7 Common Time Bandits in the Workplace

Whether you’re a business owner, a corporate executive or otherwise employed, you need to be concerned about productivity. If you work autonomously, controlling how you spend your time will increase productivity and efficiency. If you work in shared office space, time management becomes even more vital for personal productivity.

Sounds like a no-brainer, yet we continuously tolerate habits that waste our time and adversely affect productivity.

#1 Just Saying Hi

It’s okay, in fact desirable, to greet colleagues at the start of each day. However, when you opt to greet several people, giving each undivided attention, you will notice the impact on productivity. How much time do you spend each time you say hi? Do you spend a minute or five on each person?

Where interaction includes people located on another floor or building, it gets even trickier as colleagues come and go throughout the day.

#2 What’s up or Whatsapp?

In this digital age, social media is perhaps the most significant time bandit of all. You may desist from Facebook and Twitter during working hours, but we tend to consider WhatsApp messages as “okay” to read and respond to at any time. So, how many do you receive, how long do you take to read them, and do you respond immediately?

Sure, social media is a convenient way to keep in touch, and we like to know that someone cares enough to find out how yesterday’s board meeting turned out or whether I managed to find a good mechanic or how my sick child is faring. But how much time do you spend discussing the details?

#3 Those Phone Calls

My mother made it a point never to call me between 8 am and 5 pm on workdays unless there was an emergency. I didn’t ask her to observe this rule; she figured that when you work for a corporate, you’re expected to be working during working hours, not catching up on “home affairs.”

I believe anyone can influence their friends and family members to make social phone calls during social hours, before or after work.

#4 Refill Stations

When you “bump into” someone at the water cooler or coffee dispenser in your workspace, is it an opportunity to say another hi and find out how their day is coming along? How much time do you spend on such chit-chat, and do you do this each time you bump into someone?

In one office, I observed that each time one person got up to get a cuppa, two or more people did the same and used this as an opportunity to meet and chat.

#5 Brief Debriefs

This time bandit is common in the corporate world. Boss or colleague comes back from an important meeting and decides to give a brief update to one person or more. This is a time-waster if the debrief lasts longer than a few minutes because there will typically be a scheduled meeting to discuss the same information. One on one debriefs with direct reports are quite appropriate. However, we waste time when decide to give unstructured, unscheduled updates as a way of making conversation instead of allowing people to focus on their day’s work.

#6 The Lunch Commutes

We usually have our lunch-buddies: people with whom we share our lunch break. Sometimes we need to walk or drive a few minutes to get to the lunch venue.

When your lunch break is an hour long, do you factor in the time it takes to get to the food joint and the time spent walking back to your workplace?

It is not uncommon to find people walking 15 minutes, spending an hour dining and then another 15 minutes to get back to their workstation. In other words, there’s half an hour commute time that’s not factored into your lunch break.

#7 Stray Conversations

A dialogue that started out between two or more people ends up engulfing others who happen to be within hearing range. Someone from the initial conversation might claim to be seeking a third or fourth opinion, but if the discussion was chit chat in the first place, dragging more people into that interaction will just multiply time wasted. So, don’t stray into these interactions and better not be the one starting them!

What to do about time bandits

These are not the only time bandits and you might have a list of your own. What’s important is that you identify workplace habits that rob you of precious time, and begin doing something to stop them.

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