Posted by Michael Weiss on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 - 00:00
In a recent Robert Half Management Resources survey, chief financial officers reported non-business Internet use, including social media, and employees chatting are the two biggest time-wasters in the office. While too many distractions can be detrimental and a serious issue, finance and accounting managers must be careful not to rush to judgment when they see staff engaging in these activities.
There’s a difference between people taking quick breaks and people wasting time, and some attention to personal matters and inter-office socializing should be expected. Frequently, staff members will compensate for this time by putting in longer hours to ensure their work is completed.
These breaks allow employees to catch their breaths and help them recharge and stay sharp throughout the day. They also may not be distractions at all. For example, a financial analyst could be online tapping his network for insights on industry trends, or an accountant on your team might be catching up with a colleague about a recent off-site event. These activities are no longer time-wasters. Instead, they’re helping workers stay current on issues affecting your firm, strengthen rapport among their colleagues, and foster innovation and enhanced productivity.
Tips for Finance and Accounting Managers to Trim Time Waste
If you feel your employees are too distracted, consider these tips:
- Look at the big picture. Are what could be considered frivolous activities affecting staff members’ work, or are performance levels high? Are deadline being missed? Discern whether employees are wasting time or taking quick breaks while maintaining productivity.
- Find out why. An employee being overly distracted could be due to a number of factors, from not being challenged or working long hours to boredom and disengagement. If someone is wasting time and productivity is falling, talk to the person about how things are going and how she feels about her role and the company. If specific issues are raised, ask what you can do to address them. Asking directly will show the employee you are invested in helping fix the problem.
- Identify solutions. Conduct your own assessment of the situation and determine how to remedy it. For example, if an employee doesn’t feel challenged or is bored, offer projects that force him to build his skills and expertise. Also check whether your company offers programs, such as remote work arrangements and flexible scheduling, that help employees balance their professional and personal obligations. You may also find you need to enhance your salary levels and perks to better incentivize staff.
Not to be ignored is another infamous, often dreaded, time-waster: meetings. One in 10 CFOs surveyed identified these gatherings as the most significant time-waster, and the research found they are an even bigger problem at larger companies. They can be such a problem, one marketing agency created an app to measure in dollars the time wasted in meetings.
Like most people, you’ve probably found meetings can clog up schedules, interrupt productivity and lead to frustration over time lost just as much – if not more than – they provide a forum for constructive conversation. When calling meetings, finance and accounting managers should ensure the discussion is more valuable than distracting and effectively achieves its desired purpose.
Below are a few quick ideas for making meetings more effective:
- Hold standing meetings. Workers are less likely to ramble when they aren’t sitting comfortably during the discussion.
- Get together before lunch. You’ll increase the odds your conversation will stay on track because people won’t want to trade the chance to enjoy their lunch for the chance to sit in a meeting.
- Start and end on time. Though hardly revolutionary, it’s worth repeating. You’ll show your team you respect their time and will keep the discussion focused.
By showing staff you won’t waste their time, they’re more likely to follow suit.
What do you find is the greatest time-waster at work?