers are asking workers when they can finish a task rather than making the worker drop what they’re doing to work on something new.
5. Avoiding Collaboration Tools
Almost everyone hates learning a new system, but modern collaboration tools can help workers stay on task, see what needs to be done, and talk with others about the project. Project managers can easily track various aspects of a project and assign tasks to different workers.
There are plenty of options out there, so it’s important to look around to see what might work best for your company. For instance, Workzone is a project management software program that helps you see who’s taking charge of tasks and how far they’ve progressed. Trello also handles task-planning, but it looks more like a virtual cork-board. Slack, on the other hand, makes it easy for workers to chat about a project and share files.
6. Sticking with Outdated Technology
Replacing all of the computers in a company is expensive, so many businesses try to save on costs by keeping computers that are several years old. The downside to this decision is that workers waste time and frequently find themselves saying, “Bear with me. My computer is being slow.”
Older computers can take twice as long to start up. Workers take longer to download the files they need, open up necessary software programs, or navigate to the websites they need for research. It may not seem like a big deal, but it it’s important to remember that time spent on menial administrative tasks is time not spent interacting with customers or doing more productive work.
Include software and technological updates in your budget. You don’t necessarily need to update things every year, but you should plan to replace things before they waste time and start holding your employees back.
As a manager, you feel the need to stay on top of everything your employees do. If they make mistakes, those mistakes can reflect poorly on you. This pressure to stay involved throughout the process can lead to micromanaging, and micromanaging is rarely an effective use of time.
In fact, it means you’re spending a large portion of your working hours checking up on others to make sure they’re doing the job correctly. Think about all the ways you waste time micromanaging, and how you could do better things for your company if you were able to focus more time on other things.
Employees also become less productive under micromanagement. They get held up waiting for approval before moving on to the next step. They don’t have the freedom to make decisions on their own, so they have to wait for direction. These are all small ways a company culture wastes time (and hurts morale).
It’s time to take a step back. Empower your employees to make small decisions on their own. As you gain trust in them, they can even begin to make bigger decisions. When hiring new workers, look for people who are confident self-starters. These people don’t need to be micromanaged, and hiring these workers allows everyone to focus on their jobs.
8. Letting Good Employees Leave
A study by the Center for American Progress shows the cost of replacing any employee is between 20 and 213% of that person’s salary, depending on the person’s job duties and skills. Beyond the financial costs, though, losing a good employee can be one of the biggest ways for a company to waste time. It can take several weeks to a year for a new worker to reach the same productivity levels as the person who left.
Work hard to keep your best employees. Offer an attractive benefits package to reduce the chances that a good employee will look elsewhere. Make sure that there are ways for people to advance in their careers. When a good worker gives notice, ask why they’re leaving. Don’t be afraid to make a counteroffer to keep them in your company.
9. Letting Bad Employees Stay
At the same time, the high cost of replacing an employee sometimes means companies keep workers who aren’t working out. This is a mistake. A worker who doesn’t have the right skill set might take twice as long to complete a task as someone who knows how to do the work. A disgruntled employee may start to poison the minds of other workers, decreasing overall productivity. These people need to go.
Set clear expectations for your workers, and let them know termination is a possibility if they don’t meet their goals. Zappos even goes so far as to offer new employees “exit payments” if they decide Zappos isn’t the right company fit after a few weeks.
10. Creating Too Many Rules
Rules can help your business run smoothly, but they can also slow things down. For instance:
- A rule that requires employees to take breaks helps workers feel refreshed and more productive throughout the day. However, having set times for these breaks might mean a worker has to interrupt their flow, and it can take them a while to get back into things.
- A rule forbidding workers from working at home may have seemed like a good idea in the past because it was hard to be sure that person was actually working, but modern technology can track work from home as well as it can track work within the office. A rule like this stops parents from getting work done when kids are sick.
Continually review your company’s policies to see if rules are helping or hurting productivity. Encourage workers to speak up when they would like to see changes. Sometimes, all it takes is for one person to point out a problem with a rule to force management to take action.
How Does Your Company Waste Time?
Do you see yourself, your employees, or your company in an of these ten workplace practices that waste time? It’s easy for any of us to get stuck in a rut doing things the way they’ve always been done. But, as the research shows, these methods aren’t always the most effective. By keeping your eyes and ears open, you may find better ways to do things.