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How to Tackle Employee Procrastination?

"It's too late to start now."

"I still have tons of time to do it."

"I will start it later since it's not due in a while."

"It's not that important."

Sound familiar? All of these are nothing but some common excuses that we all used at one point or another to defer any task that we set out to do but don't want to do. And this is called procrastination.

Procrastination, or what we can say an avoidance behaviour, is a complex issue. Simply say it is the act of postponing actions pointlessly. It is something that takes our time and minimises our productivity. And if not handled carefully, procrastination can be lethal, affecting any sort of individual or organisational goals.

People often procrastinate at work. But why?

In truth, workplace procrastination is very common, and it can take multiple forms. Being a procrastinator does not necessarily refer to being lazy because it is not just a product of laziness but rather a complex behaviour with many possible causes.

However, though there is no such one set of rules for why employees procrastinate at work, here are some common types of employees who end up procrastinating.

1. Some simply get overwhelmed

Employees in a workplace require to complete several tasks at once or are sometimes assigned complex projects. And employees who are unable to work under pressure get easily overwhelmed in such cases and choose to procrastinate. They either seek familiar and less threatening tasks or request delays and understate performance expectations.

2. Some hold the fear of failing

Often perfectionists, due to fear of failing, forces themselves to do work until the last minute. As a result, even if their work is ready, they end up reworking it indefinitely. Also, there is another group of people who avoid getting on a task or avoid finishing a task just because they're afraid of failing.

3. Some struggle due to the lack of motivation or support

Employees sometimes delay projects as they feel that the hard work would not be worth doing since they left unappreciated or not listened to. For example, in a marketing company, due to the lack of a sales and marketing coach or a boss who interacts, employees can feel demotivated as they can't have that one to one conversation to share their work state.

4. Some just don't want to do the work

They purposefully delay taking action by saying, "I will do it later", as they simply don't feel like getting up and doing it. Instead, they choose to spend time checking phones or social media or gossiping with colleagues. So is the laziness that works behind their procrastination.

In addition, many other issues can lead to procrastination, including behaviour such as resentment, mental health issue, anxiety etc.

Strategies to battle and overcome employee procrastination head-on

If you have employees who tend to postpone completing their tasks on a regular basis, remember, given the right push, there are a variety of strategies you can employ to manage their procrastination tendency.

1. Set concrete goals and hard deadlines

Give your employees a clear timeframe and set more precise goals to make them understand what is most vital for them to do and how long they can take to complete them. For example, instead of giving a vague statement like "finish the project by next week", you can say, "start working on the project from tomorrow at 10.00 AM and send me the final draft by Friday, 12.00 PM."

2. Hire business coaches or mentors

Considering business coaching and mentoring services can result in less procrastination. A business coach can work as a sounding board to whom your employees can address their fears or problems and motivate them to develop self-efficiency. And this will help them to cut the fear factors or escapist personality and make them fit to work under pressure.

3. Hold each of the employees accountable for their work

If you hold all your employees accountable for doing what they are supposed to do, it will increase efficiency and boost productivity. And tying accountability to performance, each of your employees will feel empowered to do their job, take ownership and strive for excellence to manage their workload according to team objectives.

4. Get involved in their tasks personally

Another great way to assist your employees in getting rid of their tendency to procrastinate is to get involved in their projects. Don't end your participation just by providing instructions; instead, try to work with them in finishing their task. Or what you do is simply sit beside them to watch their work and give an honest assessment of their performance once they complete their work.

5. Organise workshop

You can provide adequate workshops or training programs for your procrastination-prone employees to make them feel their work more exciting and allow both professional and personal development. For example, hiring a sales and marketing coach to conduct a workshop for your team will improve their morale and capabilities as they will feel valued, which will lessen their urge to procrastinate.

6. Remove distractions

You can try to improve the work environment for employees by eliminating distractions. Suppose you can set browsing extensions to the PCs of your employees that will block their access to some particular sites. Or you can enforce some rules for using mobile phones during work or place some regulations to deal with gossip among the colleagues in the workplace.

7. Announce rewards or celebrate small wins

You can announce a promotion or pay rise timely to keep your employees focused on their tasks. It will enhance their engagement and loyalty toward your organisation or company. Or arrange a recognition program to get the team rewarded for their hard work and efforts. These small gestures and appreciation will make them feel motivated.

So, ready to crush all the procrastinators in your workplace? You might be.

However, once you spot any procrastinator, don't just rush to tighten the screws in one go. Because it is not something that you can eliminate in one attempt through rewards or punishments. Know your procrastinators, try to identify the particular cause that makes them skip the specific task and then start applying any of the tips mentioned above to manage them.

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