15 Workplace ivity Killers and How to Fix Them

Employees surfing social media websites, aimlessly chatting with each other, or babbling over their cell phones are not a welcome sight at any office.

These, along with many others I’ll discuss in this article, are the factors that hamper workplace productivity and the biggest hindrances for you and your company’s growth. While poor planning and unrealistic expectations are behind a majority of failures and work stress, you cannot simply overrule the involvement of these factors.

So, what are productivity killers at an office?

Random and frequent breaks often take the blame for being the productivity killers, but in essence, they are the tip of the iceberg.

Open office, emails, office gossip, and the much-hyped war room meetings also contribute significantly to reduced productivity at a workspace.

Read on to take a look at 15 productivity killers at work and ways to fix them.

Recommended article: How to boost your workplace productivity

1. Unnecessary meetings

In theory, meetings are the forces behind a project’s successful delivery. In practice, however, unproductive meetings cost more than just time. A study shows meetings eat up 37% of employee time and cost more than $37 billion annually. But do you know what is the worst part? 91% of participants of zone out during meetings. So, besides productivity loss, such meetings also lead to employee disengagement.

What do you do? Stop the meetings completely?

Certainly not.

Whenever possible violate the Parkinson’s Law, which states that “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion “.

In simple words, if you’re done discussing the agenda of your meeting in 40 minutes, don’t stay in your meeting room just because you had booked it for an hour. Check if an email can fetch you a similar result as that of a meeting. Share the agenda with the participants beforehand. For a meeting, the concept of “the more, the merrier ” doesn’t work.

So, invite only those whose presence is a must. And yes, keep those mobile phones as far away as possible.

2. Open-floor offices

These are a double-edged sword. On one hand, they lead to a collaborative, innovative and social environment, on the other, they create an extremely distracting environment.

A study by The Sound Agency showed that people working at an open office are 66% less productive.

Is it possible to get any work done in an open office?

Well, as long as you can create a virtual wall between yourself and your co-workers, the answer is yes. A pair of noise-cancellation headphones or listen to binaural beats (of course one must use headphones), which is said to induce deep concentration, can do the trick.

Help your co-worker only after you have completed your tasks for the day. A study by Applied Psychology showed that help-seekers perform better than the helpers. Have a cubicle arranged for critical deliverables because cubicles can increase productivity.

3. Emails

This one is a silent killer that kills your productive time without you realizing it.

Fearing the wrath of your bosses and co-workers who might call you lazy or unproductive if you don’t respond soon, you constantly check your emails. While being prompt is a great way to build rapport, it should not be at the cost of your work.

Therefore, when you come to the office, don’t start your day by responding to emails. Instead, spend the first 30-45 minutes of your time working on more important things.

Set a time for checking your emails. When you check your emails, follow the 2-minute rule. This states that you must instantly respond to all emails – high-priority or otherwise – if they can be read in less than 2 minutes.

For the rest, set a flag or a reminder and respond to them only at that time. Another great way is to set rules in your mail application so that you can identify and prioritize which emails need immediate attention.

4. Office Chit-Chat

Socializing and networking are critical to a person’s growth, but you need to balance it with your work. An occasional chat or friendly banter with a co-worker could relieve you of your work stress. Periodical breaks can help in honing up concentration but must not be overdone.

But spending a lot of time over catching up with co-workers, talking about things that are not work-related and spending too much on feedback, not only hamper productivity but also tarnish a person’s reputation for being a chatty worker.

If you love talking, try to limit yourself to lunch breaks. If you come across a chatty worker don’t be afraid to excuse yourself from their company. You could talk to them in private to make them understand how their chattiness causes a nuisance.

However, you must not impose blame or be harsh, selfish, or judgmental during such conversations.

5. Spending time on social media

Employees squander a lot of their work time surfing through different social media platforms. According to a report by TeamLease World of Work, a Human Resources company, people spend an average of 2.5 hours checking social media websites while working.

You could either issue a no social-media policy or assign a time for the workers to use social media between their working schedules. Better still, you can encourage your employees to turn off their social media notifications during the working hours.

6. Tight deadlines and work stress

While Setting up deadlines creates a very competitive spirit and get the work done.  However, fixing Setting over ambitious tight deadlines can do more harm than good and can often make employees flustered and stressed. They may start to panic and try to finish the work as fast as possible which will negatively impact their quality of work.

Set realistic goals and provide sufficient time for your employees to finish a task. With comfortable deadlines, they will feel at ease and can come up with better outputs and would be able to work stress-free. Flexible deadlines will give them breathing space which helps in being more productive.

7. Colder temperatures in workplaces

Offices with lower temperatures not only significantly increase electricity bills but also impact productivity. A study showed that the brain of employees working at an office with colder temperatures is preoccupied with adjusting to the temperature, and consequently, the employees are more prone to making errors. Such errors might cost the company an additional 10% on labor costs for each employee.

