Wasting time at work – how to identify and stop it?
April 12, 2021
Wasting time at work can lead to lower performance in creating high-quality, satisfactory products for customers. In effect, a company cannot reach its full potential. By gaining a deep understanding of where you are slowing down, you can empower yourself to become well-organized and more productive. And by using the right tools, you will be more in control of all your tasks.
Various sources state that only about 60% of working time is spent productively. Time wasted on distractions costs US companies nearly $650 billion a year.
What is a time waste at work?
Wasting time at work means that employees do not perform high priority tasks well, because instead they e.g.:
- work on less urgent tasks or those with lower priority;
- attend meetings where it is not essential;
- make useless phone calls and replies to too many emails;
- arrange personal phone calls and issues while working;
- browse the Internet and social media;
- work in a noisy environment.
Time waste at work in numbers
- Following various opinions on the Reddit forum, people lose roughly 1.5 to 4 hours each day, which means that a 40-hour working week can sometimes be as low as 20 hours of productive and efficient working time.
- According to a survey conducted by Salary.com of 750 employees, when seeking detailed information on time lost at work, the same number of people – 31% – admitted to wasting between 30 minutes and 1 hour a day, and only 4% admitted to wasting more than half of their working day.
- The same survey shows that more than half of those polled people (53%) waste their time on various breaks that are not conducive to productivity.
- The Statista study found that as many as 80% of people consider talking to colleagues to be the most distracting element at work, and noise comes second (70%).
- Overwhelming job shifts distract 61% of employees, and 60% support the notion that frequent meetings harm productivity and shift focus away from priorities.
- Technologies created in the digital revolution have produced practices that generate massive inefficiencies in companies. 56% of over half of the surveyed employees believe that social media has great potential to waste time.
- According to official time management statistics, the overall time spent on regaining concentration is 2 hours a day, which seems to be a high price, even for seemingly innocuous short entertainments.
6 time-wasters at work:
Whether a team leader is trying to increase productivity or employees themselves want to find a way to work more efficiently, identifying time wasters is the first step to minimise them.
1. Electronic mail
This tool of great utility can also be a colossal waste of time. An average employee sends and receives approximately 121 business emails every day. Reading and answering them can easily consume 28% of one’s working week. It also takes a long time to dig through old messages searching for a critical thread where someone shared a document.
There are also emails sent to everyone in a company even though they don’t have to be included. Since computers and cell phones alert you about every new message, it is inevitable to leave your current job to read it. These breaks distract employees from what’s important. To prevent this:
- create time slots for receiving mail, e.g. in the morning, around lunch, or at the end of each day;
- suggest to employees or colleagues to declare specific time slots for sending messages;
- avoid too long emails by imposing several characters and send only to those directly involved.
An average employee sends and receives approximately 121 business emails every day
2. Instant messaging
Increasingly, instant messaging tools such as large group chats are being used for corporate communication, replacing email for quick and casual conversations. They are great for group chats and team building. However, they can distract attention from the priority task. The devices emit notification sounds that interrupt work, again generating distraction and inefficiency.
In many cases, the information shared is not relevant to the majority of the team. Refocusing attention after distraction is not easy – 34% of employees say they would do more work if they uninstalled the chat platform for work.
According to Gloria Mark, a University of California digital scattering scientist, it takes up to 23 minutes to return after a distraction to entirely focus on the task at hand.
3. Unnecessary meetings
Meetings distract employees from productive work for an enormous amount of time. Each week, people spend a little over five hours in meetings. What’s even worse, 67% of employees say excessive panels prevent them from getting the job done right.
Employees often communicate with each other through digital tools such as Zoom and Skype. It results from a lack of definition of each position and department’s responsibilities and leads to many inquiries and interruptions. These disruptions mean a loss of productivity that can be of concern to business.
67% of employees say excessive panels prevent them from getting the job done right
There are many reasons why an employee tries to multitask simultaneously – from pressing deadlines through extra tasks to repeated work breaks. As a result, the same tasks take longer and can produce worse results.
Most people are physically incapable of focusing on more than one thing at a time. For most of us single-tasking is more beneficial than multitasking. Multifunctionality can cut your productivity by up to 40%.
