HR Today: Reducing employees time wasting at work


Time is one of the most important things when managing a business, especially in the era of competition. The easiest thing a manager can do is to blame their employees for wasting time at work through poor time management that results in quality slips and missed deadlines.

This converts into poor customer service, stressed internal relationships and eventually, loss of business which will finally reflect in revenue. With the emergence of social media and other internet based applications, employees spend a lot of time on these platforms ranging from Facebook, YouTube to Whatsapp amongst others.

It is mind boggling when you see employees using working hours for such social media activities. This really affects productivity at all levels of the business. It is creeping so fast and has almost become a part of the corporate culture in most offices.

If left unrestricted, it becomes a monster for a company’s Human Resources division and line managers who is stunned with performance and disciplinary issues.

Business owners, HR managers, line managers should quickly find a more humane means of curbing this so it does not get out of hand. Drafting a policy to contain this will be a step in the right direction.

In back to back surveys conducted by in 2012 and 2013, about Wasting Time at Work, the following was discovered:

  • 64% (in 2012) to 70% (in 2013) of survey respondents admitted wasting time at work on a daily basis. Time wasted ranged from 30 minutes to several hours each day.
  • Top time-wasting activities were: 43% talking with co-workers, 34% online activities and 4% each on texting and personal calls.
  • The most significant reasons given by workers for why they waste time were: 35% were not challenged enough, 32% felt that there was no incentive to work harder, 30% got no satisfaction from what they do, and 23% were just downright bored.

Again in the 2012 and 2013 surveys, employees identified too many meetings as the biggest waste of time within their workplace. Other interesting responses to the survey question were:

  • Inefficient co-workers: 17%
  • Other co-workers: 17%
  • Office politics: 13%
  • Busy work: 13%
  • Other: 11%
  • And finally, My Boss: 8%

Further to the above I have also identify poor attendance system, unclear job roles, lack of supervision. Lack of leadership has also been identified as a major cause of employee wasting time. Accusing your employees may be the easiest way to explain the time wasting. But, it is very expedient for one to do an introspection to know what you doing (or not doing) that is tolerating or promoting them to waste time? Let us consider the following:

Role of Leadership

Leaders are as good as the people they lead, they are to develop and set expectation. If the leader is not efficient, the team will not perform well on a consistent basis. If there is no clear goals employees will set their own targets and eventually be doing what suits them which possibly includes wasting time on the job.

Most people will only do what they are asked to do. If they are not asked to do something specific, or if the instructions are too broad or vague, it is not a surprise that they are wasting time and failing to produce a satisfactory level of productivity.

It’s no wonder that when surveyed as to why they waste time, they give answers like “not challenged enough”, “no incentive to work harder” or “lack of job satisfaction.” Leaders get paid to produce results through the combined efforts of their team members. When the leader does a poor job of leading, the team decides what they will do and when they feel like doing it.

Human Resource Policy and Practices

A comprehensive policy must be drafted to help manage time in the office, especially when it has to do with attendance, performance related concerns, social media usage amongst others. Line managers should be tasked to ensure strict compliance. Limited accesses to be instituted by IT support desk. Example depending on the nature of once job role, internet facilities could be accessed before working hours and after working hours meaning before 8:00a m and after 5:00 pm in the normal sense. Some cites like YouTube and other unnecessary cites could be blogged permanently.

It is very important for business owner and HR practitioners to ensure that lunch breaks are adhere to. Most at times you see people sitting way after lunch breaks hatting. We are all guilty of this. The labour laws a one hour break during working hours. Apart from this, some employees will go about from one office to the other greeting and exchanging pleasantries before work starts. Even though it is nice, it must be done before work starts.

Communicate Company Vision during On-Boarding

The entry point of every new employee is very crucial. Engaging staff during orientation is the best bet towards limiting timing wasting. If a leader doesn’t have a clear vision of where he wants to take his organization in the future, then there is no way that he can hire the right people. This even affects the quality of recruitments in helping to make the vision a reality. The employee with the penchant to waste time will have a field day and only bring a little or nothing at all to the table. Leaders must have a clear and specific vision, along with a definitive description of the jobs needed and the type of people to fill those jobs to have a productive team.

Clear Expectations

Once employees are hired, make sure that each of your team members knows explicitly the required activities expected of them, how to do it and timelines to meet deadlines. Most importantly, each team member must understand why they do what they are asked to do. Employees must know how their contribution will fit into the general objective of the business.

When people see how what they do contributes to the total effort, it’s easier for them to rally around the cause and see their purpose. Employees that have a tenacity, and perceive their contribution to the purpose, tend not to get distracted and waste time at work.

Set, Communicate, and Measure Performance Expectations

The leader needs to recognize how to set and communicate realistic performance expectations for what needs to be done. Once set and communicated, the leader must follow through and hold the team accountable for meeting those expectations.

Expectations allow you to measure results. If you can’t measure the results, then you cannot manage the process to achieve the desired results. In the absence of expectations or any effort to hold people accountable for meeting them, the team will set their own expectations and meet only the ones that they set for themselves.

If employees know that their performance is being measured objectively, consistently and in a constructive way, they are less likely to wander off and waste time.

As I mentioned at the very beginning, the solution to combat employees wasting time at work starts with you, the leader and both the prospects and answerabilities you institute.

Clearly, the solution has nothing to do with time management because you can’t manage time – it just keeps moving on as fast as one can imagine. We must work to make good use of it.
Interestingly what you can manage is you, and how you use the available time you have at work. Some call it you management. Spend time to educate your team about you management in conjunction with everything else discussed here and then stand back and let them do what they need and want to do.

Leaders should try as much as possible not to engage employees in whatsapp chats during working hours, they should also reduce the number of times they have them run personal errands for them, most especially asking drivers to go pick their kids and partners amongst others. Always remember time is priceless and more valuable than money.
Source: Bright Okyere| Twitter: hrtodayghana35 Facebook: hrtoday ghana | Email: