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How to avoid loss of productivity in the workplace

Whether if you have a social company, or one that is purely focuss on getting the highest profit, without money it will be difficult to achieve your objectives. Sometimes we have all our goals clear and the timings look perfect. We have the resources, the money… but a company is a living thing and issues occurr. Every single company will have challenges that may lead to not achieving your goals. Loss of productivity in the workplace might be the reason for your company not to achieve your KPIs.

Definition of Productivity

It is important to start with the concept. The Oxford dictionary defines productivity as: “The effectiveness of productive effort, especially in industry, as measured in terms of the rate of output per unit of input.”

What could cause your loss of productivity

If we measure by the definition above, loss of productivity could be caused by anything that makes your output smaller with the same amount of “productive effort” or resources. So, said in a different way, everything that makes your resources produce less.

In this section, we will go over the major possible causes that could be decreasing your productivity and therefore your results.

1. Lack of team work

Lack of communication and team work could be one of the greatest issues at any company. It is well known that a team that has peers, not enemies, usually works better. For that reason companies spend thousands every year in team building events that bring the team together. They know it makes the team more efficient.

Team work is one of the basics, specially if you are an small company that is trying to swim in the same direction. Apart from building a great company culture and arranging great team building activities, you need to promote team work. That is not just the fun part, but it comes from the top. Try not to promote fights in between teams, and make sure their objectives are aligned and they don’t compete to be successful.

This is importart as lack of team work will highly impact the efficiency of your company. Not only you are losing the great benefits of the synergies that could come from it, but you will also be losing time and efforts. When the team is not aware of what the others do, or they don’t even care about it, there might be double work, missinformation and tons of energy wasted in achieving something that could easily be done as a team.

How to solve it? Start with a good onboarding and plan some team building activities from time to time. It is not the solution to everything, but it helps.

2. Lack of personal wellbeing of your employees or collaborators

Personal wellbeing of your employees should be something you take care for many other reasons. However, if you are looking for numbers to sustain the decission there are many studies that show that stressed or ill workers are less productive, wasting part of your resources and ending up in less achieved objectives.

2. A) Stress

A report conducted by Colonial Life showed that more than 20% of the surveyed people spent more than 5 hours per week thinking about their worries. Another 50% mentioned that they lost at least one hour each week. Do the numbers, how many employees do you have? What is the average per hour rate for those employees? Would it be worthit to invest in their wellbeing?

If you don’t know how to improve their level of stress, we recently wrote an article on how to manage stress for leaders, but it can be applicable to any of your employees.

2. B) Illness

We are not going to talk here about the absent days, they happen, and it is part of the company’s day to day to cover for it. However, it is important to speak about what happens when companies try to push employees to work under illness symptons. We all had that colleague that believes to be the hardest worker in the company because goes to the office with the flu.

Companies need to stop that from the very beginning. It is not worth for the employee, who instead of resting and recovering ealry will extend the “non productive” days. It might be an option to respond to a couple of urgent emails from home while you are recoverin with a warm cup of tea. However, it really doesn’t help anyone to go to the office if you are not productive

It also doesn’t help as it can be spreaded to other colleagues and decrease the productivity over a month, just because someone wanted to be seen as “hiperproductive”. We strongly recommend that you create an strong policy on this. Don’t encourage sick leave, but the necessary one. It is much better to be one full day off than 5 half productive.

3) Presenteeism

One of the very few good things that COVID has brought to us is that companies are starting to wake up when it comes to the need of being present in the office. However, there are still many company owners that feel better when people do their hours even if they are not doing anything at all.

Copying a sentence from a 2004 article of HBR: “Unlike absenteeism, presenteeism isn’t always apparent. You know when someone doesn’t show up for work” However, you never really know when someone is really working or being productive unless their objectives are clear.

You might have heard this, but there is a big presenteeism culture in some of the big consultancy coorporations. It is so implied within the culture that people even go to the office, leave their jackets on the chair and the computer on… come back with gym clothes, even the supermarket bags, send a couple of emails at 8 pm and leave. As long their boss see that they are “working hard” they keep their job. You might be wondering…. so what is wrong with this?

  • Firstly, it goes against the wellbeing point that we mentioned above. If they can not balance their life as a system, it might affect their stress levels
  • Secondly, It makes them less productive during the day, why work hard during the morning if they will be in the office until late hours…
  • Late hours are never productive. It is ok if you have to finish a project. We have all done it, but when you need coffee to stay awake… that work can not be as good as when you are relaxed

4) Distractions in the office

Social Media, mailbox, meetings, Smartphones… They are all tools that could increase productivity if used wisely. However, they could be the greatest source of distraction for many employees.

