It's that time of the year, when everyone's starting to look frazzled, tired and restless. And yet, despite the long hours your employees appear to be putting in, and their exhausted yawns during meetings, the pace of their output seems to be slowing...Is it possible their best efforts to be productive are being foiled?
Yes, say the experts behind the Practical Guide to Human Resources Management
There are so many distractions, obligations and side-line tasks that eat up your employees' time, making them less productive than they should be.
Here are the six top time stealers, and some advice to help you stop them in their tracks!
Eliminate these six time-stealers to make your employees more productive
1. Communication overload: email, voicemail, SMS
Living in the information age has its real downside from a time management point of view – there's too much information and we're distracted by all the electronic tools available to us.
2. Meeting overload
Some organisations have a culture of holding meetings. Assess your company – are you constantly in a round-robin of meetings, so that you're never allowed to get to your work?
Here's how to manage the meeting monster:
3. Make sure deadlines are met
Discuss at your next executive meeting if there needs to be so many meetings. Request that only the important ones be held. Alternatively, assess options to delegate others to attend the less critical meetings on your behalf. This also provides much needed development opportunities for them.
Beware of the 'committee person'. There are some employees who love to serve on various committees, and they don't get their work done. Analyse your team and limit the number of committees on which they may serve. The number will depend on your environment and the seniority of the employee.
Be realistic about your own involvement in too many committees – you should set an example to your workers.
Most importantly, train all chairpersons to facilitate a meeting and how to stick to the agenda and time constraints.
It's not possible to get away from deadlines. Help your team diarise some milestone targets prior to the deadlines – and be very strict about adherence. Never let anyone off the hook. Become a stickler for deadlines.
4. Interruptions - colleagues and technology
This can be a huge time-stealer. It's a good exercise to monitor your time-keeping over a few days, and look at how much time you lose in a day because you're taken away from the task at hand.
Here's how to minimise interruptions:
5. Information overload
Ask your colleagues to interrupt you only during a certain period of the day. Use some physical means to discourage them from interrupting you at other times. Close your door, ask your secretary to vet visitors or hang a notice outside your door, which says, 'This is my office-work time – please do not interrupt, and come back at (allocate a time)'.
Let everyone know when you have 'visiting hours' and adhere to it strictly.
In an open-plan office, put a toy on your computer to indicate to everyone when you mustn't be interrupted. Do the same for your employees. Respect their time and adhere to the same constraints you expect for yourself.
Invest in some very visible (preferably pink) ear-muffs and put them on when you don't want to be disturbed – it's an amazingly effective deterrent.
Put your cell phone on silent – or better still, SWITCH IT OFF, when you don't want interruptions
Tell your secretary to only ever put calls through during your time allocated to receiving calls. List the exceptions to this restriction upfront and then be strict about it.
Remove your computer's facility to alert you to new emails in your inbox. It's hugely distracting, and most people are too curious to leave them until later!
Put your SMS alert on silent for the same reason.
Take a long hard look at some of the emails you receive. Ask your IT department to block all unnecessary emails, and delete emails you don't need. It takes so much time to sift through all the jokes, chain-letters, advertisements, newsletters – be disciplined enough to delete them.
Ask your team to monitor how much time they spend checking unnecessary emails in a week, and then agree as a group what can be blocked by your IT department.
6. Chats/coffee breaks, etc.
Lunch break and coffee breaks are for chats – all other breaks are a waste of time. Most of the tips under interruptions are useful here too. Allocate a certain time of day for interruptions and chats and be very strict about keeping time on this.
Smoking in the office is a huge time-stealer. Add up the time it takes to get to the smoking venue, to smoke a cigarette, the chit-chat at the venue, the time to get back to the desk and then the time to refocus on the task. It can take up a huge amount of time. Multiply the cost of the time spent by the number of smokers in the office – and the costs of wasted time escalate.
It's not unreasonable to limit the number of smoke breaks in your office. Just make sure that your smokers and non-smokers are given the same number of breaks or you could face an allegation of unfair discrimination.