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17 Workplace Productivity Killers & Ways You Can Overcome Them

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17 Workplace Productivity Killers & Ways You Can Overcome Them

Read time 12 min read

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Productivity is not a purely innate quality. It is considerably affected by several factors such as work environment, various organizational processes, mental health, physical wellbeing, training, and more.So, if an employee’s performance has unexpectedly dwindled, they shouldn’t be dismissed as lazy or inept. Instead, it is quite possible that their productivity is being hampered by something out of their control.

Productivity has always been a concern for employees and workplaces. A decline in productivity directly impacts a company’s profitability. Moreover, low productivity leads to the underutilization of employee’s talents. This subsequently makes them unmotivated and increases turnover.

That being said, just the desire to be more productive is not enough. It’s crucial to identify reasons for lack of productivity and make necessary changes. In this post, we’re sharing productivity killers and how employers and employees can overcome them with the right strategies. Let’s dive in.

First, let’s  take a look at factors that employees have no influence on and the various ways employers and management can eliminate these productivity killers.

Too Many Meetings

How many times have you thought ‘this meeting could have been an email’? A recent survey found that 67% of employees complain that spending too much time in meetings hinders their productivity.

Pointless meetings are a big waste of your company’s time and cost productivity. That being said, meetings cannot be completely eliminated. Well-planned meetings can be an excellent way to bounce ideas off each other and give employees opportunities to present their views.

When it comes to meetings every organization should aim for the sweet spot. First of all, don’t conduct a meeting just for the sake of it. Always have an agenda in place and stick to it. Managers should also invite employees required rather than asking the entire team.

Moreover, if all of the objectives have been discussed, there is no need to linger because you booked the conference room for an hour.

Another thing to pay attention to is scheduling meetings at the right time. Scheduling meetings for early Monday morning or late Friday night is not something your employees will thank you for. According to a recent study, mid-week early afternoon is an ideal time to schedule meetings. Specifically, Tuesday at 2:30 p.m is a good option.

Email Overload

Emails are often a time-saving alternative to meetings but too much of anything is not good. Going through emails takes a lot of time. In fact, an average corporate employee spends roughly 25% of their workday on various email-related tasks. And the frustrating thing is that employees often have to deal with emails that aren’t relevant to them.

Employees should be encouraged to consolidate similar emails into one. It’s also a good practice to set aside 10-15 minutes to check your inbox, respond to important emails, and flag the rest to be revisited later.

To avoid email overload, it would be helpful to introduce collaboration tools. Email is not suitable for daily workplace communication. Slack and Google Hangouts are some popular options to improve collaboration and communications within teams.

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Freezing Workplaces

This may sound ridiculous but many workplaces are notorious for being uncomfortably cold. Is that a big deal? Yes! According to a survey, one in 10 U.S. workers has fought with their coworkers over thermostat control.

The physical comfort of an employee can be directly associated with their productivity levels. If an employee is distracted by the temperature, it makes them vulnerable to making mistakes. Employees feeling cold have to frequently leave their desks to adjust the thermostat or go to a warmer part of the office. And not to mention, running the air conditioning at lower temperatures is costing your business more money.

Now coming up with the ideal temperature is tricky and there is no way to make everyone happy. You should take an employee’s consensus to find an acceptable temperature. Keep in mind that keeping the office slightly warm is better than asking employees to pile on sweaters. It would also be helpful to give employees control over air conditioning vents corresponding to their desks.

Lack of Remote Working Policies

A long commute has a negative effect on productivity. Traveling a long distance for work can hamper an employee’s energy levels and mood even before they start working.

If there is one good thing to come out of the pandemic it has to be the potential of remote working. A recent study by Stanford of 16,000 workers concluded that working from home increased productivity by 13%.

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Working from home enables employees to work in a comfortable space without worrying about commute fatigue. Some workers feel productive early in the day while some prefer working later in the afternoon. Remote working gives employees the flexibility to work when they feel most productive.

Remote working is advantageous for organizations as well. It is an effective way to reduce everyday operations costs such as utility bills and rent.

Discouraging Breaks

Expecting employees to be chained to their desks all day is simply unacceptable. Because of such expectations or impossible workload, employees may feel obligated to even eat lunch on their desks. As a manager or leader, set a good example by taking necessary breaks throughout the workday. In particular, encourage employees to step away from their desks during lunch. Taking breaks is crucial to maintain productivity.

Disregarding Automation

Repetitive tasks, such as data entry, are time-consuming and also make employees feel undervalued. As an organization, you are letting valuable talent go to waste if they are spending their productive time copying and pasting. It would be highly beneficial to automate routine tasks. Customer service, backing up files, LinkedIn prospecting, and payroll are few business activities that can be easily automated.

Poor Internal Communication

Poor internal communication can lead to unnecessary delays. Employees shouldn’t have to check multiple platforms for project updates. Moreover, inefficient communication channels also give leeway to misunderstandings and errors.

It’s crucial to adopt a seamless tool for project management and internal communications. Instead of sending updates on emails or messengers, a single tool can help you save time and effort. Trello, Basecamp, and ProofHub are some commonly used collaboration and project management tools.

