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“How much personal time should you let your employees have during the work day?”

by on August 5, 2016 in Business, Latest News, Lead Article, News you can use, Nuggets

“How much personal time should you let your employees have during the work day?”

When you manage people who are all working on their own things, for instance in most office environments, you generally have to let them manage their own time to some degree, in order for them to be able to comfortably carry out their tasks without feeling their time is micromanaged.

Of course, almost every employee will spend some of their working day doing things that aren’t really work – checking their social media accounts, dealing with personal phone calls, browsing the web, and so on.

While this is only natural when you have to concentrate and you are in front of a computer all day, and regular breaks can actually help productivity as they can leave staff feeling refreshed and more motivated, it is very important to keep an eye on how much time your employees are spending on personal tasks or general procrastination. There are good and bad ways of taking personal time at work, and also good and bad ways of trying to manage it, and here we are going to look at both of these.

Why Locking Down Internet Use Is a Bad Idea

Some companies attempt to prevent people from ‘wasting time’ at the office by locking down access to certain sites, or indeed, preventing users from accessing the internet freely at all from their work accounts, leaving them with only the software they need for work and the company intranet to look at. There are a few reasons why this is a bad idea.

Firstly, it makes staff feel that they are not trusted to manage their own time, and as if they are being treated like children who would, were it not for the management, spend all day playing online games or looking at football memes. Starting from a position of distrust where people feel like they are being punished for something they haven’t actually done yet is highly demotivating.

Secondly, while you can stop people from accessing things they might use when they are taking a break from work like social media, news or play games over your network, everybody these days has a smartphone, so you can’t really stop them from checking Twitter whenever they feel like it anyway.

Instead, aside from any genuinely problematic areas of the web you don’t want people accessing from inside of your network like pornography or piracy sites, let people use the web and just have a policy that makes them aware that what they look at may be monitored, and that they are expected to keep usage within reasonable levels.

Official Breaks

Some people may choose to have their lunch break in the office, because they are short on time and only want to take a quick lunch break, or they just don’t feel like going anywhere else. There are also people who don’t take other kinds of breaks away from their desk very much, but feel they should be allowed the same amount of personal time as people who go out to smoke or get coffee. People who do this tend to use the time to do any personal stuff they need to do online, for instance shopping or banking, or to read the news, play games or chat to friends.

This is a perfectly reasonable use of resources because their break time is their own, but it can be hard to tell when someone is on a break if they are not at fixed times and people are at their desks the whole time.

If you have noticed a member of your staff has spent a lot of time doing non-work related things at their desk, it can be a good idea to simply ask them if they are on a break – as a way of indicating you have noticed they’re not working without accusing them of slacking off.

Productivity Is Key

Being fairly liberal about how people use their time at work is generally best for morale, but only when it doesn’t come at the expense of productivity. If you have staff who do all of their work on time and to a good standard, but also appear to spend a lot of time browsing the web or otherwise doing personal things like making calls to their families throughout the day, then while there is no real problem, it could be that they don’t actually have enough to do.

While everyone has the odd low energy day when they may procrastinate more, generally people want to have enough to do to fill their time at the office, and so excessive browsing could be a sign that they are bored or don’t feel challenged.

Giving staff the freedom to manage their own time – including time they want to spend having breaks online – is almost always a good thing, as long as you are clear that it is a privilege that will be monitored and that productivity must stay high.

However, when you see people taking a lot of personal time, look at whether it might be because they don’t have enough to do before confronting them about ‘slacking off’.

Graphics by Shutterstock

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