The Cost of Lost Productivity Could be Higher … or Lower Than You Think

Productivity, productivity, productivity. It’s always been important. IT firms around country promise potential clients that their IT services can help companies maintain business continuity and employee productivity no matter what. But what no one really seems to know is how much money is actually lost when employees become less productive?

Gallup Consulting attempted to answer that question for itself. Bear in mind that others have submitted their own estimates with radically different results. Quite frankly, it seems those numbers have to be calculated on a business by business – and in larger enterprises, on a department by department – basis in order to have any chance of being accurate if there’s any chance at all.

Every year, during March Madness, people start writing articles about all the time employees waste checking scores and participating in basketball betting pools while they’re at work and speculating about the amount of money that’s lost because of it. But Gallup didn’t really concern itself with things like that. Instead, it looked at the problem of lost productivity due to simple employee disengagement.

After the results of its October 2011 poll revealed that 71% of workers in the Australia are not engaged in their work, Gallup determined (with some fancy mathematical calculations) that a company of 150 people, in which 71% of the employees were disengaged and unproductive, would lose approximately $80,000 per month. That’s a lot of money. But are businesses really losing anywhere near that much because of unproductive employees each month? And how unproductive are disengaged employees really? Productivity is a relative term, except when it involves the number of cars sold each day or something like that.

The problem of unproductive employees is not an old one. There have been numerous articles written about how people can be more productive. There’s advice like shut your door, if you have your own office, and schedule specific times of day to check email messages, and so on. But none of that tells people how to feel excited about the work that they do. And none of that helps employers to understand what causes their employees to become disengaged in the first place.

No matter how much someone loves the job itself, if the work environment is toxic, he’ll become disengaged and unproductive. People who find the work they do boring will also disengage and become less productive. Lack of opportunity for advancement, learning and cross training all eat away at engagement and as a result, productivity.

Now that doesn’t mean that following the advice of those who say, turn off the email pop-up alerts, prioritize daily tasks, etc. is a bad idea. On the contrary, it’s a great idea to try to improve productivity by prioritizing tasks and eliminating distractions for those who simply lack focus. But for those who have something deeper going on, employers might want to take a look at what they’re companies have to offer. There is no easy answer or quick fix to this kind of problem. But with 71% of Australia workers saying they’re not engaged in their jobs, it’s a problem worth trying to solve.