Even with the integration of technology and a myriad of software solutions in the workplace, there has been a lack of measurable improvement in per-employee productivity. The Bureau of Labor Statistics has reported that productivity has grown by about 1.3 percent per year over the past eight years. In the seven years before that, the productivity growth rate was double, at 2.3 percent.
Improvements in collective American productivity and competitiveness must start with a commitment at the individual level. The starting point is having a job or gig of some kind. Without this, there is nothing against which to benchmark a rise or fall in productivity. Fortunately, employment has been slowly but steadily increasing over the past few years.
For those already employed and paying taxes, they may start their quest for higher productivity with a chip on their shoulders. The demoralizing point for the potential productivity warriors in the workforce is that, out of the millions of eligible U.S. taxpayers last year, 45 percent didn’t pay any income tax.
These points may explain why our deep attachment to the Internet, social media, and other online distractions, is not being checked at the door of our workplaces. First, those not employed will not even see the door to the workplace. Secondly, an employee will not readily relinquish their access to the escape of the cyber world just because they are at work.
Forrester wrote in a report, “The mobile mind shift is an expectation that an individual can get what he or she wants in their immediate context and moment of need.” Why should it be any different at work?
A Harris Poll for CareerBuilder surveyed 2,138 hiring and human resources managers as to the biggest workplace productivity killers. The poll revealed that four of the top five time-wasters at work are Internet-connected: cell phone, Internet use, social media and non-work email. More than half of the employers surveyed reported that the biggest distraction at work comes from employees using their cell phones, with 44 percent saying the same about using the Internet. “Cyberslackers” is the term reserved for those abusing workplace Internet access and content viewing.
The meager rate of growth of the productivity of the labor force in America is being chewed up by the use and abuse of Internet access to social media and apps for non-work purposes.
Many organizations have written policies regarding personal computer usage which make clear the company’s position on using a work computer or smartphone for non-work purposes. Employers often restrict an employee’s access to the Internet or to specific Web sites or prohibit personal usage of workplace computers altogether.
About three-quarters of major U.S. companies keep tabs on employees by checking their e-mail, the Internet, phone calls, computer files, or by videotaping them at work. Software systems are available that can be deployed to block access to social media, news, stock trading, games and any other Web sites that the employer wishes to restrict.
Even if a company has adopted policies regulating the Internet and social media use, and monitors them, personal devices eliminate the need for an employee to access the company network and Internet connection for their daily non-work cyber journeys.
Many larger businesses have closed this workplace loophole by regulating what kind of devices can be brought into the workplace and how they can be used for work and non-work purposes. The policies adopted address what is commonly known as BYOD (bringing your own device) to work. Most companies and employees believe that an even-handed BYOD policy increases both productivity and morale and certainly brings clarity to what is expected of the employee.
In any case, employee preoccupation with the Internet and social media is destructive of the employment exchange of ‘a fair day’s wage for a fair day’s work.’ If the bargain is not being met by the employee, it is a performance issue like any other.
In most businesses, online access cannot be prohibited, and shouldn’t, but sanity must rule. What’s the common ground in your organization?
A reduction in cyberslacking can improve productivity and keep businesses on sound financial footing, enabling them to stay afloat. Owners, shareholders, management and employees will reap the benefits, and we might even see an improving American economy as a by-product.
With continued employment and perhaps saving a few bucks, employees also might become a little less fearful of their futures.