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Time-wasting staff cost employers $40b each year

Even the most productive Aussie workers waste 12 percent of their time at work each day, as more than 3.5 million workers fall behind the national workforce productivity standard and cost local businesses in excess of $40 billion per year.

The Ernst & Young Productivity Pulse found businesses lose an estimated $41.3 billion every year due to time wasted by employees, with a third falling below the national productivity average. The survey of 2,500 employees found economic instability was less likely to affect productive workers, though employees who are unhappy with their jobs or feel insecure in their role are seeing sliding productivity as a result of the uncertain economic environment.

According to Ernst & Young oceania advisory leader Neil Plumridge, local workers can be profiled into four groups from ‘highly productive’ through to ‘unproductive’ with two categories of workers above the national average of 7.16 on a 10-point scale and two below.

The Ernst & Young Worker Productivity Scale characterises the four groups:

 1. “Super Achievers” – productivity ranking of 9-10 and makes up 23 percent of the workforce. The ‘highly productive’ group spends at least two-thirds of their time on meaningful work and wastes only 12 percent of their day. A third takes no sick days at all in any one year.

2. “Solid Contributors” – productivity ranking of 7-8 and makes up 46 percent of the workforce. The ‘productive’ group spends at least 64 percent of their time. Half of this group takes 1 to 3 weeks sick leave per year.

3. “Patchy Participants” – productivity ranking of 5-6 and makes up 24 percent of the workforce. The ‘less than productive’ group spends 58.4 percent of their time on meaningful work. A third of this group takes between 3 weeks to 3 months sick leave per year.

4. “Lost Souls” – productivity ranking of 1-4 and makes up 7 percent of the workforce. The ‘unproductive’ group spends 50 percent of their time on meaningful work. This group is more likely to take extended periods of sick leave, and one fifth of this group takes between three months to a year of sick leave.

Lost productivity impacts the bottom line of both Australian organisations and the broader economy. That’s why especially during uncertain times, improving productivity can be a buffer against challenging conditions as well as a key driver of growth,” Plumridge said.

The survey shows that the majority of workers ranked above the average standard on the productivity scale, confirming many of staff have the motivation to come to work and do a good job.

“Even though we have identified four different groups of workers based on productivity levels, it’s likely that people switch from being productive to being unproductive throughout their work lives.”

This is a result of factors such as people feeling they’re in the wrong job or their skills are being underutilised, poor management or being disengaged with their workplace, Plumridge added.

The Ernst & Young Productivity Pulse also found that waiting for approval from a higher authority topped the list of time-wasting activities, followed by reading and responding to emails, and technology issues. Social media only accounted for 4 percent or less than 20 minutes a day of time wasted. Unproductive workers were more likely to spend time in unnecessary meetings.

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Michelle Sammut

Michelle Sammut

Michelle Sammut is an intern at Dynamic Business. She is completing a Communication and Media degree at The University of Notre Dame majoring in Journalism and English Literature. She likes news and community radio, writing and quiet time.

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