What Are the Biggest Time Wasters In Your Organization?

Wasting time…

Today’s post is a guest post from Stuart Hearn, who is an HR director with over 20 years of experience in HR. He is now CEO of Clear Review — a purpose-built performance management software system.
Time is money. This is a saying that will be forever relevant in the world of business. The average American works 34.4 hours per week. We, as managers, need to ensure we make full, efficient use of every second. Unfortunately, every single organization in the world has at least a few processes that waste time and limit output.
These business time wasters can come in many forms, as discussed below, and it is important to pinpoint them if we want to prompt significant company-wide improvements.

Endless, often pointless meetings

How many times have you been stuck in a meeting, compulsively checking your watch and internally questioning why you need to be there at all? If this sounds familiar, you’re not alone. Long, aimless meetings are a worldwide problem and a huge source of wasted time.
According to one source, 30% of meeting time is wasted. Another source has suggested that 34% of staff fall asleep during meetings and 63% don’t have a set agenda to follow. A Harvard Business Review article exploring the Outlook schedules for employees in a large company found that just one weekly executive meeting took up a remarkable 300,000 hours per year. When you consider the loss of productivity and the expense involved, we can begin to understand how much of a timesucker meetings can be.
Businesses can utilize modern technology to make more efficient use of their time. Adopt relevant digital tools in place of meetings, and you will doubtlessly notice a significant improvement in performance. If, however, you insist on the old-fashioned approach to meetings, make sure each and every meeting has a clear set of objectives and talking points.

A lack of workplace motivation

By now, we are all aware of the importance of employee engagement. An engaged workforce offers a tremendous amount of benefits, but when employees are actively disengaged and lack motivation, your company pays the price in time.
When employees don’t feel compelled or inspired to work, they often waste time surfing the internet or otherwise distracting themselves. In fact, 46% of millennials and 45% of Generation X admit to wasting time in this way every day. According to CareerBuilder, 75% of employees spend two or more hours per day distracted at work.
To resolve this, adapt your performance management system so that employees have more autonomy over their careers and objectives. If they are given control over their own goals, they will be more inspired and driven to achieve them. Never ignore the importance of employee experience and employee engagement, and constantly strive to improve processes to motivate your workforce.


You might be worried about losing time through absenteeism, but the real hidden danger in your company might just be presenteeism — that is, turning up to work and putting in the hours despite ill-health. In this situation, while your employees are physically in the office, their limited job performance means they may as well not be.
One source shows that on average, employees take roughly four sick days off per year. Presenteeism, on the other hand, resulted in a loss of 57.5 days per year, per employee. In total, this equates to nearly 12 working weeks of wasted time. To stamp down on this, make efforts to prioritize a workplace culture that promotes understanding and acceptance. If your employee is ill, the best place for them to be is at home, where they can more quickly recuperate.

Hours whiled away on social media

Social media can be a tricky area to navigate, and it regularly prompts debate. Some say that social media actually improves workplace productivity and provides employees with a refreshing mental break from their work. A Pew Center study showed that 20% of people who use social media at work do so to solve work problems, and 17% use it to foster relationships with co-workers. Allowing social media can also provide a great boost to workplace morale and engagement levels.
Having said this, managers should be wary of how much time is actually being spent on social media, given that employees spend, on average, 1.5 hours a day on social media platforms. To cope with this, businesses should shift to a focus on goal completion and progression, rather than simply tracking hours physically spent in the office. This will encourage employees to balance work with social media.

Technological problems

How much time do you waste on account of outmoded, slow technology? Does your computer take five minutes to boot up? Do you feel like you’re restarting it twenty times a day to kick it into action? Research from the UK has shown that “slow or inefficient technology” wastes 21 days per year per employee, with the biggest time sucker being poor search tools and minutes wasted searching for relevant files. Spending money on technological updates and improvements might be costly, but they will likely save time and money in the long run.

Annual performance appraisals

Companies around the world have been re-evaluating their performance management systems in the light of how inefficient annual performance appraisals have been shown to be. They take too long, they try to accomplish too much in one meeting, employees dread them, and objectives assigned in an annual appraisal quickly become out of date. For these reasons and more, companies have been shifting over to continuous performance management, otherwise known as agile performance management.
As an example of how much time annual appraisals take up, we can look to Adobe. In 2014, Adobe put an end to its annual appraisals, and in 2015, it was able to save roughly 80,000 manager hours. This is incredible when you consider how much managers can get accomplished in that amount of time. Companies have decided to replace annual appraisals with more regular performance check-ins.
Though there are more meetings involved, more gets accomplished, employees are given a more firm understanding of their goals and progress, and less red tape is created to hold the process up. Performance appraisal software can be used to keep track of manager-employee meetings, to ensure the check-ins are being observed and performance is progressing.
We often get stuck in a business loop, neglecting to adapt and change given processes because ‘this is the way we have always done it’. However, tradition is not a good enough reason to maintain given processes. In order to get the most out of our workers and our businesses, we need to carefully reflect on how much time we spend on certain activities. Once you make the decision to overhaul your inefficient systems, your company will become stronger, more productive, and more competitive in the long run.

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