Take a moment and think about yourself at work. What interrupts your ability to make progress throughout the day? Is it the buzzing of your cell phone? The bickering co-workers? The “call” to join others on break? If you drilled down on your day, you could quickly identify a few key factors that bring your progress to a slow crawl, or even a screeching halt.
When your productivity is interrupted numerous times throughout the day, you find yourself at the end of the day with “loose ends” needing your attention; loose ends like returning phone calls, completing paperwork, placing supply orders, scheduling the team, paying bills, cleaning…you get the picture. Interruptions during the day result in unfinished business and delays in leaving work.
Additionally, research by the Journal of Experimental Psychology1 has shown that interruptions double and even triple the rate of errors, cause employees exhaustion and short-term memory loss, and increase physical ailments such as headaches or back pain. Interruptions are hazardous to your health and the health and wellbeing of the pets you are taking care of.
The first step to combat the adverse effects of interruptions is to know your productivity killers. The next step is to understand what to do about them. Consider the following top five workplace productivity killers and how to manage them:2,3,4
1. Cell Phones
Be it your own cell phone or that of a client or co-worker, at some point in your workday, you will encounter the interruption of one. It is buzzing in your pocket to signal a phone call; the client is chatting with someone on the phone while also discussing what services they want for their pet; the co-worker is busy texting instead of getting the next pet ready. With the increased use and dependency comes the need to evaluate the proper use of cell phones in the workplace.
Set the example by silencing and keeping cell phones out of sight. Clients should not see team members looking at their phones while walking dogs or holding a pet on a table—nor should a client or fellow team member be ignored while a team member looks at their phone. Politely ask pet owners to silence their phones so neither of you will be distracted during discussions about the pet…after all, the appointment is all about the pet. Finally, establish a cell phone etiquette policy sensitive to today’s workforce’s needs (i.e., family communication and researching information for pet care) which will require discussions about appropriate phone use and disciplinary actions when excessive use interferes with work and pet care.
Left unchecked, gossip can lower morale and productivity. In addition, gossiping is a time-waster, causing people to gather in small groups to talk, plot and add to the story. Bottom line, gossip causes a toxic environment that directly impacts productivity.
How often does the team stop to chat about that awful client, the team member who just called off or the new rule from management? The phrase “water-cooler chat” may signal casual conversation, but it is a time-waster. And, it isn’t just a few people gathered in the back hall…there are virtual water-cooler chats happening too; the kind on social media and that person hunched over their phone in the breakroom that could be taking part in gossiping just like the group in the back hall. The problem is that the act of gossiping is not always readily apparent, but it is still damaging.
To prevent gossip from killing your productivity, you need to take a stand. In other words, walk away, refrain from participating, address the gossipers one-on-one, and encourage positive conversation about actions that promote excellent pet and client service. Be aware that gossip may result from poor business communication about policies or procedures; lack of information creates a void filled with speculation and harmful gossip. An educated, well-informed workforce will not need to waste time gossiping.
The internet is not the productivity killer; it is how we spend our time on the internet that is. How many times have you gone online to search for something and five clicks of the mouse and an hour later, you are off track and no closer to completing your search?
Think about the times you searched for an item for a client or a solution to a problematic pet condition, only to get sidetracked by silly cat videos or news headlines. Worse yet, that gossip in the lunchroom has you looking at social media to find the story or gather more incriminating evidence. The issue is our inability to prioritize and maintain self-control.
Consider locking down specific sites on the business’s computers as it will take more effort to crack the access code, deterring those looking for a “quick” scroll through their favorite site. And yes, there is an app for that! The content-blocking apps market themselves as a way to avoid distracting websites while you are trying to work.5 Explore the options and talk to your IT provider. Additonally, add internet use to your cell phone protocols, spelling out the consequences for using personal cell phones while “on the floor.”
Not all breaks are bad. For example, a bathroom break is necessary; a quick snack break is refreshing; a smoking break is fine…until the break takes too long (see cell phone use) or involves too many people (see gossiping).
In addition to those who abuse the amount of breaks, there are those who decline to take a break because the pets need care, it is so very busy or they want to look good for the next promotion. Even management may vilify breaks and hold them against the team when considering raises or bonuses.
Having a break policy specifying how long, how many, and when it requires management approval creates a better workplace culture and reduces the abuse of overextended break time.
For example, “Employees are entitled to a 30-minute unpaid (or paid) meal break each day, and two paid 15-minute breaks per shift.” If there isn’t a policy, management has a difficult time holding people accountable. Establishing a break policy not only addresses when there is an abuse of breaks, but also lets the team know it is OK to take a break.
Nothing destroys productivity more than your co-workers. Fifty perecent of respondents in a study said their co-workers directly affected their productivity and motivation.6 Working with an underperformer, bully, complainer or a passive-aggressive person will kill productivity.
If the business has anyone exhibiting poor or unprofessional behavior, they will negatively influence the entire team’s productivity. Management must step in and orchestrate the level of influence the poor performer is exerting on the team. Positive, engaged team members consistently outperform complacent, negative employees. Hold individuals accountable and either move them up (to better performance) or move them out (terminate them).
Tackle the Real Culprit
Instead of complaining about an unproductive team or making an excuse about how busy the day was, grab the bull by the horns and manage productivity killers. Consider using visual aids1 such as a brightly colored hat or a zone marked by colored tape on the floor to designate “Do not interrupt” because the person is working on inventory/ordering, making callbacks or other business-critical tasks that must be completed today.
A study to reduce interruptions experienced by human healthcare workers found that visual aids such as signage in specific areas where medications were being dispensed significantly reduced the frequency of interruptions.7 Since interruptions have been proven to increase errors, it seems prudent to initiate a few actions to reduce interruptions and thus prevent causing harm to people or pets.
Establish routines and office protocols to help your team stop and identify the real culprit, and take action to correct and prevent a recurrence of the productivity killer. Then, at the end of the day, everyone can leave on time and not worry that they left unfinished business.
As the saying goes, “Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today.” So, don’t let productivity killers ruin your tomorrow. +
1. Anderson, R. (2015, July 9). Shocking Stats About Workplace Interruptions. Filevine.com. https://www.filevine.com/blog/shocking-stats-about-workplace-interruptions/
2. Ricker, S. (2014, June 12). Killers at Work. Careerbuilder.com. http://www.careerbuilder.com/advice/infographic-the-10-biggest-productivity-killers-at-work
3. Sheza, G. (2016, August 8). 6 Productivity Killers and How to Get Rid of Them. Talentculture.com. http://www.talentculture.com/6-productivity-killers-and-how-to-get-rid-of-them/
4. Zipkin, N. (2015, June 11). The 10 Biggest Productivity Killers and How to Overcome Them. Entrepreneur.com. https://www.entrepreneur.com/slideshow/247203
5. Renner, A. (2015, September 17). 10 Apps That Block Distractions. Wall Street Insanity.com. http://wallstreetinsanity.com/10-apps-that-block-distractions/
6. Florentine, S. (2014, September 11). Are Your Co-Workers Killing Your Productivity? CIO.com https://www.cio.com/article/250475/are-your-co-workers-killing-your-productivity.html
7. Rivera, J. A. and Karsh, B. (2010, April 8). Interruptions and Distractions in Healthcare: Review and Reappraisal. NCBI. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3007093/