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5 Drains on Workplace Productivity

computersNothing frustrates managers’ more than needless wastes of time. Since there are always plenty of real/important tasks to be done and problems to be addressed, adding time-consuming non-essential tasks does nothing but diminish productivity. There are 5 key areas on which we should most focus when looking to reduce the major drains on productivity-these are:

  1. Process/Systems/Policy/Procedure chaos
  2. Unnecessary communication (emails/meetings)
  3. Distractions/Interruptions/Gratuitous Multi-tasking
  4. Manually do repetitive tasks which could be automated/aided by technology
  5. Dealing with poor/toxic employees/office politics

Lets look at each of these in a little more detail:

Process/Systems/Policy/Procedure chaos

No matter what the size of the organization, we know that consistent service and quality are best delivered by having sound and well-followed processes or systems in place. These are then ideally supported by well-written policies and procedures that are clear and straightforward to adhere to. Unfortunately, if processes are not well designed and documented, the policies and procedures that support them may be hard to adhere to and chaos can quickly ensue. In practice, this often means that individuals and teams can pull in different directions and productivity suffers considerably.

Unnecessary communication (emails/meetings etc.)

While clear and consistent communication is helpful to productivity, too much of it has the reverse affect. This can apply to a range of communication types but is most problematic in two areas-email sending and meetings. Emails are convenient and easy to send but readily copied to many people, (many of whom may not need to get them) and are often long or poorly written, thereby creating confusion that needs to be clarified. Meetings are also easy to call (both face to face or virtually) but can include people who do not need to be there and even if they are the right people, waste their time by being too numerous, poorly organized and badly run.

Distractions/Interruptions/Gratuitous Multi-tasking

Most individuals will claim that they are good at doing many jobs at once or capable of multi-tasking. However, research suggests that much greater productivity is achieved by handling one task at a time and to do so in the most focused way possible. This entails avoiding distractions and interruptions as far as each person can and to do this well means managing other people to ensure that they are aware of the need to concentrate and not be pulled in many directions. The more we can therefore plan our work and perform our tasks in quiet places, the more productive we are likely to be.

Manually do repetitive tasks, which could be automated/aided by technology

Task repetition is often a large part of most working processes (something that has prevailed ever since the beginnings of the industrial revolution). However, process and task automation and technology can help to reduce this repetition if leaders and team supervisors are willing and able to learn what is available (in their own industry and elsewhere) and then introduce it carefully and with good support to help free people up and allow them to apply their skills elsewhere (and thereby boost productivity in two ways).

Dealing with poor/toxic employees/office politics

Although not every workplace has poor or, worse, toxic workers, where they do exist and are left alone to cause maximum damage, there is almost no greater drain on productivity. This is simply because such employees are contributing far below expected levels of output and may need one or more other employees on the team to cover for their shortcomings. Even more significant, such people may distract other team members or even irritate them-only to see their productivity fall also.

Not only does every leader need to address each of the above areas as potential for poor practices, but also needs to keep asking questions to make sure that things do not deteriorate again once changes for the better have been made.


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About Dr. Jon Warner

Dr. Jon Warner is a prolific author, management consultant and executive coach with over 25 years experience. He has an MBA and a PhD in Organizational Psychology. Jon can be reached at

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  1. AgneseJanuary 4, 2017 at 8:53 am

    Great article on listing problems. It would be nice to have a list with solutions for these problems. How can I avoid interruptions for example?

  2. Sammy BlackmoreJanuary 5, 2017 at 5:44 am

    Personally, I really find multitasking the number one culprit for my decrease in productivity. Then I learned to do one type of task at a time.

  3. smithJanuary 30, 2017 at 8:29 am

    great post. Thanx Warner for sharing such a detailed information.

About the Editor and Primary Author

Jon Warner

Jon Warner is an executive coach and management consultant and in the past has been a CEO in three very different companies. Read more

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