Let’s Rethink: Productivity Killers

Jun 04, 15 Let’s Rethink: Productivity Killers

If you type out ‘Productivity Killers’ in your search engine, chances are, you will find a long list of websites with articles and infographics that tell you the Top 5 or Top 10 main culprits for employee inefficiency and/or low productivity. As one who constantly struggles with productivity issues, I weighed on the facts that were presented in these articles. Most of these articles highlight that the main culprits for low productivity include meetings, emails, social media (Facebook, Twitter), the Internet, mobile phones (texting), and tea or smoke breaks.

I am unable to fully agree with them. Do hear me out on this.

Before I move on, let me say that I highly respect the various writers’ thoughts and opinions in their respective articles. They are written based on valid opinions and real surveys. But I don’t think we can blame these ‘productivity killers’ as the main reasons why people aren’t as productive as they should be. I do believe that there are other major underlying issues that cause low productivity, and these ‘productivity killers’ are basically just the ‘weapons’. If you think about it, most of the time, low productivity actually stems from other latent physical and emotional factors such as low morale, lack of discipline, poor attitude, and even weak physical health. Let me cite 2 examples:

A friend of mine shared that she constantly struggles to stay alert at work, especially between 2.00 pm to 3.00 pm. Any effort to get work done around that time is futile and caffeine doesn’t work for her. To keep awake, she goes on to the Internet to read some news and celebrity gossip in-between work. She is well aware that her methods are questionable and she needs to work on sleeping early and getting more exercise to be in better shape. In the meantime, she still needs to resort to surfing the Internet as the only way of surviving through afternoons at work.

Another friend had a major disagreement with her manager over a work project. Her manager had, in my friend’s opinion, ‘irrationally’ changed the entire direction of a major project that she and her team had tirelessly worked on for 6 months and, with that, they had to start from scratch all over again. In her disappointment and frustration, my friend ‘retaliated’ against her manager by not giving her 100% at work. She would take long tea breaks, chat on her phone, and surf the Internet for hours at work, which she would seldom do in the past, because she felt that “it wasn’t important for her to do her best at work since the management doesn’t value her and her team anyway.” This went on for at least a few weeks before she finally got over the matter.

Many organisations believe that the way to improve productivity is to avoid or remove the so-called ‘productivity killers’. In my humble opinion, disposing these ‘weapons’ isn’t the answer. Social media, Internet surfing, taking breaks, and turning to what many consider as ‘productivity killers’ can actually work FOR the organisation and its employees (we will touch on this subject in one of our upcoming articles).  Instead, organisations should focus on identifying the root problems a.k.a the real productivity killers and tackle the issues at hand to increase their employees’ productivity.


The article is based on the writer’s personal observation and experience, both as a supervisor and subordinate. It does not necessarily represent the PSDC’s view on this subject matter.

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