Overlooking Gossip

Workplace gossip may seem trivial or amusing but can seriously damage the workplace culture. While employees should not be discouraged from interacting with each other beyond a professional capacity, gossiping should be condemned. Gossip has been shown to breed ill-will among employees, loss of morale, and increased anxiety. Furthermore, it also wastes time and affects productivity.

While it’s impossible to completely eliminate the grapevine, employers can put strict policies in place to minimize harmful gossip and rumors. Managers should have an open-door policy so that employees feel comfortable sharing their concerns. If there is a rumor about the company circulating around, don’t hope it will eventually disappear. Address it as soon as possible to ensure employees stay focused on their jobs.

We hope that you found this article useful.

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The workplace and management aren’t solely responsible for employee productivity. It’s important to understand that even small time-wasting habits can have a significant impact on your overall productivity. Let’s move on to actionable productivity tips for employees.

Not Saying No

If you are a great performer as well as you like building good relationships with people, chances are that you will have a hard time saying no. And this is a trait that will get you stuck with more work than you can manage. Naturally, refusing work right away may not be the most professional approach. But that doesn’t mean you have to work weekends to meet deadlines.

If you find yourself in a situation when you have too many tasks to do, the best solution will be to ask your manager or supervisor to help you prioritize all these tasks. Use this opportunity to list every assignment you have, no matter how small it is. Then, they will either realize you have no time for new tasks or help you postpone tasks that are not required immediately.

Getting Caught-Up in Chit Chat

There is always an employee that loves to chat and catch up after the weekend. While socializing at work has many benefits, it is not always ideal when you have countless deadlines to meet.

And if you are too polite to tell that to your chatty coworker or they won’t take the hint, it’s time to make the best of technology.

A good pair of noise-canceling earphones can be a lifesaver if you are surrounded by disruptions. Studies show that 90% of workers perform better when listening to music. It’s a win-win.

Messy Work Desk

A messy desk is not just an eyesore but also a silent productivity killer. If you are on a tight deadline, the last thing you want to do is misplace an important document. You can avoid distractions by maintaining a clean and organized workspace. A Princeton University study also showed that an organized workplace is key for better concentration. Additionally, a tidy desk saves you time as you don’t have to scramble to find something.


Not Using Vacation Days

Can you drive a car without ever getting it serviced? When a machine cannot operate without breaks, how can you expect yourself to stay productive without vacations? Not taking your vacation days doesn’t make you a better employee. But does impact your productivity and work-life balance.

Going on vacation gives you much-needed rest, which is simply not possible over the weekend. It is also a great way to alleviate work-related stress and improve your mental health. Also, taking a break will boost your creativity and productivity.

You don’t necessarily have to fly to a European country for a vacation. Use this time to do whatever you find relaxing. Visit your parents, book a staycation, or spend quality time with your family and friends.

Poor Sleep Schedule

We all have stayed up way late in the night because of a thrilling Netflix show. But every time you click ‘continue watching’, your productivity takes a hit. Sleep deprivation can impact your performance, concentration, and productivity.

Lack of sleep also impacts your mental and physical health. Make it a habit to go to bed at a reasonable time and try to get at least 7-8 hours of uninterrupted sleep.

Also, the duration of nightly sleep is not the only factor. You also need to ensure that you are getting quality sleep. It would be helpful to track your sleep to determine its quality.

Ignoring Mental & Physical Health

Your mental and physical health cannot be an afterthought. They have a direct impact on your productivity and overall well-being. Expecting yourself to keep working when you’re going through a personal crisis or health issues is not okay.

If your employer doesn’t support your mental or physical wellness, it’s time to look for a new job. Even Naomi Osaka, one of the top tennis champions, withdrew from the French Open when her request to skip the press conference because of her mental health was denied.

That being said, not everyone is in a position to quit. If you are feeling stressed or anxious, there is no shame in seeking help from a professional.

Social Media

Unarguably, social media is addictive. You pick up your phone to check one message and suddenly you’ve spent 30 minutes scrolling through some stranger’s Instagram. Today, social media is purposely designed to suck your in with bite-sized videos and viral content.

We would suggest you set a timer before checking social media. But if you lack that kind of self-discipline, the only way to tackle technology is with technology. First, start by turning off push notifications. On apps like Instagram and Facebook, you can set a daily time limit to keep your social media use in check.


Productivity cannot be an afterthought. Just like operational costs or client satisfaction, it is a key metric that plays a critical role in your organization’s success. From workplace policies to lifestyle changes, overall productivity depends on the employers and the employees.. It’s important to note that every organization is unique, and therefore not all the points mentioned above will be relevant for your organization. However, every organization should constantly monitor productivity and invest in ways to improve it.

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Stefan Smulders

Author Bio:

Stefan Smulders is a SaaS Entrepreneur | Bootstrapped to €3M ARR in just 1year | Founder of Worlds safest software for LinkedIn Automation Expandi.io | Vegan | Father

One thought on “17 Workplace Productivity Killers & Ways You Can Overcome Them

  • Workplace productivity and the factors that encourage or discourage it are just not talked about often enough. Reporting managers and Supervisors must keep an eye out for what helps their subordinates and what doesn’t and make an active effort at helping them become the most productive versions of themselves.

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