Are you getting in the way of your employees going to the bathroom? If you're not paying attention to the distractions and productivity problems happening in your team, you could be inadvertently contributing to a corporate epidemic of marketers having to "hold it" far longer than is healthy—either physiologically or psychologically.
The rampant delaying of bathroom breaks is one of the more startling statistics that came out of Workfront's 2015 State of Marketing Work report, which draws upon a recent survey of 617 full-time and part-time office workers who work at a company with 500 or more employees.
Another startling statistic? Marketers on average devote only 36% of their time to their primary job duties.
The survey identified some good news, too. In particular, participants outlined specifically what their managers can do to improve team productivity the most. Read on to see how your team measures up in three key categories explored in the survey—distractions, work hours and productivity—plus a few tips to help you address each one.
The Problem: Daily Distractions
Marketers are most likely to cite wasteful meetings (64%) and excessive time spent on email (61%) as the top culprits that get in the way of their work. Trailing behind in third place was excessive oversight (48%)—defined as too much red tape, approvals and reviews— followed by lack of standard processes for workflow (45%).
What about your team? Would you rank these as your top four distractions, and would you put them in the same order? Or perhaps some of the following lower-ranking results from the survey are dragging you down even more:
- unexpected phone calls (39%)
- lack of team collaboration (34%)
- poor work prioritization methods company-wide (32%)
- client hand-holding (32%)
- excessive delegation from managers (29%)
- poor alignment between team and corporate goals (25%)
Tips and Solutions:
Would it help if we told you to just stop it? Stop holding wasteful meetings, stop emailing so much, and stop the excessive oversight. Probably not. The truth is, many of these issues are related. You could try to address each of the distractions individually, or you can implement a single solution that will address them all—or at least the top four survey answers.
It all comes down to process. A well-designed, dynamic process that evolves along with the changing needs of the team—supported by comprehensive work management software—can provide collaboration tools that will keep both meetings and email in check, enough transparency to reduce interruptive oversight, and a strong structure to keep work flowing along smoothly.
The Problem: Long Work Hours
If it seems like you're perpetually chained to your desk, or at the very least your phone or tablet, rarely able to unplug long enough for a bathroom break, you're definitely not alone. Consider the statistics:
- More than half of all marketers surveyed said that they log into work or work email outside of work hours, including weekends, every single day.
- More than 60% of full-time workers consistently work more than 40 hours per week.
- The most popular lunch length is 30 minutes, which is barely enough time to zip through a drive-thru and get back to your desk.
- 60% of marketers report delaying a bathroom break to meet deadlines.
Understaffed, overworked teams are nothing new in the marketing world. What is new is the proliferation of digital tools that make it easier than ever to track time spent on projects, manage internal and external requests, oversee reviews and approvals, and collaborate easily on projects outside of (or in lieu of) meetings. With so many efficiency-driving tools available, what are we collectively doing with all the time we're saving? Why are we feeling busier than ever?
One reason is that the nature of work is growing increasingly complex, and some of the software solutions we employ make us just efficient enough to take on more projects. (Although it would certainly be nice if we could instead follow the lead of Swedish tech companies and switch to a 6-hour workday instead.)
Tips and Solutions:
If you're not tracking team time, start now. Visibility is essential in order to determine if you're truly understaffed or if performance issues are at play. It will also help you even out the workload among team members, so you don't lose your top performers to organizations that facilitate more frequent bathroom breaks.
It's also important to periodically review the software solutions your team relies on. See if there's a single solution that could consolidate several of your disconnected tools into one integrated system. This might be the simplest way to get an immediate, measurable boost in productivity, which you should not immediately smother by taking on a dozen new projects. (Or you could move to Sweden. Either way.)
The Problem: Poor Productivity
When marketers were asked what would make the biggest difference in their work productivity, the top three answers are all things that managers can directly control for their teams. Here's what they said would help the most:
- More/better qualified people and resources (28%)
- More efficient work processes (22%)
- Uninterrupted blocks of work time (20%)
Sure, the top answer may require some executive buy-in, but if you can establish the right levels of visibility and gather unassailable data, it's far easier to make the case for increased headcount. As far as more efficient work processes and uninterrupted blocks of work time, those are things a manager can address all by herself.
Tips and Solutions:
Again, having increased visibility and data means managers can make more informed decisions about workload distribution, not to mention being better able to address performance issues and lack of adequate headcount. Secondly, there are several ways to approach improving work processes, including:
- Evaluate your current protocols to see if any steps or sequences need updating—or if any fat can be trimmed.
- Look for efficiencies to be gained from using a project management solution to power and streamline those processes.
- Recruit an independent project management consultant to gain an objective viewpoint on your processes.
- If you're using a work management solution, take advantage of all available training, and work closely with the solution implementation team during the onboarding phase to customize the tool to your team's specific needs.
And the third request from marketers may be the simplest of all. Encourage team members to block out uninterrupted work time on their calendars, and expect yourself and everyone else to respect that time. Those who work in an open-office floor plan can invest in high-quality noise-canceling headphones for every member of the team, or make additional conference rooms or private work rooms available for designated blocks of time. If neither of these options are possible, allow employees to work from home a few hours a week.
But Wait, There's More
There's much more to explore in Workfront's 2015 State of Marketing Work report, including how marketers feel about the state of communication, conflict and appreciation in their organizations.
Read the full report linked above, or consult this handy Infographic for the Cliff's Notes version.
About the Author
Heather has enjoyed playing the game of marketing for the past 15 years, at the agency and corporate level, in both B2C and B2B companies. She's run PR campaigns that took her from the MTV Beach House to NASDAQ and many media outlets and content channels in between. She is currently the Corporate Marketing Director at Workfront.Follow on Twitter More Content by Heather Hurst