Kill Employee Engagement and Productivity with These Three Things:

Meetings, Emails, and Interruptions

Yes. Here we are again, harping about time wasted at work. We wish this were an exaggeration, but the biggest complaints of employees and time-sucks of all organizations are dreaded meetings, emails, and interruptions. Meetings are hours of people yapping about what they have to do instead of DOING. Emails are distracting and mostly spam. And interruptions – everything from the quick, “Hey, are you going camping this weekend” to the “I just need two minutes of your time to …” can suck a day away.

A year ago The Economist published an article, Tortured by Meetings, making the comparison between employees getting ready to go to a meeting to Prometheus waiting to get his liver pecked out by eagles. Are meetings, emails, and interruptions that bad?

Well …

Consider these statistics:

  • Annually, $37 billion dollars of productivity is lost due to unnecessary meetings. (In the USA)
  • Annually, $7,150.00 of productivity is lost due to unnecessary emails, poorly written communications, and Spam. (PER EMPLOYEE!)
  • 80% of interruptions are trivial, unnecessary, and chew up two hours per day PER EMPLOYEE. (Do the math).


How, then, can an employee make the most of her workday without falling into the landmine of interruptions waiting for her on every corner. Here are tips to manage meetings, emails, and interruptions.

Meetings, generally, are highly unproductive and maddening. Time wasted is the first step toward killing employee engagement. Which is bad news. Because employee engagement is essential for productivity and growth. Yet, managers aren’t getting the memo!

  1. Make sure objectives are clear for the meeting.
  2. Start, and end, on time.
  3. Check electronics at the door. Distractions kill effectivity (and IQ).
  4. Check for understanding – that everybody knows what’s expected of them. Follow up with a short email or verbal check-in, one-on-one.
  5. Spare the rants. Keep meetings on task, on objective. If somebody has a bone to pick, set aside a time to talk to them.

  1. Turn off notifications. Email dings (same with messages, WhatsApp, social media and more) are almost impossible to ignore. In fact, these distractions called ‘infomania’ in a BBC article, have found that email distractions lower your IQ. So, take the notifications out of the equation.
  2. Set aside a specific time of day to respond to emails. Make sure everybody knows your email response policy (you’re not one of respond immediately). Set boundaries. Stick to them.
  3. Unsubscribe to lists, mass mails etc.
  4. THINK before you send. Is that email True, Helpful, Inspiring, Necessary, and Kind?

Interruptions are a time suck. We’re not Grinching and insinuating that work shouldn’t have a sense of community. But time spent recovering from interruptions can be a productivity dump. There’s a time, and place, for everything.
  1. Close your door. As a manager, you can set boundaries. Likewise, so, too, can employees. Work needs to get done. Set aside specific times to meet with direct reports and coworkers. Set aside blocks of time to work. Respect people’s work boundaries so they can work.
  2. Prioritize. Sometimes “busy work” can overshadow the important stuff because, well, it’s “busy.” Make a list and begin with the most important tasks. Busy doesn’t translate to effective.
  3. What, or who, is interrupting you? Take an inventory of interruptions. You might be surprised about how much you are your biggest interruption.
  4. Walk away from the office chit-chat. Sometimes it’s nice to chat, other times it’s just a big fat distraction. Focus on the task at hand. Save chat-time for break time.
  5. Write it down. Oftentimes people rush in, send messages, needing things now. Urgent is a thing now. Write down what they need and go back to your task at hand. (This advice does not go for organ transplants or security breaches).

As an employee, manager, and organization, you can manage these issues that chip away at productivity. In turn, you’ll have more engaged employees who feel accomplished.

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