Some of them are really useful, but we tend to abuse sometimes. There is not a clear solution to Smartphones as it is extremely complicated to ban them from the office if they would be needed at some point. However, you can stablish guidlines of conduct where you recommend not using them at least is strictly necessary.

5) Outdated resources

Investing in technological tools is essential nowadays. Renewing your systems, or having something that helps you with the automation of work is as important as any other task or project in the company. Purchasing a system that costs you might be like an expense at the beginning, but think about it in terms of the hours that your employees will safe and the headcount you could also safe. There are many tools in the market that could help you improving your productivity.

6) Lack of knowledge

As with the resources, having someone who was very knowledgeable in something 10 years ago, might not be that productive. Don’t get rid of them, but train them. Investing part of your budget on yearly training for your team will be one of the best investments you can do. Just be careful when selecting the right kind of training for each of them.

7) Lack of coordination or project management

Last report from Project Management Institute reveals the loss of productivity in the workplace due to the lack of project Management skills. This research proved that companies are losing $1 million every 20 seconds as they don’t apply project management techniques. Some universities and study centers are working on creating better training plans for it, but some times is about spending resources in having someone qualified coordinating your projects. Making sure they happen as planned is as important as the people working on them

The report above mentioned “the pulse of the profession 2018” analyses the health of those companies closely associated to the project management areas. Following the results of this survey, organisations, big and SMES, waste around $2Billion per year in a collective way. The reason is simple, they don’t implement best practices in project management.

The solution to project management skills

New tools come to the market every day to help managing projects. New techniques and methodologies like Agile fill your dashboard on Linkedin with everyone talking about how they use on daily basis fun techniques to improve their results.

Unfortunately this is the reality for some of the big technological companies and big multinationals. Not everyone is fully trained when they reach to the project management level. Sadly, that is one of the main causes for the loss of productivity in the workplace, and therefore, money. The market is evolving to hire fully trained PMs. The priority in hiring is that they have previouse experience managing projects and diverse teams. HR departments are adapting their search to those skills rather than experience in the industry.

“A Project Manager, properly trained and with a sistematic vision has a higher chance of facing successfully the challenge of the “liquid modernity” that Bauman defined and this concept, moved to the organisational universe means working in higher levels of complexity and uncertainty”

Rafael Lostado, Director at the Project Management Masters at the European University in Spain

The report shows that one in three projects don’t meet their objectives. This lack of results is due to that loss of productivity in the workplace. 43% of those objectives not met are related to budget and 48% of them are related to time deadlines.

Dr Lostado, explained how this could be solved by implementing PM roles in the organisations’ organigram. “This profile has project’s vision and puts the client right in the middle. This role requires the classic skills, leadership, communication, negotiation, problem solving and the knowledge of technical solutions that help to execute a project”

The current market demands more inmediate solutions and results from professionals. Therefore, quality becomes more important especially in front of clients.

As a summary, the market requires not just techincal people who are promoted to be managers, but leaders with an strategic and operational eye who can understand technicians.

A clear example within the IT industry.

As a clear example of these roles, we can see the IT project managers. Those profiles are usually more demanded, but they are not required to know all the technologies. It is something good to have them, but they don’t NEED them. The key is what it was said above. They need to coordinate and have an overview of the project, but they don’t need to be the experts on each field.

This is specially true in those big projects that require months, or years an a wide variety of professionals. The people managing those are like CEOs. They have an MBA, and know a little bit of everything but are usually not experts in any of the company’s departments.


  1. Create a good onboarding and team building activities to avoid lack of communication
  2. Improve empathic listening skills within your team
  3. Make sure your employees don’t go to the office while being ill. It is as simple as not accepting someone who could be working from home. It starts from the CEO
  4. Take care of your employees levels of stress and help them to improve their worklife balance
  5. Don’t praise those that stay longer, praise those that achieve objectives.
  6. Make sure you improve the level of interactions, social media, meetings, noise, etc…
  7. Improve your systems to help efficiency and productivity in the workplace
  8. Train your team so they are constantly up to date.
  9. Check if you need a coordinator or project manager to help and hire the right, well trained, person for the role.

2 thoughts on “How to avoid loss of productivity in the workplace

  1. Thank you for the article:) Well, there are so many reasons why people lose their productivity and why do they feel so hopeless and broken at work sometimes. Maybe too many tasks, maybe difficult private issues. You never know.
    I would only suggest organizing your work, even when you don’t feel so much productive. With good organization, everything looks much better.. I personally use – it helps me to get on well with my team and keep up with the tasks I have. It is not perfect, but it clearly helps me 🙂

    1. Thank you for your comments Gaia. You are right, there are many reasons why people could lose productivity. Thank you for the suggestion.

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