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Top 5 time wasters in the workplace + how to avoid them

6 min read

Wasted time at work can negatively influence your company culture and harm your business’s bottom line. The truth is that time spent on meaningless activities complicates things for your entire team.  It frustrates employees, prevents individuals from getting ahead, and causes a chain reaction of communication and organizational problems. In other words, time wasters make it complicated for you and your team to move forward and achieve goals.

In this article, we’ll first go through the meaning of time wasters at work. Then, we’ll go through some of the most common time-wasting activities at work. Lastly, we’ll provide strategic solutions to avoid time wasters in the workplace. If you are wondering how to identify time wasters and eliminate them from your work environment, then keep reading, this article is for you.

Time wasters definition

Everyone needs time to take a break and momentarily focus attention on something else. A few minutes of break time throughout the workday is good for mental well-being and can even boost productivity levels. However, there’s a difference between taking a short mental break and letting distractions take over.

Time wasters are activities that distract employees from getting their work done. Generally speaking, there are two kinds of time wasters in the workplace: 1) time-wasting activities that are due to the company’s processes and 2) external distractions that are due to an employee’s life outside of work.

Top 5 time wasters in the workplace

When it comes to increasing efficiency and boosting productivity levels, it’s crucial to first identify where time is being spent. In this section, we’ll provide some of the most common time wasters in the workplace. Feel free to go through these examples and use them as a checklist of sorts to identify and target principal time wasters in your company.

Unnecessary meetings

While meetings can be extremely useful to touch base and make sure that everyone’s up to speed with projects, excessive and/or disorganized meetings can do more harm than good. Simply put, for meetings to be effective, there needs to be a clear agenda and objectives beforehand. 

Otherwise, employees can lose hours, or even days in unnecessary meetings. Meanwhile, they are forced to leave important projects and tasks on the back burner. As a result, everyone walks away with extra stress and is burdened by built-up work. Not exactly a recipe for success!

A good way to tackle this issue is by creating a company meeting policy that requires workers to provide a clear overview of what the meeting will accomplish. If the organizer doesn’t make this clear ahead of time, employees should feel encouraged to ask before attending meetings. 

Ideally, meetings should occupy a maximum of 20% of employees’ time. To reduce the number of weekly meetings, make sure that only the appropriate employees receive invitations. Additionally, it’s in your best interests to separate mandatory meetings–such as performance reviews and departmental quarterly updates–from meetings that are optional.

If all else fails, try setting a time limit of 30 to 45 minutes for each meeting. This will help to ensure that organizers plan and have everything organized ahead of time.

Tedious administrative tasks

A big portion of time wasters are due to excessive administrative tasks, such as employee time tracking with Excel timesheets. Ideally, you’ll want to free employees from as much of this “busy work” as possible so they can zero in on more pressing concerns. In order to increase productivity, time spent on company administrative tasks should be kept to a minimum.

Here are some repetitive tasks that can hinder employee productivity:

  • Manually filling spreadsheets instead of using timesheet software
  • Using an Excel schedule template to keep track of employee shifts
  • Manually filling payslips, rather than automatically generating them
  • Communicating time off requests, company updates, and policy changes through email requests
  • Storing (and finding) paper employee files and documents

If your company is spending too much time on administrative tasks, the best solution is to automate as much as possible. However, there are many ways to do this and it can be difficult to know where to begin. We’ll include some of the most recommendable and reliable options below.

Unclear communication

While cutting down on meetings and manual tasks, you’ll want to make sure that you aren’t losing good internal communications practices in the process. The key to this is to use the right mediums of communication and to be as direct and clear as possible.

As a general rule of thumb, it’s best to take a minimalistic approach and communicate company-wide notifications with one centralized system. Having too many systems and tools for communication can be overwhelming ad exhausting to keep up with.  

Decide which platforms will be used for what and stick with it. Keep in mind that emails can often get buried over time and excessive slack channels often create information overload. Inevitably, these problems can lead to wasted time. To make communication crystal clear, keep things simple and straightforward.

Inadequate technology

Investing in your company means investing in the right tools. Too often, companies miss out on growth opportunities simply because they lack the right tools. For employees to be productive, they need to have tools that allow them to complete their work with maximum efficiency. 

Make sure that employees have the right computers, phones, headsets, and software installed to get their jobs done. This is even more crucial for remote teams who rely on these tools to be speedy and well-functioning. In the case that your team is spread out in various remote locations, consider offering them a stipend to help them set up their home office. Additionally, look into remote employee time tracking tools, such as electronic time card apps and facial clocking systems to ensure that remote employees have a secure means to clock in and count the hours they’ve worked.

Outside interruptions

With the plethora of chat tools, apps, and social media outlets that companies have nowadays, it’s easy to get interrupted by pings and push notifications. This form of task-switching can make it impossible for employees to deeply focus on any one task. In fact, a recent study by the University of California revealed that it could take approximately 23 minutes to refocus on a task after being interrupted by a notification.

Needless to say, interruptions are a huge contributor to wasted time and poor productivity. To combat this problem, try encouraging employees to block off quiet hours in their work day. During this time, they can silence notifications and turn off Slack to focus on tasks that require deep concentration.

Steps to eliminate time wasters and boost efficiency

Now that we’ve covered some of the biggest challenges and time wasters to look out for, let’s go over how to eliminate time wasters at work. In addition to the solutions that were provided in the previous section, here are some alternative strategies.

Encourage employees to carefully track hours worked

Having employees track their own hours is beneficial for everyone. First, it provides employees with a closer understanding of how much time they spend on each task. Employee clock in systems provide employees with freedom and autonomy, thus helping them develop better time management skills.

Employers can also benefit from employees managing their own time via electronic time clocks. It simplifies the time tracking process and removes the need to control and strictly monitor how employees spend each hour of their day. 

When employees clock in, that’s their time to be busy and focused. If there is a distraction outside of work or they need to take a break, they can simply clock out. Easy, right?

Provide employees with flexible scheduling options

In order to reduce time wasters, it might feel intuitively correct to crack down and monitor how employees spend every minute of their day. However, this form of micromanagement can actually be counterproductive, cause excessive stress, and even lead to high employee turnover.

It can be a much wiser move to increase the flexibility employees have with their schedules, rather than restrict it. Many companies provide staff with options like 9/80 work schedules or 4-day work weeks. Both of these give employees the option to have work hours that fit their personal needs. In other words, fewer distractions and interferences due to scheduling conflicts. 

Say goodbye to time wasters at work

We’ve gone through the basics of how to avoid time wasters and distractions. And we know that steering clear of distractions is much easier said than done. Luckily, there is one big way to better manage time spent at your company. That’s where Factorial’s all-in-one software comes in.

With our comprehensive software, you can automate and streamline tasks like employee time tracking and clock-in, time off requests, document management, and more. What’s more, it’s designed to build better internal communications and to make processes smoother along the way. A true all-in-one solution for all of your business needs. Find out for yourself and get started with Factorial’s free trial today.

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