Strategic HR

Your Workplace Culture is Perpetuating These Productivity Killers (And What to Do About It)

The buzz in your pocket. The chime in your headphone. The message bubble at the top of your desktop. Every day, employees are bombarded by notifications from their computers, smartphones, tablets, and even their smartwatches.productivity

Needless to say, overstimulation is killing productivity. The solution? Center your workplace culture around total well-being.

When you focus on all aspects of well-being, including emotional and mental health, your employees are better equipped to manage the stresses of everyday life, both at home and in the office.

But before you can make significant changes, you need to know what distractions exist in your office. Here are the top disruptions employees face at work and how total well-being solutions can help:

E-mail Overload

Overflowing inboxes can eat up time and even hurt employee well-being, especially if employees feel pressured to check their inbox outside of work hours. In fact, a July 2016 Lehigh University study found a link between organizational after-hours e-mail expectations and emotional exhaustion.

To prevent this, you have to change a few things about your workplace culture. First, set e-mail curfews and encourage management to lead by example by refraining from sending e-mails after hours.

Next, consider setting specific e-mail times—known as batching—throughout the day. Establish clear policies so everyone understands that e-mails are checked and responded to two to three times each day and that all notifications are turned off.

Long Meetings

Meetings are unpopular for a good reason—they’re often unstructured and considered a waste of time by employees and employers alike.

For the sake of productivity and giving employees a healthier, more realistic workload, keep meetings to an absolute minimum. Set clear agendas and time limits 24 hours ahead of time so employees know the level of commitment the meeting requires. Also, invite only those who need to be there, and assign a notetaker who can share takeaways with others.

The ‘Multitask’ Obsession

Most job postings still include the term “multitasker.” News flash: they don’t exist. Employees aren’t doing two things at once, they’re just switching between two activities, which causes exhaustion. Making this a habit can take a toll on productivity and well-being.

The solution is simple: Encourage employees to devote their time and attention to one task at a time.

Don’t create a workplace culture where being a taskmaster is the norm. Teach employees both the health benefits and performance benefits of focusing on one activity at a time. Also, host mindfulness training to take their focus to the next level as part of your wellness program.

Eating at Your Desk

If employees don’t have enough time to step away for lunch, you have a major workplace culture issue. Chaining employees to their desks and overloading them kills engagement, satisfaction, and productivity.

Short breaks are vital to staying productive. Establish short break schedules throughout the day so employees have time to stretch their legs and maybe even get some fresh air.

Also, consider creating a relaxation area. LifeWorks recently conducted research and found that a relaxation room is a wellness benefit most employees say they’re interested in.

Make this room soundproof and dark so employees can clear their head and even take a quick power nap. This way, they return to their desk restored and with a better sense of focus and lower stress levels.

Smartphone Addiction

Nearly every employee has a smartphone, and employers think it can be a major disruption in the workplace.

According to a 2014 CareerBuilder survey, 50% of employers say cell phone/texting is the biggest productivity stopper. However, a 2016 Harvard study found that taking a “mindless break” of about 10 minutes made people nearly 13% more productive upon returning to work.

Don’t micromanage employees and tell them how they should handle their smartphone behaviors. The best thing to do is educate them on how common activities like mindlessly scrolling social media can impact their attention span and even their mental health.

If they want to scratch their social media itch, schedule ‘scroll sessions,’ or short breaks designed for them to check their newsfeeds and social media messages.


Giving employees time to socialize is crucial to building a positive workplace culture. However, if it’s focused on gossip, it can hurt relationships and kill productivity. In fact, the CareerBuilder survey found that 42% of employers say gossip is the biggest productivity stopper.

Combat gossip by fostering a transparent environment. The best way to prevent false concerns about things like changes within the company is by sharing news immediately with your staff. Schedule weekly updates and share financial performance as well so they understand the bigger picture.

Also, host training sessions on how to identify and stop gossip and promote team building activities through your wellness program. By giving employees time to develop rapport and build positive relationships with each other, you are encouraging them to be supportive and develop trust.

Empowering employees to understand total well-being and practice healthy habits, like e-mail batching and single tasking, is how you build a wellness-centered workplace culture.

Start by educating employees about how these distractions hurt their health and performance. Then, raise awareness and help them understand that you’re reducing distractions not just for their productivity; you’re doing it for their health.

How are you building a workplace culture to boost productivity and employee well-being? Share in the comments!

Katie Lacroix is a Regional Sales Manager at LifeWorks, a company that delivers holistic and comprehensive well-being—physical, emotional, financial, professional, and mental—through meaningful and purposeful technology and services. Follow LifeWorks on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook.