Last updated on November 29th, 2022
I am all about efficiency.
However, staying productive through the entire work day can be extremely difficult.
This is a common problem for business owners and employees alike, as the average employee is only productive for around 31% of the average 8-hour workday – that’s only roughly 3 hours of work!
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But what’s causing this lack of productivity for workers?
If you’re seeing a lack of productivity in your employees (or perhaps even yourself), but you are struggling to identify the causes, then here is some research I have done to try and help you out. Here are 9 common causes of lack of productivity.
1. Distractions And Interruptions
One of the most common reasons behind a lack of productivity in employees is distractions and/or interruptions.
Statistically, the average worker reportedly wastes 60 hours every month purely due to distractions in the workplace, and the average employee faces 56 interruptions a day.
Not only do businesses lose a lot of money through a lack of productivity caused by distractions, but distractions and interruptions are proven to double the chances of errors.
This means that not only do distractions result in your employees putting out less work, but the work itself is likely to be a lower quality or incorrect.
A report from CareerBuilder in 2015 found that the most common causes of distractions and interruptions in the workplace include:
- Cellphones (52%)
- The Internet (44%)
- Gossip/Chatty Co-Workers (37%)
- Social Media (36%)
- Emails (31%)
As you can see, a lot of these distractions are related to technology but nearly 84% of businesses still have a ‘bring your device’ policy at their offices and workplace.
According to a survey from Udemy, 75% of workers agree that they are more productive when workplace distractions are limited. So, perhaps a cell-phone ban at work could help boost productivity.
Did you know that multitasking is actually a myth?
I’ve met a lot of people who claim that multitasking is the key to productivity as you’re doing multiple tasks at once – but the thing is, studies have shown that multitasking actually reduces productivity.
According to a report from Zippia, multitasking can reduce productivity up to 40%.
Multitasking is proven to negatively impact your short-term memory (and thus, your ‘working’ memory) and actively breaks your flow, which can boost your productivity by 500%.
Studies also show that multitasking also reduces brain activity for spatial awareness by 29% and language comprehension by 53%.
This means that trying to multitask leads to simple tasks taking longer to do, and has the same effect as losing a whole night’s worth of sleep!
3. Stress And Anxiety
This reason should take no one by surprise as stress and anxiety are usually the cause of a lot of different problems, including a lack of productivity at work.
83% of US workers suffer from work-related stress and a massive 94% of workers report experiencing stress while at their place of work.
All of this stress and anxiety is proven to have a direct impact on productivity at work, with employees saying that their stress and anxiety most often makes an impact on their workplace performance (56%) and quality of work (50%).
Another report from Colonial Life found that one in four workers spend five hours of work each week worrying, and that 26% of workers agree that stress directly makes them less productive.
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), the main causes of work related stress are deadlines (55%), interpersonal relationships (53%), staff management (50%), and dealing with issues that occur (49%).
This reason actually took me by surprise but looking back on it, it really does make sense – meetings at work actually reduces productivity.
To organize and prepare for a meeting, employees and employers put in a lot of time and resources. A simple status update meeting can take 4 hours of each workers’ time to prepare. That’s a lot of time spent on one update meeting.
Plus, meetings themselves are not actually that productive. According to a survey from Atlassian, 91% of employees admitted to daydreaming during meetings, 39% of employees admitted to sleeping, and 50% stated that they thought meetings were a waste of time.
Clearly, meetings are not that popular.
5. The Office (The Place, Not The TV Show)
The COVID19 pandemic led to the number of people working from home to triple between 2019 and 2021. This means that less people than ever are working in the office – and this may actually have a positive impact on productivity.
A Stanford study found that productivity improved by 13% when workers worked from home, while other studies have found that employees who work from home increase their performance by 22% and that work from home employees are 52% less likely to request time off work.
Reasons why working from home has such a positive effect on productivity ranges from the lack of a commute, workers having more control over their breaks, and being able to feel more comfortable at home.
Work burnout is real – and I’ve experienced it myself during my career. Working on the same projects, doing the same thing day after day can get really boring really fast – and it’s easy to burn yourself out!
75% of workers admit to experiencing work burnout and this can lead to a serious dip in productivity. Burned-out employees are 63% more likely to call in sick which can lead to lost work hours and falling behind on projects.
According to a burnout survey from Deloitte, while stress is a leading cause of burnout, so is a lack of support from management, unrealistic deadlines and work expectations, and long work hours.
7. Low Job Satisfaction
Low job satisfaction basically means that you are unhappy in your job, and this lack of drive and passion can result in low productivity.
Being satisfied with your work is proven to boost productivity by 31%, while unhappy workers are 10% less productive on average. As a result, the US alone loses $550 billion due to unhappy employees.
Only 65% of employees say they are satisfied with their jobs which means that nearly half of US workers have lower productivity due to dissatisfaction with their job.
8. Lack Of Recognition
This cause of low productivity is closely tied with job satisfaction, but simply recognizing your employees for their hard work can help improve productivity and employee retention.
One survey proved that employee recognition was important to employees, with 37% agreeing that it was most important to them.
Another study found that 40% of employees felt that if they were recognized more at work, they would put more energy into their tasks.
On the other side, employees who are allowed to participate in more decision making help improve productivity and efficiency.
Another study from Deloitte found that recognizing employees for their work not only boosted productivity but engagement and performance by 14%.
9. Toxic Workplace Culture
Toxic workplace culture is the accumulation of many negative aspects of a business, and has a devastating impact on a business’s productivity.
According to Atlassian, the five most defining features of a toxic workplace culture are:
- High employee turnover
- Endless gossip and drama
- Fear of failure
- Lack of enthusiasm in employees
- Constant confusion
Having a toxic workplace culture can lead to increased work-related stress, job dissatisfaction, and lower employee retention rates.
All of this also results in lower productivity in employees as 38% employees have said that the quality of their work decreases in a toxic work environment.
A study into the legal industry found that toxic workplace cultures had a direct impact on productivity with 38% of employees feeling less engaged with their roles and 21% taking time off work. I expect studies in other industries would see similar results.
I hope this article has helped you identify and understand common causes of low productivity in the workplace. Some may be applicable to you, others may not – but I hope you now feel more confident with improving your workplace culture! Good luck!