3 Workplace Productivity Killers and How to Avoid Them

In the modern-day economy, most of us spend about 8 hours at work at any given weekday. Have you ever wondered how much of that time is actually spent working?

The data came in, and it’s not at all flattering. The average worker is productive for only 2 hours and 53 minutes at work every day. That means more than 5 hours are wasted on non-work-related activities.

So, what is it that occupies us for the majority of the work day and stops us from getting things done? Here are some of the most common productivity killers at work and what you can do to prevent them.

Email overload

If you were to guess how much time you spent on emails at work every day, you’d probably be off by quite a lot. According to research data, the average worker spends 28% of their work week managing email – that’s about 11 hours.

Once you calculate that emails also make you lose focus from your current task, the total amount of time spent on emails annually is a whopping 1,048 work hours. How to stop email from killing your productivity? It’s easier said than done, especially since it’s one of the integral parts of our workdays.

First off, stop using emails as an excuse not to do something else. One of the main reasons so much time is spent on email is simply because it’s easier and more fun than prospecting, filling out reports, or cleaning up your task backlog. If there’s something more important than replying to that email, tackle that first.

Speaking of which, the second thing is creating a priority list. Don’t go through your emails, replying to each of them, one by one. If something needs an immediate answer, reply and move on with your day. You can handle the less important stuff at the end of each day or two to three times per week.

Finally, answer emails in bulk instead of going to your inbox every other minute. The average worker checks their email about 36 times per one hour. When you consider that it takes 16 minutes to regain your focus after checking and managing your email, it makes more sense to do it at once than 36 times per hour.

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Unproductive meetings

Another staple of the corporate lifestyle, meetings are meant to be the epitome of productivity, in theory at least. In practice, they’re one of the biggest productivity killers out there.

Depending on your role, you may be spending anywhere from 35 to 50% of your total time at work on meetings. On a global scale, companies waste 15% of their total time on meetings. Yes, waste is the proper word here.

Once polled, company executives stated that 67% of all meetings are failures. There are a number of reasons for this, including email checking (refer to point #1), doing something unrelated to the meeting or simply being out of focus.

So how can you make meetings more productive? First and foremost, when you’re in one, devote yourself to it fully. Don’t check emails, browse Facebook or do anything unrelated to the meeting taking place.

One of the ways to prevent this from happening is to have a no-laptop policy during meetings. Trouble is, it won’t work for remote and distributed teams.

Second, if you’re organizing the meeting, carefully think through whom you’re inviting. One of the main reasons why participants wander off is because they feel their presence is irrelevant. The team at Evernote suggests the following number of participants:

  •        Four to six people for solving a problem;
  •        Four to seven people for making a decision;
  •        Five to 15 people for setting an agenda;
  •        Ten to 20 people for brainstorming sessions.

By choosing the right people, the right number of people and ensuring they stay focused, you’ll never have an unproductive meeting again.

Productivity Killers

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Chatty co-workers

In one of the famous surveys by Salary.com, 43% of participants stated that one of the top ways for wasting time at work is talking with their co-workers. On the other hand, communication is a necessary part of everyday work duties and it’s important for making a better atmosphere at work. What gives?

There’s plenty of research with claims that small talk at work can be beneficial for productivity, engagement and workplace commitment. However, it can be pretty damaging to your work day as well.

For example, an average employee experiences 56 interruptions at work every day, which evens out to one interruption in 8 minutes. In one research, participants state that more than 80% of these interruptions are trivial.

The first way to handle this situation is fairly simple: let your co-workers know exactly when you’re busy. You can do this by sending out an email, entering do not disturb mode in a team chat apps such as Slack or Chanty or simply letting everyone around you know not to disturb you.

If co-workers won’t stop talking to you, you can make it difficult for them. If your position allows you, simply move to another room or work remotely for a day or two. If you’re in the office, put on your headphones (something with good noise cancellation) and tune out. Your colleagues should take the hint.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, embrace the beauty of saying no. You may think you’re coming off as rude, but one small interruption could prevent you from finishing a task critical to your work. By simply saying “No, I don’t have a minute to spare right now”, you’ll have better time management practices in place.

In summary

Even though we spend 8 hours at work, we actually spend just a portion of that time doing actual work. There are three main productivity killers – email, unproductive meetings and chatty co-workers.

Luckily, regaining control of your productivity is not that difficult. Some of the common productivity tips for battling all three include focusing on the task at hand, dealing with all communication only in designated times and letting your co-workers know when you’re in work mode and when you’re ready to chat. Happy working!

About the Author

Olga Mykhoparkina is a Chief Marketing Officer at Chanty a simple AI-powered team chat. Having a 9-year experience in digital marketing field, Olga is responsible for Chanty’s online presence strategy, managing an amazing team of marketing experts and getting things done to change the way teams communicate and collaborate. Follow Olga on Twitter or feel free to connect on LinkedIn.

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