Employee Productivity vs Distractions

Employee productivity isn’t a cut and dry measurement. If you are in a production environment, it can obviously be measured by the number of units produced in an hour/shift. But what about office work?


Employees can be given tasks/projects to complete and completion of said task can be used to measure productivity. However, did you factor in interruptions that are interjected into their daily schedule? You, as his/her boss, may be the leading cause of interruptions and thus, limiting your employee’s productivity.

We all know the daily interruptions we are faced with – email, group chat sites, phone calls, other co-workers, your boss, meetings – each has its purpose and contributes to productivity or hinders it. Large corporations and small startups have similar issues however with the latter, the constant switching of tasks and wearing multiple hats has become a requirement of many jobs. These hats also equate to interruptions and starting and stopping of tasks.

When you shift to a completely different topic, you shift your cognitive resources. It takes time to process what is being asked of you as well as shifting your train of thought to focus on the new task appropriately. When that task is completed, you now have to shift gears to get back to what you were doing – that is if you can remember what it was you were doing.

Improving Productivity

In this busy environment, a few things you may wish to think about to keep productivity moving along:

  • Meetings can be informative and a good way to build team collaboration and rapport however, meetings without a goal are counterproductive. Ensure your meetings have a purpose and stay on track.
  • Unless their is a dire emergency, you may not need an immediate response. Reducing the expectation to answer emails immediately or having to take ten phone calls a day for questions or issues that can wait a few hours can leave more time for employees to concentrate and stay focused on their tasks. Responding to an email within 24 hours may be sufficient and speaking once or twice per day may be more effective than as little things come up several times a day.  
  • Have you provided enough information and training to your employees? An employee is likely to be more productive when they clearly understand what is expected of them.
  • Listen to your employees. The more they feel their voice is heard and valued, the more they will contribute to the company.
  • We all have our own challenges outside of work that we’re juggling. Be understanding when your employee may need a bit of flexibility. This will go a long way to having an appreciative and productive employee.

You can’t eliminate disruptions from your employee’s day, but when you have a good employee who is trying to do his/her best job for you, make sure they know that their actions count and what they do makes a difference and is appreciated.


Post by: Lynn McIlwee