How do you deal with people who waste a lot of time chit chatting and scanning social media, then complain about being too busy and that they can’t get all their work done?
In a 2016 survey from CareerBuilder, nearly 20% of bosses believe workers put in less than five hours of real work per day. That is a lot of wasted human capital! Half of t hose bosses surveyed reported that distractions were responsible for lower quality work, and more than a quarter said those distractions led directly to reduced revenue for the company.
And it isn’t just phones. Gossip, chit chatting, co-workers asking for assistance, snack breaks all contribute to a distracted workforce and time wasted.
Many bosses respond to this kind of challenge by making sweeping rules that “No one is allowed to text during work hours” or “All conversations must be work related”. While it is important to be fair to everyone, dictates like this leave everyone feeling like a two year old kid who just got their hand slapped and can’t make decisions on their own.
How do you, as the supervisor, balance respect for your employer and getting the job done with respect for the needs of your employees? Employees may need to stay in touch with family having issues, need to take breaks, and want to maintain positive relationships with their co-workers. All employees have differing work styles—some take breaks every hour, some between projects, and almost all need to get up and walk around and relax their brains from time to time.
Probably the most important thing a leader can do in this situation is to be very clear about the tasks and deliverables each employee has, and to make sure they have deadlines. That way, you can be clear when someone is not getting their work done in a timely manner.
Second, have an open and clear conversation with the entire team during which you communicate clearly your philosophy and expectations about time-wasting in whatever form. This can run along the line of “Everyone needs breaks, and we all have work to do. I know each of you has different ways to take a quick break between tasks, but extended breaks, overdoing chit chat, too much social media and suddenly the morning is over. I am conscious that time wasted not only reduces everyone’s productivity, it also distracts the rest of us. Please limit your time focused on something else to short breaks.”
Then, meet with each person and ask about how they best relax between breaks. Have the difficult conversation if you have seen them taking too much time ‘relaxing’ and not enough time working. Recognize and be flexible about how much time people need, but let them know that you also need them to balance that with getting their work done on time.
The reality is that if there is a lot of time wasting during the day, you may be overstaffed.
This is a tough issue for leaders and supervisors to tackle. However, if you don’t people, will keep goofing off but feel guilty and feel like they need to hide it, rather than knowing that you understand they are just taking a quick break. It helps with honesty, openness, and transparency—which everyone wants at work!