5 Reasons Why People Are Unproductive at Work

–What Organizations Must Learn About the Disconnect

What portion of the American workforce said they were “most productive” at the office during normal work hours?

According to a recent survey, the number could be as low as 7 percent. Many more said they get some things done at the office “because it’s not an option to leave.” Whatever the number of highly focused workers is, it is too low. In the massive workplace report, Gallup found that only 33 percent of workers are significantly engaged at work. In addition,  a smaller but more troubling number of workers are “actively disengaged,” meaning that they “are miserable in the workplace and destroy what the most engaged employees build.” As for the other 51 percent, Gallup found “they are not engaged, rather “they are just there.”

How does this happen? Why do so many people come into work, day after day, but rarely show up ready to put in their best effort?

Let’s examine some of the reasons for that.

On the Job Blues

There are hundreds of reasons that emerge in job satisfaction surveys and conversations with workers. But five reasons really stand out as important to examine.

  1. Workers Aren’t Inspired by Their Leaders

Ideally, workers want their jobs to be more than just a paycheck. They want to be playing a part in an organization that makes a positive difference. For them to be inspired, leaders need to articulate a vision they can embrace. Too often, that just isn’t happening. According to Gallup, only “15 percent of workers strongly agree that the leadership of their organization makes them enthusiastic about the future.”

  1. Workers Aren’t Getting the Communication They Need

Inspiration is a good thing, but so is regular communication. Too often, it is lacking. An even smaller number than those inspired—only “13 percent of employees,” in fact “strongly agree that the leadership of their organization communicates effectively with the rest of the organization.” That is a huge disconnect and a breeding ground for job dissatisfaction. Clarity for goals, instructions, directions, and expectations is much more effective in engaging employees and helping them to fulfill their potential so that they can feel challenged and interested in their work. In addition, acknowledgment for contributions, support, and encouragement also goes a long way towards helping to keep employees actively engaged because when they feel appreciated they usually perform better.

  1. Workers Face a Blizzard of Distractions

At the office, it can seem like everything from email to meetings, to drop-ins to social media, to ever-shrinking space-per-employee is one giant conspiracy to distract workers, throw them off their game, and convince them to accept less of themselves and their colleagues. In such an environment, of course, it is much more difficult to stay engaged.

  1. Too Many Tasks Assigned to Workers are Drudgery

One secret to productivity is to work on tasks where your passion intersects with your proficiency. A certain amount of drudgery in most jobs is predictable, however, when that is dominant, employees are very likely to disengage and not perform as well as they can. Sadly, companies do not pay nearly enough attention to the passion and proficiencies of their workers when assigning tasks. So when workers are focusing on tasks they consider a grind for most of their workdays, they are not going to be as engaged or productive as they would be if they did more suitable tasks that were more challenging, interesting or applied their specific skills and knowledge.

  1. Workers Aren’t Getting the Flexibility They Crave

Too many workers get up early in the morning, fight traffic into work, try to fit in appointments on their lunch breaks, get stuck staying after hours because a meeting ran long, and then fight traffic again on the way home. The whole time they must be wondering, “Why do I have to be here? What does this have to do with me getting my job done?”

According to surveys, 66 percent of workers thought they could be more productive working in a home office. Only 2 percent thought they would be less productive.

They may be right or wrong about that. This will somewhat depend on how efficiently a person can work at home as opposed to being in the office. Mandatory office hours could undermine productivity for some people. Nonetheless, right or wrong, the point is today’s workers crave flexibility, and they are usually not getting it. It is no surprise many aren’t putting forth their best effort.

Silver Lining

The one bright side to the dismal workplace surveys is that if companies address these concerns consistently, their workers are going to be far more productive, efficient, creative and happy. In fact, it has been found that at the “world’s best organizations” the overall engagement of employees was 70 percent,  which still leaves room to grow but is a whole lot better than 33 percent. That is the difference effective, encouraging and supportive leadership can make.


Sandy Chernoff
Sandy Chernoff
SANDY'S 30 years of didactic and clinical teaching in study clubs and continuing dental education, coupled with her almost 40 years of Dental Hygiene practice bring a wealth of experience to her interactive soft skills workshops. With her education background she easily customizes interactive sessions to suit the specific needs of her clients. Her energetic and humorous presentation style has entertained and informed audiences from Victoria to New York City. Sandy’s client list includes law firms, teaching institutions, volunteer and professional organizations and conferences, businesses, and individuals. Her newest project is turning her live workshops into e-learning programs using an LMS platform. Her teaching and education background have helped her to produce meaningful and somewhat interactive courses for the learners wanting the convenience of e-learning options. As the author of 5 Secrets to Effective Communication, Sandy has demonstrated her ability to demystify the complexities of communication so that the reader can learn better strategies and approaches which will greatly improve their communication skills and ultimately reduce conflict, resentment, disappointment, complaining, and confusion. As a result, the reader will be able to increase productivity, efficiency and creativity, improve all the relationships in their lives and ultimately enjoy a happier, healthier existence! Sandy blogs regularly on her two websites on the various soft skills topics that are featured in her workshops and e-learning programs.

DO YOU HAVE THE "WRITE" STUFF? If you’re ready to share your wisdom of experience, we’re ready to share it with our massive global audience – by giving you the opportunity to become a published Contributor on our award-winning Site with (your own byline). And who knows? – it may be your first step in discovering your “hidden Hemmingway”. LEARN MORE HERE