Two Obstacles to Productivity at Work

As the amount of communication and information available continue to increase at warp speed, everyone is struggling to get work done. The old adage, ‘Work smarter, not harder’ has become a joke as many employees are now forced to work after hours, through lunch, and even on the weekends just to keep up. Work has become a lifestyle whether we like it or not.

But just because you’re at work doesn’t mean you’re actually getting work done. For as fast and demanding as today’s work environment is, it’s also become increasingly inefficient. Between the never-ending slew of emails, endless meetings, etc., productivity often takes a back seat. Without the proper tools to combat these issues, team focus often disappears, which is why so many are forced to work outside of normal business hours just to make up for time lost during the work day.

The fact of the matter is, people waste a lot of time at work. We have put a lot of thought around this to identify the root of this drastic decline in workplace productivity and identified two surprising culprits:

  • Emails
  • Meetings

The invention of email was one of the biggest turning points in workplace communication, and it’s become an integral part of every business relationship. Historically, it’s been the easiest way to make contact – concise, direct conversations with your closest associations.

But most people fall prey to the notion that email is also a good channel for team collaboration. While email is an effective means for brief and direct communication, when it comes to making a quick point and actually getting work done, it’s not always the best use of time in a busy work environment. Used incorrectly, email becomes a major hindrance to a team’s effectiveness rather than a facilitator. 

You receive tons of emails each day. Most people receive an average of 300 business-related emails per week. Some of these are important; some are actionable; some are SPAM; many are unavoidably pointless. As a result, you probably spend much of your day just fielding email and working through tasks attempting to reach inbox-zero. You probably still spend hours just trying to manage it. For many, email is the first thing they check in the morning, the last thing they check before going to bed, and the thing that consumes a large part of their day – all just in an attempt to keep their heads above water. Unfortunately, this unhealthy habit has become the norm, and it’s one of the biggest time-sinks employees face.  Emailing has become a reflex. If you need to send a file, ask a question, or receive feedback, you shoot off an email. The rate at which most people check their email is astonishing, which translates into hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars per year wasted just tending to the inbox.

Meetings are another issue. While they can be constructive, they are also time consuming. When your calendar looks like a game of Tetris, you’d at least hope that all that time spent in meetings is put to good use. Unfortunately, that’s just not the case. A common misconception in business is that ‘working together’ means working together in person. Spending time together does not ensure that work is actually getting done or decisions are being reached. Oftentimes, meetings involve too many people in discussions that don’t always pertain to their specific responsibilities. Ensuring that there is a clear and thorough meeting agenda will ensure that the meeting is productive. Make sure attendees are sufficiently informed and prepared for a thoughtful conversation. Distributing a meeting agenda so all meeting-goers can contribute in advance makes reaching decisions during a meeting much faster and easier. Creating something more centralized doesn’t eliminate all meetings, but it does enable those meetings to be focused and action-driven.

While email and meetings may be the standard form of collaboration and communication, that doesn’t mean they’re the most productive. If not used efficiently, these two business norms can actually become the two biggest obstacles a team faces in completing a project well.