Your employees may show up to work every day, but do they put in a full day’s work? Chances are, they don’t.

Nearly 90% of employees say they waste time on the job every day. For most, it’s an hour or less, but more than one-fourth of employees admit to wasting two or more hours in the course of a workday. They may be checking their phones, surfing the Internet, bad at time management, socializing online or with coworkers, taking longer-than-usual breaks or just goofing off.

Are Restrictive Controls the Answer?

Concerned managers add up those wasted minutes and consider the cost to their business. They may give the wayward employee something — anything — to do, put restrictive controls in place to monitor Internet usage and block websites, or require employees to track their time. But small business expert Gene Marks recommends a different approach.

“Give your employees specific deliverables, so your business runs the way you want it to; and leave it up to them to do what they have to do,” he says. “If people are showing up and getting their jobs done, it’s not a problem. If they aren’t, that’s a whole other discussion.”

A hands-off approach is especially vital for the growing millennial workforce, Marks says. These younger workers often want and expect more independence and mobility, and they thrive on it. Micromanaging anyone is likely to backfire, but millennials in particular will quickly find it a good reason to move on.

A better solution is to lay the groundwork for a self-motivated team that gets the job done without your constant heedfulness. These tips can help.

Set Clear Goals and Expectations

employee wasting time

Setting goals with clear expectations provides direction, motivation and a clear way to measure progress—for your business and your employees. Doing so improves teamwork and helps everyone understand the part they play in the total effort.

Be sure your employees clearly understand their job responsibilities and how you expect them to fulfill those responsibilities. Make a practice of meeting individually with each employee to establish goals that are realistic, measurable and timely, and periodically review their progress toward achieving those goals. Both you and your employee can track whether expectations have been met.

Know Your Employees

Employees who are wasting time at work are often bored, lack the incentive to work harder or are dissatisfied with their jobs. When you make a point of getting to know your employees and relating to them on a daily basis, you’ll be aware of these signs before they take a major toll on productivity, putting you in a better position to respond in a proactive way.

“Always be out there with your employees, checking things out with them, advising and counseling them,” says Marks. “Engage with them all the time.”

Provide immediate feedback for a job well done and offer course corrections when necessary. Be available whenever employees want to meet with you. Help them meet their goals while also encouraging their autonomy. If they’re seeking more responsibility, offer new assignments that challenge their initiative, decision-making ability and creativity. You’ll have a more engaged staff because you’ll have a relationship that is built around trust with honest, ongoing communications, Marks says.

Offer Paid Time Off and Flexible Work Schedules

dangers of wasting time

“Offer paid time off and flexible schedules, so employees can take time off when they know they need it,” Marks says. “Policies for both paid time off and flex time should be as accommodating as possible, so the grownups who work for you can make decisions for themselves about what kind of downtime they need.”

Employees value flexible working hours almost as much as salary and benefits. Not all businesses can offer flex time, but if flexible hours are an option for your business, both you and your employees will enjoy the benefits. Studies have shown that flextime leads to:

  • Improved employee morale
  • Increased engagement
  • Reduced absenteeism and tardiness

When paired with clear goals and expectations, you can expect an increase in employee productivity, too.

Also encourage your employees to use their vacation time. Vacations give employees a much needed rest from work demands—essential for renewed focus, energy and productivity.

Reward Productivity

Your employees will put forth more effort if they feel valued and appreciated. Positive feedback for a job well done can go a long way, especially when delivered publicly. Monetary rewards will motivate employees to work their hardest, but they’ll still value rewards like gift cards or extra time off. By praising the work of an entire team—with a plaque or an extended group lunch, for example—you can build a collective team spirit while motivating a larger part of your workforce to keep up the good work.

Terminate Chronic Problems

“Some people in this world get stuff done. They’re extremely productive,” Marks says. “There are others who can’t make a cup of coffee in under an hour. You’ve done all the right things—provided goals, offered guidance, given them to-do lists—but at some point you have to decide if you want to be their parent or not. At some point, you need to take a step back and ask how profitable this person is for your business.”

You may decide it’s time to let an unproductive employee go. If you do, be sure to terminate your employee the right way to avoid potential legal complications later. At the very least, have a frank discussion with your employee informing them of their unsatisfactory performance, coach them on what they need to do to improve and allow a probation period for the improvements to materialize. Document everything and if performance doesn’t improve, follow up with a written notice before taking action.

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