The End of Busy Work

Busy. Everyone is busy. We’re all so busy. Walk around the floor at your company, and that word is bandied about with fervor. People speak in awe and respect about how “busy” someone is. It’s a mark of distinction. Employees click away, race around from meeting to meeting, making multiple demands on their time and energy. Yes, we are very busy, indeed.

But are we productive? Because the words “busy” and “productive” can — and quite often are — mutually exclusive.

According to a recent survey, 40% of US employees cite that they’re burnt out. That’s not a surprise due to the description I just stated above. A recent article in Fast Company calls out this statistic along with the call to avoid busywork and endless projects and tasks by clarifying their importance. Asking questions such as “Is this task important to my customers and responsibilities?” and “Would anyone notice if I quit doing this task?” are brilliant strategies for the individual embedded within the text. It’s a smart piece of work, and I’d recommend reading it.

But I think a larger conversation needs to be had. Because the old corporate importance around people looking busy vs. actual productivity needs to be addressed, particularly when the excess of time and details included is eating into your productivity and profitability.

As an executive in HR for decades, one of the toughest conversations I’ve had to have with some managers is over streamlining processes. There is nothing that buries people in more needless activity than endless meetings, excessive paperwork, countless emails, and face-to-face mandatory conferences that accomplish little more than a reason for Happy Hour. The more steps you add, the more times you have to touch a topic, the more touch points and conversations you mandate over a topic, the more you kill creativity, mire employees in pointless activity that has no end and no tie to real profit, and inevitably burn your resources out to the point where they either quit or check out mentally.

All of this is to say that needless process is killing your profits. I’ve seen it multiple times. It’s one of the reasons I became a consultant and it’s one of the greatest changes I can make for any client: it’s not about the model under which you work, it’s the mindset. Think about making a straight line to profit, and profit will come more quickly. Your people will have less paperwork, fewer meetings, virtual working arrangements that allow for a personal life, and a work schedule that prevents burnout. They feel empowered, creative, and energized. That is a straight line to profitability. That’s what you want.

The way to win isn’t a constant struggle for Inbox Zero; it’s Task List Zero. Fewer touch points and meetings equals faster employees who get things done swiftly, easily, and with room for creativity. Everybody wins, nobody burns out.

In my forthcoming book and with my current clients, I speak a lot about the keys to corporate capacity, which is the agility of a company to meet its goals. One of the greatest killers of corporate capacity is busy work, and it’s high time we got rid of it. This is among the many issues I find myself uniquely qualified to discuss at length, particularly when it comes to increasing your bottom line and decreasing your employee dissatisfaction. Contact me today and let’s make the change for your organization today.

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