The Big Distraction: What’s Dragging Employee Productivity Down?
You walk into the break room and a hush falls among the 3 employees who are huddled around each other in the corner. Checking your watch, you wonder how long they’ve been in there; how long they’ve been neglecting their work duties to engage in what is clearly a gossip session? Like high school girls, these employees have smirks on their faces that indicate they surely aren’t talking about work.
Still, you get your soda from the fridge and flash a smile before walking out. Because what can you do? And where is the line between encouraging productivity and micromanaging to the point of burning out your workforce?
Believe it or not, there are ways to maintain a happy middle ground, but first you have to identify the biggest distractions from work within your office. Recent surveys have shown an influx of employees who admit to spending at least an hour every day responding to personal phone calls, text messages and e-mails. Those same employees admit to spending another hour (or more) browsing the internet on non-work related subjects. Work gossip, co-worker socialization and the never-ending pull of social media are also guilty of distracting your employees from their work.
So how do you overcome those distractions as a supervisor and encourage work hours be spent on work?
You can start by instituting security filters on your web access. In most industries, there really aren’t a lot of strong reasons for employees to have access to Facebook and Twitter, so limiting social media time can be a great first step. Creating policies about personal phone calls and text messages can also be a good idea. There are programs that allow you to monitor internet usage as well, and open space layouts can encourage productivity by sending the constant reminder to your employees that they are never fully alone.
Of course, as managers, you also have to determine how closely you want to be monitoring your employees and be mindful of being too restrictive, to the point of creating a work environment that is no longer enjoyable or encouraging. Should you decide to monitor internet activity, notifying employees ahead of time so that they know there is no expectation of privacy when it comes to what they are doing on their work computers is important. But such notifications can also send the message that you don’t trust your employees to stay on task. It is a fine line to walk, and one that managers should tread carefully when seeking to create that balance between a comfortable work environment and one where productivity is at its peak.
One of the best ways to do this is to set productivity goals for employees and follow up with routine evaluations. When employees are well aware of the goals expected of them, they are better able to manage their own time and may be more inclined to avoid the distractions that would otherwise keep them from meeting their goals. This puts the onus on the employee to succeed, and gives you an excuse to turn a blind eye on the occasional mid-day break room gathering