Are you tired of glancing around your office and seeing employees playing games, showing up late to work, checking their personal email, and wasting company time? You aren’t alone – plenty of business owners feel the same way. The question is, what will you do about it?

Amplify Employee Productivity in 4 Practical Steps

You might think your employees are fully engaged at work, but unless you already have an effective strategy in place for maximizing productivity, you’re probably coming up short. The truth is that employees are excellent timewasters.

According to a 2017 study conducted for the staffing firm OfficeTeam, the average employee spends roughly five hours per week on their personal smartphone performing tasks that have nothing to do with the job you’re paying them for. These include tasks like answering personal email, sending text messages, browsing social media, and watching videos. And these are just smartphone-related tasks.

“All in all, the average employee could be wasting more than eight hours per work week on activities unrelated to the job,” the study points out.

In addition to technology, other independent studies have confirmed that employees are distracted by things like inefficient coworkers, office politics and gossip, busy work, and excessive meetings.

Considering that you pay your employees to perform important work on behalf of your company, these findings are frustrating and frightening. Thankfully, you don’t have to sit back and watch. There are a number of practical steps you can take towards reclaiming optimal productivity, including:

  1. Set Clear Expectations

“Most people will only do what they are asked to do,” entrepreneur Chris Ruisi points out. “If they are not asked to do something specific, or if the instructions are too broad or vague, it is not a surprise that they are wasting time and failing to produce a satisfactory level of productivity.”

In other words, you need to clearly set expectations regarding how much output you expect, which distractors are off limits, and how you expect individuals to use their time on the clock. It’s also important that you lead by example. If you don’t want your employees wasting time on personal email, stop forwarding them funny emails during the workday.

  1. Encourage Autonomy

Would you be surprised to learn that one of the best ways to encourage productivity is by getting employees to take ownership over how they manage their time? This is a conclusion productivity expert Robby Slaughter has reached after years of research and personal experience.

“This is a wonderfully self-correcting process: we want people who are self-starters and are able to operate independently,” Slaughter explains. “Granting workers freedom over when, how, and where they work creates proof of their work ethic in a way that trying to control them cannot.”

  1. Do Time Tracking the Right Way

Autonomy is great, but increasing independence isn’t always the best or only solution. Sometimes you need to step in and really take control. In these instances, strategic time tracking is the solution.

“Employee time tracking at work can be controversial,” Caroline Miech writes for TrackTime24. “Employees don’t like to feel under surveillance by supervisors, and time tracking is frequently perceived as an attempt to catch employees doing something wrong.  However, a well-implemented time tracking system is much more about boosting productivity, workplace effectiveness, and employee ownership of time management.”

In other words, if you’re going to do time tracking, make sure you aren’t just restricting employees. You need to combine a sense of accountability with certain freedoms in order to get optimal results.

  1. Always Measure Productivity

Finally, make sure you’re carefully measuring productivity so that you’re able to properly gauge your progress over time. Set specific objectives and study how different methods do in terms of accomplishing these goals. You may be surprised to learn that the most effective methods are the ones you didn’t initially believe would work (and vice versa).

Kiss Distractions Goodbye

It’s unrealistic to expect an employee to be fully engaged throughout every minute of every workday, but it’s also not acceptable for them to waste hours of company time every week. The goal should be to minimize distractions, maximize engagement, and identify a sweet spot where employees are both happy and productive.