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Manage productivity in the workplace

Date posted:  4/20/14 05:30:00 AM Web surfing has pulled many employees from productivity.

American cartoonist Bill Watterson once famously said, "There's never enough time to do all the nothing you want."

That's because time at work eats into many American lives. But what about vice-versa? What are the top ways employees waste their hours at work?

According to a survey from Robert Half Management Resources, a leading provider of senior-level finance, accounting and business systems, perusing the Internet and socializing with employees are the main ways employees prefer to squander their company time.

The survey was conducted by an independent research firm and is based on interviews with more than 2,100 chief financial officers from a random sample of companies in more than 20 of the largest markets around the nation. The CFOs were asked: "Which one of the following is the greatest time-waster at work for employees?"

Nearly a third of respondents said non-work related Internet was the main reason, followed by 27 percent citing employee socializing. Personal phone calls notched responses from 20 percent of CFOs, while meetings (11 percent) and work-related emails (seven percent) rounded out the main reasons.

"Chatting with coworkers and attending to personal activities during breaks at the office are acceptable within reason," said Paul McDonald, senior executive director with Robert Half Management. "Balancing professional and personal obligations often requires completing non-work tasks during business hours. But too many distractions can detract from individual and team productivity."

Recognizing the distractions
Exchange Magazine reported that there are two categories of distraction: internal and external. Internal distractions include emotional, biological or physical discomfort. This can range from an upset stomach to fretting over a professional or personal matter, all of which can halt the productivity of an employee.

External distractions include other people and technology. This is where surfing the web and chatting with employees comes into play. McDonald said it's important for companies to address what is distracting their workforce.

"If employees are spending too much time on non-work related tasks, identify why," he said. "They may have too little or too much on their plates. Find the right mix of assignments, and if they're feeling disengaged, give staff more exciting or challenging projects." 

Limiting the distractions
You'll never be able to totally stop distractions from coming into the workplace, but there are a few ways to limit them.

Hussein Yahfoufi, vice president of technology and corporate services with OneRoof Energy, a solar finance provider, told PC Advisor communicating goals and expectations from the start can help limit distractions at work.

"Provide your team with background information and the strategic vision behind [each] project, activity, task, etc.," Yahfoufi told PC Advisor. "Not only does providing more background and information motivate employees more, [it makes them] feel more engaged."

Tony McClain, executive partner and client advisor of custom software developer Geneca, told PC Advisor that all employees from a particular workforce should understand the target goal.

"They must be crystal clear on the part they play in [the project] and how they will help the team get to the finish line," McClain said. "It is critically important that every member of the team know and understand what they are a part of and why they exist as it relates to your organization."

Wes Wright, chief information officer for Seattle's Children Hospital, said providing tools that encourage employees to team up can help limit distractions. He particularly noted this helps IT managers supervise their staff.

"This is basically the cardinal rule for any IT manager," Wright said. "Even the best team is only as effective as its resources and systems that they use day to day. If you want to get the most out of your IT team, invest in the proper tools. Deploy incredibly secure, yet user-intuitive solutions that will cut down on manual hours and improve accuracy in identifying network problems."