Most Common Productivity Killers in the Workplace – Week 1

This week we return to our blog to explore the most common productivity killers in the workplace.

Data recently released by Pulp PR broke it down to four main things that today’s offices are unfortunately too full of. At Frontier Research we too have found ourselves grappling with these issues as we try to manage our resources in the most effective manner.

The following will hopefully set out some useful best practices and our experiences when it comes to key productivity killers at work.


  1. Meetings and conference calls.

The study found that an average person spends up to 5.6 hours in meetings per week and according to a 2012 survey 47 per cent of respondents said that meetings were the biggest waste of time at the office.

37 Signals, the web design company and a leader in workplace innovations with bestselling books on the subject, believes that there’s nothing more toxic to productivity than a meeting. Here are a few reasons they give:

Meetings break your work day into small, incoherent pieces that disrupt your natural workflow. They’re usually about words and abstract concepts, not real things (like a piece of code or some interface design), they usually convey an abysmally small amount of information per minute, they often contain at least one person who inevitably gets his turn to waste everyone’s time with nonsense, they drift off-subject easier than a Chicago cab in heavy snow, they frequently have agendas so vague nobody is really sure what they are about, they require thorough preparation that people rarely do anyway.

For those times when you absolutely must have a meeting (this should be a rare event), 37 Signals recommends these simple rules: Set a 30-minute timer. When it rings, meeting’s over. Period. Invite as few people as possible. Never have a meeting without a clear agenda (excerpts from 37 Signals’ ‘Getting Real’).

At Frontier Research, we recently took steps to cut down on our meetings, we now only have two hours of dedicated meeting time per week called ‘cooking time’; two hours on one working day in which we try to meet and finish discussing all strategy and other matters that we need to talk about for the week. At other times we like to keep meetings to a necessary minimum. Individual teams decide how much meeting time they need, and also decide how much time individual members need to be at office for the week. Overall we’re finding the exercise quite productive so far. Having just two hours a week forces us to focus more strongly on the things we need to get done.

  1. Surfing the Internet.

64 per cent of employees visit non-work related websites everyday and 3 out of 4 employees use Facebook at work, spending an average of one hour per day on the social networking site. The study estimates that web surfing at work costs businesses a whopping US$200 billion every year.

At Frontier we usually find that a free-reign in terms of Internet usage yields good results since we operate on a task basis, and empower employees to make best use of their times. We educate them on tools to better manage their work and social media use (and abuse) such as browser plug-ins that will allow you to make your own decision about what sites to block and for how long.

The Internet is almost an extension of the brain to the ‘millennial’ i.e. the new generation. And companies using policies of censorship can sometimes be perceived as being disrespectful and unaware of the ‘new norm’ of how things are done. Perhaps a dialogue as opposed to an autocratic approach to collectively managing Internet use in the office may yield better results.


That’s it for this week! Tune in next time when we run through two more productivity killer in the workplace!

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