Do your employees frequently head out the door at the end of the workday without having completed many of the tasks on their to-do lists?
These staffers probably aren’t slacking off intentionally. It’s more likely that they’re bombarded with email and other distractions, notes Elene Cafasso, founder and president of Enerpace Inc., an executive coaching firm near Chicago. “Now that technology has us available 24/7, we never have time to think,” she says.
Although it may be frustrating to acknowledge low productivity among your staffers, there’s good news: Setting a few simple boundaries can help your employees focus and finish those projects you’ve been waiting for.
Here are four easy ways to get your employees back on track:
- Invest in headphones. To help workers tune out office conversations and clamor, offer them a pair of noise-cancelling headphones. Better yet, let them buy their own and expense the purchase. “You’ll get a much better buy-in if the employee selects the headphones they want most, rather than giving them a pair,” notes Steve Deckert, marketing manager and rewards specialist at Sweet Tooth, an Ontario, Canada-based developer of e-commerce tools. The company’s team of 20 works in close quarters, and each new employee is allowed to pick out a set of high-end cans to help them stay focused on the job.
- Set “office hours.” If co-workers continually interrupt one another with questions, create a schedule that gives them time to work alone and time to answer questions, Cafasso suggests. For example, ask everyone to remain at their own desks from 8 to 10 a.m., then allow for a half hour of open conversation to address questions and concerns. After that, it’s back to working solo until the next scheduled “office hours.”
- Use time-management software. If your employees spend hours at the computer, helping them fight online distractions can boost their output. There are many time-management apps out there; finding the best fit for your office will depend on your specific needs. Sweet Tooth uses Strict Pomodoro, a Google Chrome extension with a timer countdown. For 25 minutes, certain websites, such as Facebook, are blocked. After that, a five-minute break kicks in.
- Establish an email policy. Email is probably the worst offender when it comes to interruptions, Cafasso notes. To counter time lost on electronic communications, consider setting an email policy. If your employees don’t need to answer email immediately as part of their job, designate two or three blocks of time during the day for checking and responding to business-related email.