Productivity is a dirty word in Singapore. Employees here already work the longest hours in the world, yet businesses keep getting told they need to be even more productive. So, what should employers do? Pile even more work on their lazy, good-for-nothing employees? Replace everyone with robots?
What keeps getting overlooked is the fact that it is oftentimes the practices of employers themselves that hinder productivity, raise the turnover rate and turn their employees into bitter, unmotivated peons just waiting to move on to their next job opportunity. Here are four counterproductive practices employers engage in, often without realising it.
Overloading good employees with too much work
Despite the intense competition students are faced with during their formative years, Singaporean employees aren’t exactly known for quality. In fact, local employees have gained a reputation for trying to get away with doing the bare minimum, and refusing to do anything beyond their job scope.
But can you really blame them, when many employers’ response to high-performing employees is to load them with even more work? Many employees bitterly complain that working efficiently doesn’t mean you get to leave work earlier—it simply means your boss ends up giving you more work.
At the root of the problem is the rather adversarial relationship between employers and employees in Singapore. The work culture is such that employers are always thinking of how they can squeeze as much as possible out of their minions, and workers retaliate by trying to game the system or get away with doing as little as possible.
Emphasis on face time
Expecting your employees to stay at the office until the boss leaves can result in only one thing—employees doing their work as slowly as possible.
In order to boost efficiency, bosses would do well to do the opposite, by letting employees leave after finishing their work—you can bet that will motivate them to be a lot more efficient.
When employees are assessed not on the quality of their work or how efficiently they complete their tasks, but how many hours they spend warming their seat, they will do just that—sit around in the office surfing Facebook, chatting with their colleagues on the office’s chat programme, and shopping online until the boss goes home.
Lousy timeline and workflow management
Many Singapore employees complain that the reason they’re always stuck in the office till late at night is because their bosses don’t manage their workflow or timelines well.
One common complaint is that bosses sit on work until late in the day, only to dump it on their desk at 6pm and insist it’s urgent. This usually happens simply because bosses do not prioritise informing their subordinates ahead of time, only giving things to them at the last minute.
Another complaint is that workflow is not managed reasonably. This happens, for instance, when a client wants a million amendments to be made, and your boss agrees—without asking for a timeline extension, even though it would be totally reasonable to do so in this case. Bosses often don’t bother doing so because they’re not the ones doing the work—it’s their subordinates who’ll be pulling that all-nighter.
Even for bosses who aren’t totally inconsiderate of their employees, timelines are often organised in ways that hamper employee productivity. For instance, holding constant, unproductive meetings in the middle of the day are a pet peeve of employees who need to hunker down and work undisturbed for several hours.
Too much group work
Just about every JC student complains that the project work subject is a waste of time. Well, the same thing plays out at the office.
Many employers are fond of making their employees collaborate on projects, thinking: the more the merrier. But this can result in an inefficient allocation of resources.
Let’s say you have ten employees and ten different projects. It makes no sense to have all ten work simultaneously on all ten projects. Other than making the employees die of overwork, a lot of time is wasted trying to coordinate amongst all ten members, some of whom can only play a marginal role because there are so many cooks hovering over the broth.
There are only so many priorities one employee can efficiently handle. Toggling between different tasks and projects throughout the day causes a huge fall in productivity—there is lots of literature on how multitasking negatively affects productivity.
To address this, employers need to learn to streamline groups and institute a maximum number of projects a single employee can work on.
Is your employer guilty of any of the above and how can they improve? Tell us in the comments!