Every so often, Singapore comes up top in a survey that we’re really not proud of. Whether it be our long working hours, cost of living or lack of emotions, there are some survey results we just want to shove under the rug.
Recently, a survey of eleven countries found that Singapore office workers were the least productive of the lot. So paiseh, but not at all surprising.
Every Singaporean employee is used to the sight of coworkers fiddling away on their smartphones all day as they sit around at the office till late at night so the boss thinks they’re working late.
Here are four ways employers and managers can give their workers a kick in the butt and raise their productivity.
1. Stop emphasising face time
Singapore employers tend to fear that if they don’t insist their workers sit under their noses all day, every day, these employees will start taking advantage of their largesse and start slacking off.
Little do they know, it is this emphasis on face time that causes the low productivity levels. When workers are forced to sit at the office till late at night no matter how efficiently they do their work, you can bet they’ll try to be as inefficient as possible. What’s the point in doing your work more efficiently when you still need to stay late?
2. Start rewarding efficiency
On the flipside, workers who are actually efficient and manage to leave the office on time are often penalised. We’ve all met bosses who frown upon leaving on time as being lazy.
Even worse, there are bosses who respond by heaping more work on their efficient employees, so these people end up leaving as late as everyone else, after having done twice the amount of work.
Companies need to reward efficiency instead of penalise it if they want a workforce that’s doing actual work, rather than just sitting around waiting for the boss to leave. One of the biggest ways to do this is to allow employees to leave once they’ve finished their assigned tasks. You can be sure nobody will be sitting around surfing Facebook when it eats directly into their personal time.
3. Reduce administrative and repetitive tasks
The survey revealed that employees only spend 60 per cent of their time on their main work duties — i.e., the work they were actually hired for. By contrast, they spend an average of 380 hours a year doing repetitive or administrative tasks, equivalent to a whopping two months of work.
There are bosses that create gratuitous, pointless busy-work for their clients. One employer a friend worked for insisted that they fill out a table accounting for every single piece of paper that was printed out, and submit this at the end of every working day.
In addition, many employees complain about being forced to attend useless, unproductive meetings that distract them from their actual work. Despite the fact that so many employees find these meetings a waste of time, bosses don’t seem to welcome the feedback and do nothing to reduce the administrative workload.
4. Don’t be penny wise, pound foolish
Employers often try to cut costs by overloading existing employees with administrative tasks or extra reporting duties.
For instance, I have lawyer friends who complain that their bosses refuse to hire a secretary to save money, which means that these lawyers are spending hours every day photocopying documents and doing admin.
That’s just silly, because it would be much cheaper for the firms to simply hire an administrative assistant or two than to constantly have to retrain rookie lawyers who leave because they don’t want to spend their entire career standing in front of the photocopying machine till 10pm.
Employers need to take employee welfare and career aspirations into account when allocating tasks to workers. Cutting corners by refusing to get the admin support your company needs or not wanting to update your processes and technology can cost you more greatly in the long run, in the form of a high turnover rate and compromised quality of work.
This story was originally published in Moneysmart.sg.