Have you ever heard a coworker say something like, “It ladders up to our overarching framework and optimizes the impactfulness of our deliverables,” and wondered, “HUH?” You’re not alone. In a survey of America’s office workers by American Express OPEN, 88% admit to pretending to understand office jargon, even when they really have no idea what it means. Yet two-thirds (64%) still say they use jargon words or phrases multiple times a week.
Jargon junkies fail to use real words and regularly cause confusion (also known as “reverse-leveraging clarity initiatives”), but they aren’t the only barrier standing in the way of business today. The American Express (Amex) OPEN ‘Get Business Done’ Survey looked into office culture habits to uncover the idiosyncrasies that keep us from getting more business done.
Meetings About Meetings About E-mails
We’ve all been to a less-than-productive meeting, but more than one-third of employees spend nearly 1,200 hours a year in meetings they call “pointless.” That amounts to losing 150 work days or 30 work weeks each year to meetings. According to the survey, 37% of respondents say that they spend between 3 to 8 hours a day in “pointless” meetings, which is a median average of 5 hours a day across the 240 working days in a year.
When employees check out of a meeting, they tend to daydream about things like groceries and islands. Top distractions of choice include thinking about running errands (43%), taking a vacation (32%), wondering “what were they thinking?” about coworkers’ wardrobes (29%) or inserting a witty joke to make the meeting more fun (27%)—because nothing says productivity like a well-timed pun.
When workers finish their meetings for the day, they stay plugged in outside of regular work hours to catch up. Employees admit they’ve responded to work e-mails at less-than-productive times of day: after 10pm (36%), on vacations (36%), while out on dates (15%), and even as late as 3am (19%). All the best decisions come after the bars close, right?
After all that time spent in meetings and on e-mail, it’s no surprise workers most often call in “sick” just to take a mental health day (35%). We all need a little pampering sometimes.
Culture Eats Strategy’s Lunch
Meetings and e-mail are predictably maligned office activities, but other productivity barriers are less obvious. The over-sharing of cat videos and the constant monitoring of breaking news also compete with real work: over half of office workers (52%) say social media hinders their output (surprise!) and 30% are glued to the news.
That rush of dopamine from phone alerts is really addictive. Workers even admit to some bizarre office offenses that can unexpectedly affect productivity, ranging from having eaten someone else’s lunch out of the fridge (18%) to stealing a parking spot (18%) to not cleaning up the microwave after use (17%).
Getting to “Yes”
In addition to all the other unproductive office behaviors, we also often say “no” without actually saying it. When we blame it on “logistical concerns” or “budgetary issues,” it’s like “yes” can’t even get through the door. More than three in every 10 workers (31%) say ideas are shut down too quickly in their office and more than half (52%) agree with the statement, “our internal office culture creates a lot of barriers to executing good ideas.”
Get Business Done
There are clearly issues impeding momentum, and company leaders and employees can start to address these obstacles. Lynn Taylor, workplace expert and bestselling author, has partnered with American Express to provide tips on how workers today can take action to remove barriers and improve productivity:
- Be real—Everyone can be more productive and engender more trust by avoiding rampant business jargon. Office “babblespeak” just adds unnecessary distance between coworkers. Consider if we all spoke like that at a party! Try being more human, conversational, and approachable at work, which will make everyone happier and likely lead to better results.
- Resist meeting mania—Few things halt morale more than endless, yawn-worthy meetings where employees privately attempt to reverse their sleep deprivation. Instead, be more strategic about meeting goals and consider brief one-on-one discussions, calls, or e-mails. Conduct necessary meetings only with those who really need to attend, and be thoughtful about e-mail distribution and blasts.
- Focus—With the ever-growing number of apps, social media platforms, adorable videos, and mind-boggling news headlines, it’s a wonder that anything gets done. Remember that success depends on the ability to rise above the noise. The more disruptions you can block out of your work flow, the better.
- Catch yourself saying “No”—Managers and team members should all take greater notice each time an idea is turned down or a new convenient way to say “no” is found—which can often be passive-aggressive. A more emotionally intelligent approach is to acknowledge an idea and give it some genuine thought. Few ideas come out perfectly when first spoken, but after many iterations, they can create momentum and unexpected breakthroughs—if only given a chance.
Despite the many hurdles, businesses are constantly evolving to meet the challenges of today’s fast-moving, action-oriented business environment.
“At Amex, we understand and face many of the same workplace challenges that are affecting offices across the country,” said Courtney Kelso, Senior Vice President, Global Strategy, Brand, and Field Enablement, American Express OPEN—in a press release. “From meeting culture to days where ‘no’ is the most popular word, we want to highlight these workplace barriers and help our customers overcome them to be more productive and get more business done.”