5. Personal matters
Research shows that employees spend at least an hour and a half each day browsing their social media accounts while they are working. Over the course of a week it is 7.5 hours. Online shopping is also a common way to take a quick break at work. For example, 57% of US employees admit to shopping online even around the clock.
In addition, chatting with co-workers, using a messaging app, or making personal phone calls can inadvertently fill up a day. Studies find that workers spend an average of 56 minutes a day using their personal phones for non-work related activities.
Remove pop-ups and sound and light signals from your devices to avoid checking your emails and messages outside of the designated time slots. Get out of any unnecessary groups or ask third parties who send unwanted messages to stop.
Workers spend an average of 56 minutes a day using their personal phones for non-work related activities
6. Repetitive tasks
Employees spend hours a week carrying out tedious, low-value tasks. As a result, they do not devote their time and energy to worthwhile work according to their skills and knowledge. They waste time on repetitive tasks that can be automated. These are, e.g.:
- filling out manual work schedules;
- formatting spreadsheets;
- reporting tasks for the day.
Time and productivity tracking software can improve these dull activities. They precisely analyse activities and estimate working time, identifying lost time and ineffective activities. As a result, they reorganise processes and help improve performance. It is worth adding that as many as 79% of employees believe that their employers can monitor their work-related tasks.
How to identify inefficiencies and wasted time?
Reasons for wasting time at work:
- it isn’t known who is working on what;
- a highest priority projects are not being worked on;
- people lack the resources they need;
- there is an insufficient amount of information;
- the responsible party doesn’t report the progress of the project implementation;
- tasks aren’t delegated correctly;
- it isn’t clear if the work will be completed on time.
Results of wasting time at work:
- wastes time and money;
- there isn’t enough time for priority tasks;
- doesn’t do high-quality work;
- fails to meet deadlines due to a lack of organisation at work.
Once you have identified where and what time is being wasted, you can calculate how much time you can start devoting to more profitable activities in the future.
How to prevent the time waste at work?
1. Schedule time for deep, concentrated work
- reserve a block of time for the entire team without breaks;
- set a specific day with no appointments;
- encourage blocking time in your own schedules during continuous work;
- enter a signal (e.g. wearing headphones) that will inform others about a shutdown;
- enable a “do not disturb” mode when working remotely.
2. Plan your schedule well
Each meeting in the schedule must have a good plan and clear considerations on what will be discussed. Such a plan also ensures productive conversations and effective brainstorming.
It is helpful to be smart about identifying topics that are easy to discuss in your email. Think carefully about anything that is not ready for a group discussion. Do not involve everyone in the meetings, only interested people.
3. Arrange the order of the tasks to be undertaken
If you are most concentrated and productive in the morning, it is a pity to waste this particular time on low-level tasks such as administrative work. Also, don’t leave a high-level job like fixing critical bugs for the end of the day when you’re too tired to concentrate fully and deliver good quality work.
4. Analyse all your work
Breaks themselves are not a problem – they help you relax and recharge your batteries. However, frequent breaks of 10–15 minutes and an hour for lunch take a toll on productivity because there is not enough time to fully immerse yourself in your work.
Just like taking a break after a low-level task, such as managing an inbox or meeting, is counterproductive and sometimes even unnecessary.
5. Keep track of your work activities
Keeping track of all your activities at work with a timer – including time spent on priorities, small tasks, lunch breaks, meetings, phone calls, managing your inbox – is a way to identify the wasted time.
An application that can help you tackle this issue is TimesheetKiller, an artificial intelligence-based time tracking software. The software monitors, sorts and groups all activity related to current tasks and projects. How does the program work?
As TimesheetKiller is automated, you don’t even have to remember to turn on the timer. The application activates when you turn on your computer and immediately starts monitoring your work. The only thing worth doing after installing the program is to define the names of the projects and the keywords associated with them. This way, while monitoring your activity, TimesheetKiller is able to recognise which project you are currently working on. Also, it is recommended to enter the data every time you begin a new project.
Automating routine or repetitive tasks is the best way to avoid wasting time at work, and that’s what TimesheetKiller is all about.
Implementing the right tools such as time tracking software can prevent wasting time at work. As a result, companies will see significant progress, and employees will be more motivated. By tracking individual activities, you get a clear and precise overview of the time spent at work and what can be done better in the future.