Low productivity? These are the most common blockers at work

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Low productivity? These are the most common blockers at work


This content is contributed or sourced from third parties but has been subject to Finextra editorial review.

Productivity culture has taken a bashing in recent years, and rightfully so.

As many productivity-obsessed people discovered the human toll of getting things done at all costs, productivity has become something of a dirty word.

Whether you are working or job hunting (or both), you will likely have daily, weekly, and monthly to-do lists to get through, so a certain amount of productivity is required.

Unfortunately, most modern workplaces have productivity pitfalls at every turn. Here’s what to watch out for.

Hot desking

As companies downsized offices from the pandemic and began alternating working days in the office and remotely, many have introduced hot desking policies. This is a recipe for distraction. Designed to promote flexibility and collaboration, hot desking actually wastes a lot of time as employees spend time each day finding a spot, setting up their work station, and adjusting to their new environment.

Sensory-sensitive workers find this especially unsettling, as the temperature, smells, and noise levels can vary greatly in different parts of an office. This lack of personal space can lead to a sense of instability and discomfort, making it difficult to focus.

Open-plan offices

Originally introduced to foster communication and collaboration, open-plan offices often have the opposite effect.

To deal with the constant racket of a big space, many open-plan workers wear noise-cancelling headphones, or have earphones in all day listening to music they can ignore to concentrate. Hardly the collaborative utopia we thought open-plan working would bring.

There’s also a lot of interruptions. One person’s “quick favour” means you are interrupted, and according to a University of California Irvine study, “it takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to get back to the task.”

Many workers have multiple interruptions a day, making complex problem-solving and creative tasks almost impossible to complete. 

Multiple email accounts

Managing multiple email accounts is another significant productivity blocker.

If you’re toggling personal and shared company email accounts, this constant switching can lead to fragmented attention and missed communication.

The cognitive load of managing multiple email accounts can be mentally exhausting, reducing overall efficiencies, and increasing the likelihood of errors. 


Multitasking joins productivity as a contemporary dirty word. Once hailed as one of the top skills to have in fast-paced work environments, it is now recognised as a cause for concern. 

USC’s Applied Psychology department points to research published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, which suggests that the reason multitasking is less effective is that it requires more mental effort each time a person switches tasks. As every multitasker knows, it is difficult to complete a single task when your attention is so divided.

Inefficient regular meetings

Regular meetings are unavoidable, but if you have one in your calendar that’s long-running, it can be difficult to see how inefficient it really is. Ask a new hire for their thoughts on specific weekly or monthly meetings, and suddenly time-wasting becomes crystal clear.

While it’s nice to chitchat at the start, this can drag on and very often you have lost 15 minutes in small talk. There’s also often a number of unnecessary participants invited.

In particular, meetings without clear agendas and objectives can really drag on, giving employees less time to spend on productive work, which can lead to resentment and stress as deadlines loom.

By editing the invite list, and insisting on an agenda and desired outcome in every calendar invite, regular meetings can tighten up and waste less time.

Slack presenteeism

Though Slack and other instant messaging platforms have changed workplace communication positively forever, they can also foster a culture of digital presenteeism.

This is when employees feel pressured to constantly appear online and responsive, leading to frequent self-interruption, and a compulsion to respond quickly, which disrupts deep work.

Being constantly available can cause anxiety and contribute to burnout, which also decreases productivity.

If this sounds like your workplace, ask your manager to set clear boundaries and communicate the benefits of asynchronous communication for focus work, and you can hopefully alleviate some of this pressure. If not and frustrations with your workplace remain, it could be time to find somewhere new.

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This content is contributed or sourced from third parties but has been subject to Finextra editorial review.