Wasted time is an inescapable fact of life, and equally true in the business world as well. We can plan and schedule as we like, but there are inevitably instances where minutes that eventually turn into hours are spent on things for which there is no redeeming value. In our lives, much of that wasted time is waiting: waiting on line, waiting in traffic, waiting for things to begin. Our smartphones mean we’re never unoccupied in those moments, but can we say that they were particularly productive towards whatever end we have in mind?
Not that productivity is the all-consuming purpose of our lives, or even our work; there’s the downtime of our nights and weekends, and even in our hours at the office we allot for breaks to avoid burnout. But there’s a difference between breaks and lost productivity during the hours that we’re meant to be working. It’s those inadvertently lost minutes and hours that can drive employers crazy, and can make a considerable difference in your bottom line in aggregate.
A group of startup business employees working together in a modern office environment.
Efficiency is a buzzword that gets thrown around quite a bit, particularly in the context of CEOs or COOs looking to streamline or maximize output or whatever euphemism you might choose for getting more out of their employees and their company. And it’s an understandable concern: each company has targets to hit, and only a certain amount of resources to allocate, and they want those resources to return the greatest yield possible within reason. Trying to succeed is hard enough without seeing some portion of the time and effort that should be directed towards the work at hand seemingly evaporating into the ether.
No company is able to get to one hundred percent efficiency, but the best companies are able to examine their processes and understand where losses of time and energy are occuring, and cut down on those as much as possible. The most successful businesses are the ones with little in the way of time and energy wasted unnecessarily. That distinction — unnecessary — is an important one; you don’t want to be the person timing bathroom breaks or lunch breaks, or hovering over the shoulder of employees to ensure there’s no lapse in concentration or glances at phones, because these are the very necessary inefficiencies that are part and parcel of being human. (Don’t be a Dwight Schrute, is what I guess I’m saying.) Even the most successful companies can forget themselves and sacrifice their humanity for the sake of productivity.
There are still steps to be taken to improve how your business runs without having to ask more of employees than is reasonable. So where are the biggest inefficiencies? Anyone that’s ever attended a meeting that felt wholly unnecessary will point to said meetings as one of the main thieves of productivity, not to mention joy and the general will to live. We love meetings because they can feel like an accomplishment in and of themselves, and a justification of our position and status.
Don’t get me wrong, they can serve a purpose: they disseminate information and coordinate efforts, and when run properly can move things forward and ensure a common understanding. But those in positions of power as managers and coordinators can fall overly in love with meetings, to the point that you find yourself attending meetings about meetings, and pre-meetings and post-meetings until it can feel like your job is attending meetings, with the ancillary tasking of doing your actual job. Heed the cry from offices around the world: no unnecessary meetings.
Waiting is an equally frustrating and wasteful exercise that can slow down many a process that serves to degrade your productivity. There are certain waits that simply can’t be avoided; there’s little you can do if you’re waiting on a supplier or other outside entity to continue your work, besides registering your dissatisfaction loudly and repeatedly. But as companies grow larger, there is a complication to workflows that were once simple, and an inertia that seems to set in that makes decisions hard to come by. There’s no longer autonomy or a single decision-maker; instead, issues go through channels, to be reviewed by the necessary people or groups in their own time, leaving one or more people waiting for a decision before they can continue their work. Streamlining decision-making processes and granting autonomy where possible can help prevent the delays and logjams that prevent more work from getting done.
There are of course a thousand tiny things that can be done to help improve efficiency each adding up to small gains that can make a big difference in the end result. The key is being able to understand that improvements can be made, recognizing that how you’re operating might not be the best way to do things, and having the courage to make meaningful changes rather than superficial measures. #onwards.
Thanks to the Courtesy of :