A recent University of Texas-Austin study found that over 78% of employees experience idle time at work, with over 21% of employees experiencing idle time on a daily basis. While some amount of idle time is probably necessary to avoid burnout, organizations need to carefully manage this non-productive time. Let’s take a look at how organizations can get insight into productive vs. idle time patterns.

The 9-5 work schedule is a leftover concept from the Industrial Revolution when reformers battled to shorten the work day to prevent excesses such as 10 to 16 hour days. The nature of work today has expanded the possibilities of when and where work is done, and it’s very likely that your team members work outside these hours and, in fact, have high-productivity periods before 9 or after 5.

Within a 24-hour day, we cycle through periods of 90-minute blocks of productivity and heightened focus. These blocks of premiere productivity time are known as “ultradian cycles.”  A key to being more productive is to identify when these cycles occur. Individuals can use tracking spreadsheets to help determine peak productivity time periods. Is there a similar way for managers to get this insight on individual and team performance to uncover positive – and negative – trends?

Employee Productivity Monitoring Software Gives Insights

Employee productivity monitoring software provides managers with several features that deliver insight on both employee and team performance. Let’s take a deeper dive into starting this data collection process and using the data to make decisions.

Before implementing productivity monitoring software, you’ll need to identify the employees and teams to be assessed. A small pilot group – made up of similar roles – is a good way to get started. For example, you might want to focus initially on inside sales reps or customer service reps.

You’ll then need to determine what productivity ‘looks like’ for these team members based on their job role. For example, a social media manager would be expected to spend significant time on Twitter or Facebook each day. A sales professional, on the other hand, would be mainly using your CRM system. An inside sales team member may be using email and your CRM system primarily.

Based on job role, you can then use productivity monitoring software to designate websites and applications that fit into both productive and nonproductive categories. If your pilot group is inside sales, email and CRM would be categorized as productive applications, and Facebook would be categorized as unproductive.

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Productivity monitoring software can show you:

  • A team member’s productivity for a selected date range
  • Total work time compared to tasks completed and application usage, which helps give insight regarding potential productivity versus actual productivity
  • Potential idle periods by reporting on time with no user input

Looking at the data, you will probably see patterns of both individual and team performance. These patterns can help identify the time periods each day when team members are operating at peak productivity.

Taking Action Based on the Data

What can you do with this productivity data to enhance performance across your team?

  • Share individual data with your team member and look at opportunities to tweak work schedules based on individual results.
  • Identify reasonable output goals – like inside sales emails sent – and identify both high-performing team members and those who require more assistance or coaching.
  • Even out the productive vs. idle time flow by using the data to track how long specific tasks take when actively being worked. Then, use this baseline to better plan task execution and distribute workload as needed to keep your team productive.
  • Work with the managers of high-performing teams to discover their ‘secrets’ and leverage these best practices across the organization.
  • Partner with HR to review data that may be an indicator of low engagement and brainstorm how to turn around a disengaged team member.
  • Dig into idle time to determine the cause. Is the process or technology causing obstacles that could be removed with streamlining or application training?

We know each employee is unique. Identifying your employee’s unique productivity rhythm can benefit both the individual and the organization.