In the highly competitive 21st century economic environment, it’s vital that modern offices are productive. Lacking productivity can be fatal to a business. We have identified a number of factors that negatively affect workplace productivity in an effort to help you avoid them, or make some valuable changes to your current working practices. Here are our top six productivity killers…

1. Being overworked

Being overworked can become an enormous problem for productivity levels if it is allowed to spiral out of control. If you or your employee is overworked, it can mean that you end up working longer hours to try and compensate and keep up with the workload. But working too many hours and becoming fatigued will lead you to become less productive during your normal office hours.

In turn, this will end up leading to even longer work hours, increasing fatigue and becoming a gradually worsening problem until you burn yourself out. It is not unheard of for workers to be signed off for exhaustion. In the high pressure, 21st century office, it’s becoming increasingly common. Overworking also creates resentment and unhappiness within a workforce – a killer of productivity in itself.

It’s vitally important that, even though the economic environment of today places increasing demands on businesses, you avoid overworking your staff. It will end up causing the antithesis of what you’re trying to achieve. If you’re in a situation where your staff are becoming overworked, you need to employ more staff.

2. Impromptu ‘meetings’

Scheduled, pre-planned meetings are already in your employees’ diaries. This means they can plan their days around them and make sure their most pressing tasks are completed. However, many impromptu ‘meetings’ exist in the workplace, and are an enormous drain on employee work time, even though many businesses simply aren’t aware that they are a problem. These are unofficial meetings whereby one employee pops over to a colleague’s desk to ask a quick question, and it ends up not being quick at all.

The other problem is that this kind of ‘meeting’ is essentially an interruption. An employee might be in the flow of a task, but their colleague’s question and the subsequent discussion ends up causing them to completely lose track of their flow and where they were. The Wall Street Journal posted statistics that it takes more than 25 minutes on average to resume a task after being interrupted. So if you are interrupted just four times a day, this could mean nearly two hours of work time are lost.

Where possible, endeavour to establish a culture in your office that involves employees planning these sorts of discussions in advance and pre-warning their colleagues that they need help or input on a task. They can do this by sending a quick email and arranging a time. This means employees will be able to plan their work day around the discussion in the same way they would an official meeting, and it lessens the impact on their work.

 3. Too many meetings

When it comes to meetings generally, Harris Interactive conducted a survey on behalf of, revealing that 24% of recipients spend more time in meetings talking about work than actually doing it. This unfortunate statistic shows that a lot of businesses are wasting valuable employee work time by having unnecessary meetings.

Next time you organise a meeting, ask yourself if a meeting is necessary, and who is required at the meeting. If the meeting is necessary, then you might want to have a read of our article about getting the most out of meetings so that no time is wasted.

4. Music in the office

Playing music in the office is a tricky one. If you’re listening to music on headphones, it’s not normally a problem (unless you play your music so loud that others can still hear it). Obviously you have to make sure that you’re not distracted by your own music, and that it’s actually aiding your productivity rather than hindering it.

When it comes to playing music aloud in the office, several potential issues come into play. For one, you tread a fine line between your music being background noise that has been shown to sometimes aid others’ productivity, and creating too much noise so that it does the opposite. Some colleagues will enjoy hearing particular tracks, and this can have a positive effect on their work. Others will find any song distracting, or worse, particular songs quite annoying to hear while they’re trying to work. So approach with caution and try to achieve a careful balance between the needs of different employees.

The other issue is that in most cases, if you’re playing music in the office and it can be heard by colleagues and/or customers, you require a music licence. So make sure you look into this.

5. Noisy colleagues

A more startling statistic in’s survey is that 61% of recipients said they considered noisy colleagues to be the biggest source of distraction in the office.

Again, a careful balance needs to be struck in trying to resolve this problem. Separate offices and partitions can alleviate the noise problem, but they can also foster a culture where open discussion and communication is poor. A social office, one with colleagues that get on, has huge benefits for productivity as well.

6. Inflexible working hours

Our final tip is to consider offering flexible working for your employees. In a survey by Cornerstone On Demand, 61% of respondents said that having some more freedom and flexibility with their working hours would help them accomplish more. Have a read of our article on the advantages and disadvantages of Flexi-time to know whether it’s right for your business.