The Workday Vacuum: How Millions of Workers Flush Their Time

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Harvard Business Review recently featured on article entitled, “Make Time for the Work that Matter,” which offered some solid advice on the quality of our work. Referring to “knowledge workers,” or people with niche skills, they added that “knowledge workers can become more productive and found that the answer is simple: Eliminate or delegate unimportant tasks and replace them with value-added ones. Our research indicates that knowledge workers spend a great deal of their time—an average of 41%—on discretionary activities that offer little personal satisfaction and could be handled competently by others.” While these tasks would be better handed by others, we do them because it makes us feel productive. Here are two other ways we’re wasting our workday:

Here Lies the Email, Once a Wonder-Tool for Communication

Email has officially made it on the endangered species list. The once useful medium is now wrecked by evolving communication mobility. For business trend watchers keeping a hawk-eye on evolving business practices, this decline has been in the making for a couple of years. The 2010 U.S. Digital Year in Reviewreported web-based email usage was down by about 59% – that’s over half of users relying less and less on standard email platforms.

Users shifting away from webmail aren’t just suddenly not using the internet anymore; on the contrary, they’ve investing more time on the internet but investing that time on different mobile platforms. They’re relying on social media. They’re Facebook and Tweeting. Employees are moving to public social networks because social networks are structured for more engaging communication. Rather than pinging back and forth in an email, one of many in the hundreds of emails busy executives can rake up daily, users prefer the discussion tractions set forth in social media networks. Email can’t offer that. Email doesn’t work for day to day internal communications of a company. Reserve the tool for marketing and newsletter campaigns, and switch internal information flow over to a private social network.

Yet despite the figures, most companies are sticking to intra-office communication via email with cult-like fervor – despite the fact that 15% of a employee’s yearly work hours go into back and forth in-office email communications, which adds up to about 650 hours.

Scoot Over Email and Make Room for Meetings

Meetings themselves aren’t obsolete – but live in-person meetings are. Today’s employee, from an entry-level position to senior management, is inundated with work and expectations. Stopping what you need to do throughout the day to go and attend an often futile meeting not only depletes moral and dwarfs creativity, it also is an incredible time waster.

Meetings are inefficient time wasters. Most meeting content can be shared virtually through email content, slideshow presentations, webinars, videos, and more. Allowing employees to access such content at their own leisure and within a reasonable time-frame ensures that employees aren’t manipulating their schedule or stopping in mid-project to drag themselves to a watering hole.

In a digitally-equipped mobile world, is there still room for the in-person meeting? In-person meetings are designed to meet emotional needs, where rhetoric is matched with non-verbal cues like expression, tone, rate of speech, and gestures. These expressive methods are best reserved for when emotional components are need, i.e. for sales and outreach/partnership efforts. Establishing an emotional connection is not a requirement for communicating with your existing team. Your staff recognizes the workplace dynamics. They’re aware of their responsibilities and expectations and would rather be left to meet them than be obligated to interject their efforts in yet another meeting.

In-person meetings need to become the exception rather than the rule. To do this right, your company has to have to right tools in place so your staff is equipped with networking and communication capabilities.

Are you ready for a smarter way to engage with your customers?

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