Managers don't trust employees to effectively manage their time

Jess Shanahan
- Leadership - Feb 24, 2016

A new survey on workplace habits from document productivity company Nitro has found that managers consistently underestimate their employees’ productivity levels.

Nitro partnered with Qualtrics to survey more than 1000 employees working in a typical office environment. Workers in non-managerial roles were asked how they spend their time in the office while the managers were asked how they think staff spend their time. The results showed that there’s quite a gulf between perceptions and reality.

Nitro partnered with Qualtrics to survey more than 1000 employees working in Personal admin tasks

Managers overestimate the time their employees spend doing personal admin tasks while at work, with almost half (46%) predicting this takes up 15-30 minutes of an average worker’s day. In fact, the majority of workers (59%) claim they wouldn’t spend more than 15 minutes catching up on personal admin in the office.

Social media distractions

Facebook came out as the most popular website for workplace procrastination, when rated on a scale of 1-5 (3.8), followed by Twitter (2.9) and Instagram (2.2). However, managers overestimate the amount of time their staff spend browsing social media sites each day. 36% claim their workers spend 15-30 minutes on social media when in fact the majority (59%) admitted to less than 15 minutes a day.

Phone checking

Managers also overestimate the amount of time their employees spend checking their phones while at their desk. According to the employees themselves, half (48%) said they only check their phone once every few hours, yet 75% of managers estimated that it happens at least once an hour, with a third (31%) claiming it happens up to five times an hour (only 10% of workers admitted to this).

Coffee breaks

Managers even overestimated the number of coffee breaks their staff take. 69% of managers believe their employees have 3-5 drink breaks a day, while the majority of employees (55%) claimed 0-2 was more accurate.

Lunch breaks

On a more positive note, more than half (55%) of managers would prefer for their staff to take a full lunch break with the belief that it will help them work more productively for the rest of the day. This is despite the fact that 37% of employees don’t take a full lunch break, the main reason being that they don’t want to appear lazier than colleagues. But it turns out almost a quarter (27%) of managers don’t actually notice how long their employees spend having lunch so perhaps there’s no need to rush back to the office after all.

Office chitchat

The only situation where responses were aligned was regarding general office chitchat, where both parties made close estimations. 44% of workers admit to having 3-5 conversations per day, each lasting longer than 5 minutes, and 52% of managers think the same. Although some might argue that non-work conversations are a drain on productivity, it’s evident that a good rapport with colleagues and breaks from concentration are much needed and have a positive impact on productivity levels.

John O’Keeffe, VP of Nitro EMEA, commented: “The results of our research are quite eye-opening. Managers consistently misjudge how their staff spend the day: the findings seem to indicate a divide between senior and junior members of staff and, more importantly, a lack of trust.

At Nitro we operate holistically, receive 360-degree feedback and our culture is very much ‘employees first’. Naturally, we care a lot about hitting our goals but we know that the best way to do that is in a very collaborative and supportive way, so we make sure the lines of communication are always open. Happy teams that are built around trust make for happy customers.”

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