NEWSFLASH: Your staff are stealing from you

When you pay your staff a salary, you are buying their time. This time the business has bought is its biggest expense line and most important asset. And when your staff use this ‘work time’ to check Facebook, throw out likes on Instagram and Snapchat their friends the latest fairy-eyes filter pic, (see this study from Forbes for all the stats), they are effectively stealing money from the company.

Harsh but fair?

This is a pretty strong opening statement. It’s a summary that will make many managers nod their heads in agreement, but also make them feel very uncomfortable. No Business Owner, Managing Director or General Manager wants to come across as a micro-managing ogre. We all want a great ‘vibe’ and culture in our businesses, and telling your team that they are stealing from the company is a risky proposition.

But, if the business doesn’t grow and thrive, there won’t be money to pay salaries in the future. So, managing the careful use of ‘work time’ is crucial to your team having a job in the first place.

The frustration for many business owners and managers is they see their team spending time on non-work related activity, and at the same time, are being told;

“There’s too much work”

“I don’t have enough time to get that done today”

“We ran out of time, we’re going to miss the deadline”

“I’m so stressed – there’s too much pressure on me”

The problem of “Time Leakage”

If one of your staff walked out with the photocopier and put it in their car, you would notice and take pretty swift action. The challenge with ‘work time’ leakage is it happens in a million small ways, and it’s harder to see with the naked eye.

As an example, if you ran a team of 12, and each one of them checked Facebook three times per day, and Instagram and Snapchat once each per day, and if they spent 10 minutes each time, that adds up to 600 minutes across the team in a single day.

If you assumed an average salary across that same team of $80,000 per annum, this 600 minutes would be costing the business $461.54 per day. At a $90k salary, it’s $519.23 per day. (Please feel free to check my maths here).

It’s not just the cash value of ‘work time’ you’re losing

There’s a range of other costs you need to factor in when considering how much the business loses when staff don’t value, and use, ‘work time’ as they should:

  • Rushing leads to mistakes being made, which creates re-work, costing yet more time
  • Mistakes lead to client losses, damaged reputation and embarrassment
  • Time and deadline pressure can create conflicts within your teams
  • If people are looking at Facebook or Twitter on their phones when they are supposed to be paying attention in a meeting, engagement and contribution levels drop
  • Complaints from staff about ‘not having enough time’ frustrate managers, limiting their ability to be positive, up-beat leaders
  • Stress in the office drives down morale and the staff’s enjoyment of the working environment

Why is it so?

For people who have always had the internet, smart phones and social media at their fingertips, it feels like a right. It’s like oxygen – they only notice it when they don’t have enough.

Without making generalisations about the “Generations”, it’s still true to say that managers over the age of 45 remember a time before desktop computers in the office. That’s unimaginable for the younger members of your team.

Plus, these social media channels have been built to ensure constant, frequent and deep usage. (If you’re interested in how they do it, this is a great book on how to build ‘habit-forming’ products).

Also, if you employ a high performing team of talented people, they know there’s a lot of demand in the employment market for what they can do. If they feel that their workplace is ‘limiting their freedoms’, they will pack up and leave for the next big thing.

So, business owners and managers feel like their hands are tied. They know they are losing time and money with all the personal activity that creeps into the work day, but they feel like their options to reduce or eliminate it are limited.

What can you do about it?

From a time management and personal leadership standpoint, there a few things you can do straight away to start focusing your team more on the work and less on their Facebook feed:

  1. Create a common understanding – It’s important for you as a leader in the business to be clear, firm and fair in the expectations your team have for what it acceptable and unacceptable behaviour.
  2. Build respect for time – If you’re going to ask your team to respect ‘work time’, you need to ensure you respect their ‘personal time’. Try not to write or respond to emails late at night if you could be creating the impression that you’re expecting them to read and respond at those times. Try to limit last-minute overtime or weekend work. It’s a two-way street.
  3. Communicate the value of time for the business – On our time management training program, Make Time Work, we help explain the importance and value of ‘work time’. We give people the skills and techniques to create and maintain high levels of focus for longer periods of time. The simple act of running a half-day training program in time management communicates to your team that you are serious about how ‘work time’ is being used.
  4. “Punish” poor behaviour, but in positive ways – Using a ‘meeting lateness’ example, we used to “punish” the last person to arrive at a meeting by having them take and publish the notes from the meeting. People were very keen to avoid having to take on this extra task, and the rule applied to everyone from the CEO down.
  5. Recognise and reward the right behaviours – Create ‘role models’ within your team that others can aspire to emulate. Reward, in a public way, those team members who are demonstrating the right behaviours. Small investments here can deliver much larger outcomes across an entire team.

2017 is going to be a big year, and if you can get more performance, better results and less stress happening in your team, you will be giving the business the best chance to succeed.

Geoff NixAbout the author

Geoff Nix is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Real Time Minds. He’s also one of our Personal Effectiveness, Marketing and Strategy experts and you can connect with him online for instant answers to your small business challenges.

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