Idle resources aren’t as bad as you think. Here’s why we need to break traditional beliefs in the workplace!
It’s somewhat of an unwritten policy that idle time is ‘bad’. Or at least it’s a belief ingrained into our society and workplaces. We must always be busy at work or find something to make us busy. Right? We feel bad when we take time out to do nothing, to take a breather. We should be working harder and doing more work to be more productive and efficient. If there isn’t any scheduled work left to start, let’s make up something we might need in the future. If we aren’t actually busy, then we should at the very least make ourselves appear busy so that management doesn’t cut our hours or think they don’t need us anymore. After all, the boss isn’t paying us to sit around and do nothing!
How many times did you nod your head or laugh as you recognised and remembered examples of this happening in the workplace? I’ve actually heard people say, “… and make sure there isn’t too much idle time.”
Challenging the status quo – Is Idle time really a bad thing?
What if I told you that this policy and the resulting behaviour was actually more harmful to productivity than helpful? What if I told you that, under certain conditions, if you run out of work to do, then it is actually better for you to be idle? As you can imagine, this is counter intuitive for most people – I can see you shaking your head and waiting for me to tell you I’m kidding! It’s also counter-intuitive for management to allow employees to be sitting being idle – “What am I paying them for?!”
Changing beliefs to improve productivity
Consider that productivity improves when the flow of work increases through a system (business). If you’re the next person in a chain of dependent tasks that comes from or goes to the constraint (the most loaded resource), you should be sitting and waiting for that piece of work. At the very least you shouldn’t be doing anything that would stop you from ‘catching it’. This is where having a mix of work for people to do becomes important or breaking down larger tasks into smaller chunks. We’ll talk more about that in another post!
One of the biggest challenges a business faces when implementing changes to increase productivity is navigating the paradigm shifts, the ingrained beliefs, and habitual behaviours people have.
What are some other ingrained beliefs or behaviours that create hurdles in your business, when trying to change the way people work?