Separate studies by AOL, Microsoft and show that the average worker now wastes 2.1 hours a day on activities ranging from surfing the Internet and socializing to conducting personal business and running errands.

This comes as no surprise to companies which have long been tried to boost productivity through various schemes, ranging from incentive plans to time-boxing (working on a task for a set time and then quitting) and even power-napping. According to experts contacted by the author, people will continue to waste time as long as time is the gauge by which work is measured. Absenteeism and clock-watching are drags on productivity, while flex-time is seen as a con game that stigmatizes those who try and do it. Instead of treating workers as children who need constant supervision, offices should emulate universities, where work is done when and how the student wants.

Best Buy initiated a pilot concept called ROWE (Results Only Work Environment) where meetings were optional (though negotiated with supervisors), managers became mentors and everything was done by negotiation. No one works when stressed or need to be doing something else. The results were striking – productivity was up 35% and the voluntary turnover rate fell from 36.6% to 6%.

Concepts like “constructive procrastination” are discussed as is the perfect fit of this idea with the desires of generation-Y workers for less structure and more creativity on the job. Until such time as their company adopts a ROWE-like system, readers are provided a list of ways to spot time-wasters and a longer list of ways to boost personal productivity in an 8-hour work setting.

Source: Helen Kirwan-Taylor, Management Today (London); Sep, 2007

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