Let’s face the simple truth — employees are wasting time. Paychex’s Lost Minutes: Employee Time-Wasting Examined survey of 2,000 employees found that some of the main reasons employees are wasting time is that they are easily distracted (19 percent), unsatisfied or bored with their work (almost 15 percent) and lack an incentive to work harder (11 percent).
Related: The Secret to Increased Productivity: Taking Time Off
How can companies combat the phenomenon of employees wasting time in an efficient and respectful way? Some of the most effective solutions are flex scheduling, recognition and an increase in the presence of managers. To put it simply, the best way to prevent employees from wasting time is transparency.
Here are some of the worst ways companies try to reduce wasted time and find more effective solutions.
1. The restrictive approach: blocking websites
Many employers resort to enforcing restrictions and start monitoring their staff. According to the Paychex survey, 31.9 percent of workers surveyed said their companies installed website blockers, and 10.3 percent of employers started an internet policy, but they said they found these methods to be ineffective at reducing the time being wasted.
These strict internet policies are failed attempts at keeping employees from slipping away to YouTube or analyzing their fantasy football projections. If employees can’t find their next distraction on their desktop, they can simply rely on their smartphones.
So, what’s next? Are companies going to start confiscating phones?
Instead of being restrictive, be proactive. Start an employee recognition program to reward high performers, and give workers incentives to refrain from wasting time. People thrive on rewards, so use fun perks as a motivational tool.
For example, offer an impromptu day off, donate to the winner's favorite charity; print a customized t-shirt for the winner to publicly celebrate his or her achievements; or throw an office pizza party as a reward. These incentives can be as elaborate or as simple as the employer wants; no matter the size, rewards for employees are bound to motivate and inspire.
2. The overreaction approach: micromanaging tasks
When bosses see productivity suffer, some overreact and start to micromanage their staff. Nobody needs a nosy supervisor breathing down his or her neck; that just kills morale and hurts productivity.
Get your managers to be more hands-on by encouraging them to collaborate and motivate employees to be more accountable for their workload. Usually, when productivity suffers, the issue is far more complicated than just bad employees.
In fact, most employees want to succeed and grow. All that takes is some investment in better training. The State of Employee Training 2015 survey from Intercall found that 48 percent of employees surveyed said they wanted training that was more customized to their position, and 47 percent said they wanted to be able to go through the material at their own pace.
Define employee roles clearly so employees know where they stand in the big picture and how their efforts impact the organization as a whole. Then customize training modules for each role, and give them the option to work at their own pace. This way, they'll feel more accountable for their learning and be more engaged in how they are evolving.
Related: 9 Ways to Create a Workspace That Enhances Your Productivity
3. An ineffective approach: allowing a casual dress code
Paychex’s survey also found that when companies change the dress code to be more casual, in an attempt to reduce wasted time, employees found the change ineffective. While such a change may align with a company's casual culture, it has no impact on employees wasting time.
Instead, offer flexibility perks, like remote work, flextime and shared work. If employees work from home, they can determine their most productive time of the day. For instance, some people may work better earlier in the morning.
In general, flexible work arrangements put more emphasis on the employee. They are given strict deadlines, and management trusts them to complete their tasks on time. When employees know this, they take on a greater sense of ownership and personal accountability.
4. The restrictive approach 2: tracking time
Trying to keep track of employees' time in the workday is restrictive and becomes a hassle, especially when they’re spending 15 minutes recording how they spent each minute of the day. Instead, start a dialogue.
Provide ongoing performance evaluations, and use performance analytics to keep employees aware of how they meet expectations. They will feel less inclined to waste time when they see how their performance has been suffering.
Related: 9 Things Ridiculously Productive People Do Every Day
Also, engage employees by helping them prioritize their responsibilities. Gallup’s 2015 State of the American Manager report, which surveyed 27 million employees, found that among the participating employees who strongly felt their manager helped them set work priorities, 66 percent were engaged.
When employers set goals with their staff, they are more motivated to hit those goals and maintain a high level of performance.