Fighting workplace procrastination

Nina Grunfeld, self-help guru and Founder of Life Clubs at Work, worked with the UK's leading P2P platform, RateSetter, to explore the impact of workplace procrastination and the effects on employees and businesses.

George Patton famously said, “A good plan violently executed now is better than a perfect plan executed next week.” This is especially true in today’s fast-paced work culture where procrastination is quietly eating away at the bottom line. The trouble with procrastination is it’s harder to spot than employee absenteeism and avoidance tactics are not always black and white.

Unproductivity costs. New research on procrastination published by leading P2P platform RateSetter finds that we spend on average 43 minutes procrastinating at work every day, costing British businesses a staggering £76 billion per annum.

To put into context that’s nearly a tenth of national debt and not far off the annual cost of sick days (£100 billion a year). Suddenly, these ‘trivial’ workplace avoidance tactics are not so inconsequential, particularly when RateSetter discovered that one in five people admit that if they stopped procrastinating they would enjoy a better work-life balance.

With the stakes high for both businesses and employees, it’s important to remember that there are a few practical, simple ways to improve workplace productivity. Surprise, surprise, most of them involve talking…

Communicate with line managers

Line managers are arguably some of the most important people in the business. They’re the ones who are aware of employees’ rotas, tasks and to-do lists. Before giving an employee another deadline, speak with their line manager first to discuss their capacity. Workers spend a huge amount of time and energy trying to please others, too afraid to say no in fear of offending someone. The reality is that the tasks mount up until they’re overwhelmed and don’t know where to begin – and that’s the point at which some people begin to procrastinate. Line managers will be able to offer insight and see if the task realistically fits within the individual’s time frame.

Drop perfectionism

Employees want desperately to impress and can spend too much time getting work to 100%. Yet sometimes, it’s more productive for workers to get tasks to 80% and pass them on to someone senior so they can start the next assignment. Sadly this often isn’t communicated internally. It’s important that employees know what to prioritise and are aware that not everything has to be completed at once – or to the highest of high standards. That’s when procrastination can kick in, as, achieving perfectionism over all those tasks, is just overwhelming.

Set positive, purposeful goals

Employees naturally think about the end goal – that well-deserved pay rise, promotion or new business win. But too many managers don’t communicate the small, do-able steps that have to be taken to get there. Whilst there is merit in looking at the bigger picture, it all too frequently breeds unclear thinking as employees struggle to figure out what must be done right now. This in turn leads to indecision and avoidance rather than proactivity.

When you see an employee, ask them about their progress and, if at all possible, congratulate them and inspire them to move to the next step. Avoid setting employees’ goals too high – RateSetter believes it’s the small changes which make a big impact. It’s much more rewarding to surpass aims and build on achievements than not quite reaching the target in the first place.

Party planning

If you are striving to motivate your team, offering a reward for six months of productivity will probably have a positive incentive. A pizza party costs relatively little but might well be welcome news. Remember though, it’s important to choose an activity that everyone will enjoy and appreciate. Alternatively, bonuses can be offered to people across all levels within the company to recognise exceptional work which helps to maintain motivation and high employee performance.

Saying thank you helps

Did any of your staff take advantage of National Sickie Day last week? According to Hyper Recruitment Solutions, the first Monday of February saw an estimated 350,000 workers in the UK take the day off under the pretence of illness, with a quarter of the month’s job interviews thought to be conducted on that day. Whilst staff rewards can help employees feel valued and motivated at work, simply saying thank you can pay huge dividends. It’s common knowledge that people want to work hard for those who are appreciative and for the first time, RateSetter’s ‘Great British Procrasti-nation’ report reveals the true impact that individual avoidance tactics have on the wider business.

It may feel as though you say thank you all the time but research from ILM last year found discrepancies in how managers thought they were treating their staff and employees’ views: 69 per cent of those surveyed claimed they were “always” giving their staff feedback, but only 23 per cent of employees felt the same way. An authentic thank you will boost workers and can often make them work even harder – you’ve got nothing to lose.

See also: How to optimise your productivity as an entrepreneur

Nina Grunfeld worked in conjunction with RateSetter, the UK’s leading P2P platform, to publish the ‘Great British Procrasti-nation’ report. RateSetter was set up to empower people who weren’t getting a fair deal from traditional financial institutions and help make their lives better. The theme of empowerment informs this campaign to encourage people to make every day count – not only in finance, but in every element of people’s lives.

Praseeda Nair

Praseeda Nair

Praseeda was Editor for from 2016 to 2018.

Related Topics