Productivity Issues in the Workplace

Employees are increasingly using mobile devices to conduct their work.
Employees are increasingly using mobile devices to conduct their work. (Image: Jupiterimages/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images)

The workplace is changing in the second decade of the 21st century. More people telecommute to work at least part of the time, and they perform some of their work tasks using mobile devices such as smartphones and laptop computers. Although employees don't spend all of their 40 hours in proximity to their supervisor, they suffer from many of the same productivity issues as any workplace.


A concern for all types of employers is absenteeism. This presents a problem because employers are caught between offering employees their sick leave benefits and maintaining essential business services while operating the leaner organizations we've had since the 2007 recession. Employers find this problem hard to measure. Managers often must use unfavorable policies to control absenteeism, such as requiring a doctor's excuse every time that an employee calls in sick.


Worse yet is when employees are on the clock at work but they aren't really present fully, and they aren't productive. "Presentees" do not give full attention to their job duties; they just serve time and collect a paycheck. Managers have to try to use their observation skills to determine the causes of presenteeism, which leads to below-satisfactory performance, so that this problem doesn't hold their business units back from goal achievement.

Health Problems

Productivity is also affected when workers have legitimate health problems that limit their ability to focus in the workplace and perform physical tasks. Health problems might occur because of working conditions or because of workers' personal lives. Many workers receive financial support from employers through the employer health plan; however, employers must make reasonable accommodations to help health-challenged employees modify their jobs to work around their health limitations according to a treating doctor's order.

Mental Health Issues

Employees may also decrease their productivity because untreated mental health issues such as anxiety, stress, insomnia, substance abuse and depression distract them. Mental health issues make it hard to be fully engaged in work activities. Employers use additional wellness programs, such as an employee assistance program with free mental health counseling, to benefit workers. The most research, according to Harvard Medical School, has been done on the costs of depression for employers; employers reduce costs, including productivity costs, through treatment of depression.

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