Companies of all sizes depend on the efforts of their employees to ensure operations run successfully. In a small business, however, keeping workers on task becomes especially crucial. Individual contributions matter greatly on a limited-size staff, and wasted time translates into lost productivity that is difficult to recapture.
What types of activities commonly lure people away from what they should be doing? When CareerBuilder asked small business employers to name the biggest productivity killers in the workplace, they cited the following:
- Cell phones/texting: 57 percent
- The Internet: 40 percent
- Social media: 38 percent
- Gossip: 37 percent
- Smoke breaks/snack breaks: 27 percent
Before taking sweeping measures to eliminate these activities, though, it pays to note that their overall impact remains a subject of debate. As this article from The Atlanticdemonstrates, research often conflicts. For instance, one study reports that a small company could be losing 15 percent of its profits due to email and social media abuse. Another touts that “short breaks allow people to maintain their focus on a task without the loss of quality that normally occurs over time.”
How might a small business owner walk the fine line between losing valuable work time and allowing employees to refresh? Consider these methods:
- Build breaks into the day. When workers have a scheduled period during which they can do what they wish, they reap the benefits of a brief mental respite and become less tempted to “sneak in” productivity-killing behaviors. And by all means, insist that employees take an actual lunch break instead of expecting them to eat with one hand and work with the other. Perhaps even encourage them to take a walk– studies show that a lunchtime stroll can boost mood and improve the ability to handle stress at work.
- Talk to offenders. CareerBuilder research shows that nearly 3 in 4 employers (74 percent) have taken at least one step to combat productivity killers, such as blocking certain Internet sites (33 percent) and banning personal calls/cell phone use (23 percent).While such measures ultimately may be necessary if employees abuse trust, a better initial action may be to discuss the problem with individual offenders. Across-the-board movements can lead to resentment from conscientious workers who do a good job at monitoring their own behavior.
- Judge on output. Finally, remember that what one leader considers useless watercooler chat another may see as important to team morale. Focus on the results you want to see from staff members. If goals get met consistently, chances are you needn’t worry about policing “time-wasting” activities.
Want more advice and resources for building your small business? Learn about the essential elements of a standout recruitment strategy.