Bad habits in the workplace are costly – they waste time, cause annoyance, impede productivity and can have a detrimental effect on employee wellbeing.
As the average office worker is interrupted every 11 minutes – something that typically takes a further 25 minutes to get over and back on track – finding ways to minimise interruption and improve focus should be a business priority, particularly in a digital-rich, always-on culture.
Here are the six most common cause of office-based ‘time wasting’ and how to combat them.
- Brewing up – British workers spend 24 minutes each day fetching or making a tea or coffee, which equates to 190 days of lost productivity over a worker’s lifetime. Whether that’s the frequency of hot drinks that’s the problem, or the time it takes to make one, it’s hard to say but if you feel like your staff are preoccupied with making a cuppa – consider investing in more than one kettle or install a hot water tap for instant boiling water at the push of a button.
- Bad meeting practice – We’ve all seen this happen. A meeting is interrupted. There’s someone on the phone or something needs checking. While that person sorts the issue the rest of you are sat wasting time and twiddling your thumbs. Put a ‘do not disturb’ rule into practice. Unless it’s directly relevant to the meeting (or the office is ablaze) meetings should not be subject to external interruption.
- Going up. Going down – Employees typically lose 15 minutes each day while waiting for the lift. As more businesses encourage active working and provide collaborative work settings, movement within offices is set to increase and the amount of time wasted will too. The report suggests that if you’re travelling fewer than seven storeys it is far quicker (and certainly better for you) to take the stairs. Encourage employees to use their legs rather than the lift and, if you know there are high traffic routes through the office, make sure they are clear and easy to pass through.
- Stand up instead – One of the gripes you’ll hear in many offices is how much time is spent in internal meetings. Make every minute really count by holding them standing up. You’ll find people become much more succinct, concise and aware of time. This approach puts the focus back on agreeing actions rather than languishing in chairs.
- Searching for files – Figures suggest that the average office worker spends 2.5 hours each day searching for information and that 49% of employees have trouble locating documents. Help employees to be more efficient and lessen their frustrations by improving document management systems, on-site filing and information-sharing – this might involve moving to cloud-based file storage or centralised storage.
- Interruptions and etiquette – Some studies have suggested that up to two hours per day are lost due to interruptions. That might be your colleagues wanting to chat, an impromptu meeting or other departments needing your input. Take charge of your day by wearing headphones to minimise noise, switching off your email to minimise disruption or the simplest of all, just saying ‘now’s not a good time’.