October 23, 2016
It's no shocker that IT professionals have notoriously heavy workloads and feel pressured to complete work at all hours. In fact, The 2016 Health IT Stress Report found that 55 percent of professionals in the field are frequently or constantly stressed — stress that is directly tied to their workload. The report revealed that 35 percent of respondents said they have an unrealistic amount of work to do in the time given.
A recent survey conducted by Paychex found that tech employees are among the top two groups of professionals who admit to surfing the web the most at work.
The next question employers might ask: If tech employees don’t have the time to finish their work, why are they wasting so much time browsing the internet? For employers, the solution seems simple, limit internet access and introduce new policies on internet use to reduce time wasters and improve productivity, right?. Nope. In fact, it could be counterproductive.
While some of the most common managerial strategies to boost productivity are well-intentioned, they can end up ineffective. Here are three issues to avoid:
Don't Limit Down Time
Limiting which websites employees can visit and blocking social media is a common practice to keep employees on task. It’s also ineffective. Among those surveyed by Paychex, 31 percent said website blockers are ineffective at reducing time wasting activities.
Why? Because scrolling through social media feeds and other non-work-related websites is actually a productive use of time. Taking breaks helps employees relax, de-stress, and take a breather so they can come back to their work refreshed and ready to tackle their next assignment.
Limiting what employees can and can’t do doesn’t fix the problem, it only adds to it. It creates a stressful working environment where employees are viewed as machines, not people.
Instead of restricting what employees can do, open up their schedules with more flexibility. Flexible schedules allow employees to work at times that are best for them, improving productivity. After all, flexible scheduling was rated as one of the most effective strategies to reduce time wasters in the report
Flexible schedules also encourage employees to take more time for themselves. And tech professionals need that time to maintain their health. In the stress survey, 27 percent of health IT professionals rated their physical health as less than ideal or poor, while another 35 percent said it’s just OK.
Schedules that fit employee lifestyles means professionals have more time to take care of themselves and their health.
Those managers that watch over workers’ shoulders, ask for constant updates on projects, and watch their every move can make employees uncomfortable and more stressed. And when managers become overbearing, be careful, because your best tech professionals might head for the door. A survey conducted by Gallup in 2015 found that 50 percent of respondents said they have left a job to get away from their boss.
While managers do have a role in boosting productivity, they should strive to help employees, not control them. Instead of looming over employees, managers can get involved by making workloads more manageable. Make sure to be a supportive leader by talking to employees about their workloads and what would make them more productive.
Don't Focus on the Process Above the Employee
While it’s a small gesture, the impacts of recognition are huge. Even a small thank you can help motivate employees to keep up the good work and be even more productive. After all, recognition was cited as one of the most effective strategies to reduce time wasted in the Paychex survey.
Take a step back, listen to employees, and work toward solutions that reduce stress and improve productivity at the same time.
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