Lost production hours

Online since 1.03.2017 • Filed under Human Resources • From Issue 5 - March 2017 - August 2017 page(s) 38-39
Lost production hours

By Jonathan Hall, Tower Bridge

Every day, South African companies lose 400 hours of productive time per 100 employees. How do you get that back?

Research by workplace design firm, Tower Bridge, finds that South African employees are interrupted or distracted at the office around 30 to 40 times per day. In an era where businesses are focused on maximising productivity and efficiency without compromising quality or service, these findings point to significant opportunities for better performance by reducing workspace disruptions and disturbances.

Tower Bridge’s survey encompassed just under 1 000 employees working for 40 firms. It reveals that most interruptions are between three and seven minutes long, and that it takes about the same time again for a worker to return to the task and refocus. At a conservative average of 10 minutes per disruption, including the time it takes to refocus, thirty disruptions steal around half a day of productive time per employee, every day.

The research finds that a firm loses about 330 hours of productive time per 100 employees every day. At an average cost of R120 an hour per employee, that translates into approximately R8 000 wasted per employee per month.

The most frequent interruptions are caused by on-thefly requests for help or information, using up just over 61 hours per 100 employees per day. Checking inboxes is the next most productivity-draining activity, using 56 hours per 100 employees per day, followed by changes in work priorities, and general office disturbances and social distractions, each at a little more than 50 hours per 100 employees per day.

Interruptions aren’t good for an employee’s wellbeing either. Employees who are under more pressure to do more work faster are increasingly frustrated with the high volume and range of disturbances and distractions that require them to attempt to multitask. The stress that these frustrations cause drive up cortisol, the neurotransmitter responsible for lower cognition, reduce creativity, lower energy, and leads to poor health and wellbeing.

The study’s findings are more conservative than the results produced by similar Gallup, Gensler and Steelcase studies, suggesting that the negative impact of disturbances might be even bigger. Given that studies on human concentration levels show how fickle the human mind is, at best, it’s likely that the already alarming statistics are understated.

Disruptions and distractions are a reality of the modern open-plan office and a technology driven ‘always-on’ world. While some distractions fight for scarce concentration capacity, many more are subliminal, taking additional process power and energy from employees’ brains all the time. These include movement, noise, temperature, light, ventilation, and even smells.

High levels of workplace distraction demand continuous attention switching (disguised as multitasking) that fatigues the human mind quickly, resulting in reduced quality of thought, higher levels of errors and stress and sleepiness.

While businesses criticise their distracted employees’ lack of productivity, Tower Bridge’s research shows that most employees want to get on with the job – and they know what changes they need in their workplace to achieve this. They need spaces where they can focus on work without interruptions, and they need spaces that allow for and encourage different types of collaboration and sharing.

Tower Bridge has identified that office workers typically function in six different modes of work, and businesses that seek to achieve the greatest productivity from their employees need to bear this in mind when they are designing their workplace. Creating spaces for people to function optimally reduces distractions and interruptions, giving people the space that they need to get on with the job.

The six modes of work include:

• Task mode – undisturbed space to concentrate

• Interact mode – space to interact with others

• Collaborate mode – space and tools to meet and interact in internal groups

• Communications mode – quiet or private space to make or receive phone calls

• Present mode – space and tools to receive or present information, such as learning, teaching or presenting

• Social mode – space to refresh, socialise or work informally.

The research reveals that typical office workers spend an average of 50 to 70% of their time in task mode, followed by 20 to 30% of their time in interact mode. They spend 10 to 20% of their time in each of collaborate, communicate, and presenting modes, with 10% spent in rejuvenate and social mode.

Workplaces that work for employees, and are the most efficient and productive for businesses, are the ones that take these splits in the working day into account. They show employees that their employers understand their needs, and are prepared to respond to them – something that is often far more motivating and profitable than a cash incentive.

Issue 5 - March 2017 - August 2017

Issue 5 - March 2017 - August 2017

This article was featured on page 38-39 of SABI Magazine Issue 5 - March 2017 - August 2017 .

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