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Wasted Employee Time Adds Up: Here's How to Fix It

Your team wouldn't be idle if you gave them anything more important to do.
Wasted Employee Time Adds Up: Here's How to Fix It
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4 min read
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Employees want to be productive, but sometimes the allure of time-wasting activities is just too tempting. When that happens, it’s up to leaders to keep everyone on track.

According to research from Salary.com, 89 percent of employees waste at least some time at work every day. Thirty-one percent waste about 30 minutes, but the top 10 percent waste three or more hours each day. That extrapolates to more than 15 hours per week of wasted productivity, shedding light on the immense costs associated with poor time management.

The people who waste more than half their workdays on non-work activities are far beyond the help of time management training. Their employers don’t have enough work for them, or these employees need to find new roles.

This guide is for everyone else. While occasional breaks are great for the mind, excessive time waste leads to lost productivity, lower morale and decreased employee retention. Even employees who would otherwise be high performers can get caught in time-wasting traps, so leaders need to step in before things get out of hand.

To avoid low productivity and improve employee time management, follow these tips.

1. Set specific productivity goals.

Employees -- even the best self-starters -- need objectives to work toward. Leaders who don’t set specific goals invite their workers to waste time. Whether it’s a sales quota or the creation of a new marketing campaign, give employees something concrete to achieve.

Don’t micromanage, but do provide consistent feedback to let employees know when they’re on the right track -- and when they aren’t. People who don’t feel like they have the support of their managers are more likely to feel stressed than they are to feel motivated. Give workers the tools they need, and make yourself available for questions and feedback; then, step back and let employees work toward the goals you helped them set.

Related: Why Our Brains Like Short-Term Goals

2. Schedule tasks in chunks.

The same type of work should take about the same amount of time to complete. Help employees create timelines for different types of projects so they know how quickly things should move across their desks.

Say your marketing team creates a lot of case studies to show potential clients. Help the team develop a schedule that follows projects from client interview to content development to graphic design. Determine how long each step in the process takes, then assign a deadline to each part of the larger task.

When employees understand how long projects take and how long it takes to complete each piece, they don’t have to scramble at the last minute. This steady stream of effort prevents workers from falling into a cycle of working overtime to compensate for earlier procrastination.

Related: Optimize Your Daily Schedule for Maximum Productivity -- Here's How

3. Show employees how their work affects the whole.

Employees who waste time typically do so because they don’t see the point in working faster. To them, the company and their co-workers do just fine, no matter how well they do their job.

In this case, the issue isn’t about time management -- it’s about employee engagement. Keep employees in the loop about what the company is accomplishing, and tie their work to those achievements. Recognize the contributions of outstanding employees and departments. Constantly communicate the mission of the company and how employees help further that mission.

Financial bonuses for a job well done are nice, but people respond even more positively to personal praise. Write handwritten thank-you notes to employees who go above and beyond. Include employees on customer communications when they solve a problem or provide great service. The more employees see the effects of their work in action, the more motivated they become to work hard.

Related: How to Engage Employees Through Your Company Vision Statement

This is especially true when it comes to teams working together. Some employees struggle to see the connection between their work and the company’s objectives, but when they see how their productivity (or lack thereof) affects their co-workers, they feel more motivated to help their team thrive.

Employee time management has a cumulative effect. Engaged employees who get things done inspire others to follow suit. Those who have little to do (and those who don’t do what they should) bring others down. Use this advice to develop an office filled with productive, time-conscious teammates.

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