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Earlier in my career, and now again, I found myself working with either small companies (less than 50 employees) or divisions within larger companies, which often operate as small companies within a larger framework. And I’ve discovered that individual productivity (workload management) has a significant impact on the culture in the company or department.

It goes without saying that in your company or department, most employees probably have a very full workload. Have you ever considered how your staff or co-workers handle this workload? The answers are probably varied. There may be those who produce competent work and meet deadlines. Are those employees happy? Do they seem constantly stressed? Do they work long hours to get their work done?

Do you have employees who seem to be busy, but you can’t quite identify exactly what they produce? And what about those who tend to be the bottleneck in the organization? Is this causing animosity? Individual rivalries? Territorialism? Many interpersonal issues within your organization may be a result of the self-management styles of the employees.

Some people are naturally better at managing full and hectic workloads. Others aren’t, but this doesn’t mean they can’t learn. Most people are ill-equipped to handle the demands on their attention caused by the Information Age. Your employees could be losing hours in their day simply because they don’t manage information well, and usually people don’t manage information well because they have never been taught. Consider these points from Coopers & Lybrand:

  • Of all the pages that get handled each day in the average office, 90% of them are merely shuffled.
  • Professionals spend 5-15% of their time reading information, but up to 50% of their time looking for it.

survey conducted by America Online found that, on average, people check their email five times a day. A study in Scotland, using optical monitors fitted to workers eyes, found workers glancing at or otherwise checking email as much as 40 times per hour!

When workers feel tied to their email, as if they MUST be immediate with their response, this reflects a culture problem in the organization.  It means no one can focus on any one thing for more than a few minutes or seconds, and this must be addressed at the levels of both personal workload management, and company communication culture.

In addition to communication, accountability has a big affect on culture. When there are employees who don’t produce, or who consistently miss deadlines, but there are no consequences, this brings down the productivity of the whole organization. But often people aren’t held accountable because of the workload-management skills of the individuals delegating the work.

If your staff has interpersonal challenges, stress issues, works more hours than you think they should, or any combination of these issues, personal productivity skills could be lacking. Giving your staff the techniques and processes they need to keep up with the demands of the Information Age could have a huge impact on your bottom line, in employee satisfaction, teamwork, and productivity.