That floored me….I thought, "This has to be exaggerated. There’s no way the the average worker wastes 5 hours a day!" That is, until I sat and thought about my average day. How much of my day is truly productive? How much time do I spend actually working, vs checking ESPN, talking to co-workers, grabbing coffee? While I won’t share my personal estimate, I will say it’s definitely not five hours a day. Unfortunately, it’s not zero either!
Then I started to think about why. Where does that non-productive time go? The same Inc. article breaks down the most popular non-productive activities with “browsing the internet” leading the pack: “1) Reading news websites--1 hour, 5 minutes, 2) Checking social media--44 minutes.” This CNBC article points to mobile devices (specifically, calling and texting) as the prime culprits. In a change of pace, this Forbes article states that the lack of a distraction free work environment is to blame for dragging down productivity. It asserts that companies “over-engineer collaboration with things like pool tables, foosball and video games, but…...creating a personal space where you can tune out the outside world and maximize output has become more valuable.”
If you lead a team, or are tasked with collaboration and productivity at your workplace, what should do you do with this information? There is tremendous opportunity to make our teams and organizations more productive. Imagine if you could flip just one hour per employee per day from unproductive to productive? While tempting to attack the problem by blocking websites and banning mobile devices, I don't believe the provide an effective long-term strategy.
Personally, I’ve started by pulling my team out of unproductive meetings. By unproductive, I mean meetings where they don’t have a defined role. What we found, is that many of our internal meetings were just weekly update meetings where information was shared one-way. We determined that we could easily replace these meeting with a written message. In that way, we got the information disseminated and saved everyone an hour of time. We identified roughly three hours per employee, per week of unnecessary internal meetings which they are no longer required to attend.
While “meetings” doesn’t appear at the top of the distractions list on any of these sites, it’s arguably our organizations biggest distraction. So, what is your organizations biggest distraction and what are you doing about it?