Therefore, the office temperature should be set with a common consensus. Those who don’t like chilly setup should be encouraged to get a jacket, sweater or something similar.

8. Disorganized work desks

Nobody can stay focused if their work desks are a mess.

They cannot find what they are looking for, and it breaks their flow of thoughts and working speed. It also kills the zeal to work and makes the worker feel lethargic.

Working at a neat and clean work desk helps them channel their thoughts more clearly, thus increasing their productivity.

Not to mention that they can find things more easily on their desks which helps them work more efficiently. Therefore, employees must be encouraged to regularly clean their desks. You could even employ a clean desk policy at your workplace.

9. Long working hours

There are employees who prefer working long hours than being productive. Working for long hours drains a person and slows down their speed of work. In addition, it might cause health issues and the exhaustion might lead to errors. And it won’t necessarily increase efficiency.

If you really want to boost your productivity keep the work martyrs at bay. Strongly discourage long working hours. If you tend to extend your working hours, plan, prioritize and delegate your work as and when necessary. Better still, give deadline (a realistic one) to yourself. Stay focused and away from distractions.

10. Improper communication

Effective communication is essential for a company as well as an individual’s growth. When a certain idea or strategy is not conveyed clearly, it only leads to chaos. Targets are often missed due to poor communication between employees and employers.

It is, therefore, essential that communication is crisp and clear. It is not necessary that you always hold a meeting or send wordy lengthy emails to give a directive or exchange an idea. Most of the times you can simply ping a person over instant chat. All you need is a business chat apps like Slack or its alternatives Troop Messenger, Flock, and others, which seamlessly work on Windows, Mac OS, Android, and iOs. You can choose any of them to efficiently communicate with teams.

11. Lack of recreational facilities

The old adage “All work and no play, makes Jack a dull boy ” is true even to this date. Expecting an employee to work continuously for a long time is an unrealistic expectation. After a while, the work seems difficult and unending. The monotony of the job kicks in and the person reaches his saturation point of working, which eventually leads to reduced productivity.

Having recreational facilities in offices is integral to the productivity of the workers. Indoor games such as foosball, table tennis, and snooker, could revitalize and relieve them from work stress. A good gaming session would also help them to concentrate better on their work.

12. Unhealthy sleep schedules

Staying awake late at night working on presentation or binge watching a web with twisted plot-lines and cliff-hanger episode endings, seems to be common practice these days. It eventually leads to sleep depravity and eventually kills a person’s productivity. A study shows that those who sleep less spend approximately three times more time on time management than those who sleep well.

If you want to stay motivated and focused on your work and want to make good decisions, it is imperative that you get the 7 to 7.5 hours of sleep. You can do it by adopting a bedtime routine and maintaining strict self-discipline.

13. Strict workplace rules

No ‚Äòwork from home’ policy, stringent working hours, restricted internet access, stringent and punishing leave policies, producing a doctor’s note for sick leaves, banning hats/caps, are some of the draconian rules that you must flush out immediately from your workplace. Lowering the morale and motivation of employees,  such rules eventually impact the efficiency of employees.

However, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have any rules at all. Only keep those rules that are required to create a civilized balance at the workplace. For example, you can let your employees telecommute whenever possible. Rather than restricting internet access, educate your employees about how it impacts the internet bandwidth and lowers productivity. Also, ditch the strict dress code policy because a uniform is necessary at only some and not all workplaces.

14. Procrastination

Procrastination is a time thief. One of the things that most can relate to is procrastination. You tend to push off your work until the last minute and then do a very hasty and poor job. It not only gives you a bad rapport but also eventually takes a toll on your work-life balance.

Therefore, learn to prioritize the work in your platter. Conduct workshops and training sessions on time management for employees to show them how simple it is to have a smooth work-life balance.

15. No room for creativity

Every employee is unique and has a creative streak. When you are very rigid about the methods of achieving monthly goals, it tends to kill their productivity. They feel beaten down and are unable to not come up with innovative and faster ways to get a job done.

Remember, there are more ways to get work done. Encourage your employees to do things their way but be ethical in their approach. Giving creative liberty to your employees makes them feel valued and responsible.


However, the most important fact to bear in mind is that every organization is differently unique and requires a different set of rules for its proper functioning. The factors listed above are only a few of the many that you may come across at your workplace. And there is more than one way to resolve them. You might find Cal Newport’s Deep Work insightful in identifying and fixing the many productivity issues you might come across.

What you need to remember though, is that a utopian world only exists in theory. So, no matter what steps you take to curb the productivity killers, if they don’t improve the overall team performance there is no point crying over them.

The idea is to make your workplace friendlier and safer. You don’t have to be that tyrannical boss who counts the loo breaks of employees; nor be the undisciplined employee who is more of a liability than an asset.

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