By Michael Solomon, 10x Management Co-Founder
No matter what type of company you are running, the issue of people slacking off at work is very real. The W2 Timebomb shows us that over 300 million hours were wasted in unproductive meetings alone last year, while nearly 75 million hours were spent on watercooler talk. And then there is The Slacker Tracker which is hilarious. Why does it happen? I’m glad you asked.
Let’s start with the most topical reason people can’t focus at work. Office politics used to dominate the water cooler convo, but since this last election cycle, people can’t stop yapping about Trump, Fake News, Immigration, the wall and a litany of other grievances. According to The Atlantic, politics is the new workplace distraction. We’ve all likely been involved in some sort of political discussion in our lives at work, but in today’s environment the stakes feel higher and the results more draining. Even without having a conversation, political posts are so pervasive in social media and online news outlets that it feels hard to escape. Multiply that by office discussion, and many employees feel politics are taking a real toll on workplace productivity.
2. Millennials Don’t Always Come With The Work Ethic
We are not the first to say it and it is not true across the board, but there are more than a few millennials that don’t like to roll up their sleeves and do the heavy lifting. There have been lots of funny videos about this but the main solution here is to make sure you hire well. There are a lot of relevant interview questions that can help with this.
3. People are unhappy with work conditions
A number of people may be slacking off because they are unhappy with the work environment. Perhaps they have issues with a co-worker, or they are unhappy with their comp and do not want to put forth their best effort until they receive a promotion. Some of these issues are resolvable, but it also means that companies are constantly having to work out issues if they want to keep their full-time employees on task. This is time-consuming and expensive.
Even those who end up at their dream job may find themselves getting bored with the same routine after a few months or years. Coming to the same office for work, doing the same things at your desk and attending the same meetings and talking to the same higher-ups can get monotonous. It is one of the reasons why the productivity of a worker often starts to fall as they have spent longer at a company. Tech employees who are performing the same tasks they have done for the past five or six years at the same office are bound to show signs of boredom, which can result in slacking off rather than doing their jobs with the focus that is necessary.
5. Not Enough Work
Now this may sound crazy, but there are numerous situations at companies where the employees simply do not have enough work. They happen when companies start to hire more full-time employees and increase the size of various departments. As workloads fluctuate, there are times when people don’t have much to do. Also, as employees become more efficient at the tasks assigned to them, they might only be “working” for two or three of the eight hours they are spending at the office. The company is still functioning perfectly fine, because the work is getting done, but the resource of all those well-paid employees is not being utilized in the most efficient way possible. And the employees are not necessarily incentivized to ask for more work. They also fear if they point out that they are not that busy, their role might be eliminated.
6. Because They Can
When there is little accountability for work being done, employees will take their time to finish projects. When there are no deadlines, it is common for employees to feel no pressure to perform. After working at the same job for a long time, workers can get complacent and feel as though they are exempt from normal deadlines given their experience. Give an inch, they’ll take a mile.
What Can Companies Do To Stem?
Companies can diminish the inefficiencies in their offices in a number of ways. First, companies can instill practices in the work environment to ensure that employees are facing new work challenges and eliminate any sense of complacency. Businesses can provide performance-based incentives on the work being conducted.
At 10x Management, we’ve also seen the benefits of hiring tech freelancers in diminishing “time theft” at work. Most freelancers work on an hourly basis, which means they need to manage their time effectively as they need to be able to justify and account for their time. When a freelancer is assigned a project or task, they are not going to take ten hours to complete something that would take five. They need to be able to show the value to their customers or they will lose their gig. Freelancers are judged on the outcome of the project alone, so the work will have to be exceptionally strong and in line with the agreed upon expectations.
Not only will adding freelancers, whether they are coming into the office or working remotely, improve productivity because of how efficiently they work – but it will also ensure your other employees stop slacking off. When they see a freelancer turning in assignments and doing their work at such an efficient pace, they will have to match that pace in order to show their own value to the company.
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