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What are Some of the Productivity Killers and How to Face Them

High-performance teams are essential for the success and growth of an organization. Yet, only 2-in-10 employees feel that their performance is managed in a way that motivates them to put in their best at work. 

Low productivity in the workplace costs U.S. employers up to US$ 1.8 trillion every year.

Subpar performance causes a cascade of problems, such as low morale, a lack of motivation to work, frustration, and finally disengagement from the job.

Disengaged employees are more likely to quit and seek fresh opportunities elsewhere where their talents and skills are valued. Nearly one-in-five employees leave their jobs because of a toxic work culture.

The employees left behind feel demoralized when they see their coworkers moving to greener pastures, which causes them to further lose interest in their work. Consequently, the workplace suffers from more absenteeism, missed deadlines, and greater attrition.

When a company faces frequent absenteeism and high turnover, it hurts profitability and business growth.

Let’s understand what causes productivity problems at the workplace and discuss a few solutions.

Challenges in achieving productivity within a team

Poor productivity at the workplace can be caused by a variety of reasons.

1. Lack of feedback

If employees learn for the first time that they’re not performing as expected at the annual performance review, they are bound to feel frustrated and discouraged.

People will assume that no news is good news, and very few will go out of the way to seek feedback on their work.

Similarly, a pat on the back or a note of recognition can do wonders to boost an employee’s motivation to work.


Managers should address performance issues as they appear instead of waiting for the quarterly or annual performance review.

Daily, weekly, or monthly check-ins are a good way to communicate with employees and address problems and grievances before they snowball into big issues.

Managers can also conduct impromptu one-on-one meetings to talk about performance should the need arise.

Instead of criticizing an employee’s performance, managers should master the art of delivering constructive feedback wherein feedback is given with the intention of supporting the person and helping them identify areas of weakness to work on.

Gallup discovered that managers account for nearly 70% of the variance in team engagement. Clearly, they can make a huge difference in workplace productivity by offering a supportive and encouraging environment.

2. Lack of direction

Micromanagement does not help employees learn and grow at their jobs. Neither does a laissez-faire approach help.

Without some guidance and direction from managers, employees find it difficult to prioritize tasks and manage their time efficiently.

A disorganized and too-informal approach causes employees to distrust their managers and lose faith in the company.


Employees certainly benefit from being given some autonomy, but managers should also clearly set expectations right at the beginning.

Regular meetings to check in on progress and bottlenecks will help employees stay on track and meet their short-term and long-term goals.

3. Too many distractions

The most common cause of productivity problems at the workplace is a lack of peace and quiet. Open office designs that are meant to promote collaboration and exchange of ideas are not always conducive to focused work.

A study found that 46% of employees communicate with coworkers primarily through email, phone, or IM to avoid the distractions of face-to-face conversations. Only 27% of employees believed that an open office plan helped them be more productive.

Also, did you know that employees tend to spend five hours each week surfing non-work-related websites?


For offices with an open floor plan, it may help to designate certain areas or rooms as spaces for quiet work. Employees can use these spaces when they want to concentrate on a task.

Blocking non-work-related websites and monitoring emails and Internet usage also help improve employee productivity. However, care should be taken to not make these rules too restrictive.

Interestingly, 65% of employees believe that a flexible and remote work schedule would make them more productive.

4. Poor work-life balance

If employees are constantly required to do overtime or take work back home, they get burnt out.

Sometimes, poor project planning causes people to put in last-minute work and rush to meet deadlines. However, if employees are always firefighting, it will harm their motivation to work.

Regular breaks from work and a chance to explore other interests are necessary for higher productivity levels.


Project managers should plan projects using realistic timelines and attempt to match tasks with employee interests. People will be motivated to work better at tasks they enjoy.

Task management tools can automate repetitive tasks and streamline communication, helping employees work efficiently.

Also, most employees are happy to wear company-supplied wearable tech to track performance and productivity.

5. Insufficient training

New hires are provided onboarding training to help them integrate better with the workplace and hit the ground running. However, in a hurry to get people started on their jobs, training managers might rush through the modules without stopping to check if the employee has absorbed the information.

Unprepared employees tend to be anxious about performing their jobs, which affects their productivity. They may also make costly mistakes that are more time-consuming and expensive to fix.


New employees require thorough, in-depth training to help them feel confident and avoid mistakes that can be prevented. Assessments and dummy projects allow them to get a feel of the demands of the job.

In addition, on-the-job training and continuous professional development via a learning management system (LMS) can reinforce learning and help employees upgrade their skills regularly.

Productivity killers in remote teams

The Covid-19 pandemic has given a boost to remote work with both companies and employees noticing the benefits of working from home—even if it is for a few days a week.

However, remote work is not without its peculiar challenges.

Buffer’s 2021 State of Remote Work report revealed that the top three struggles of remote workers are (a) not being able to unplug, (b) difficulty with collaboration and communication, and (c) loneliness.

Various factors cause low productivity in the workplace, especially in remote teams:

1. Inability to unplug

Employees who work at a physical office have a fixed in-time and out-time. They leave the stresses of work behind at the office when they spend leisure time at home.

However, remote workers struggle to demarcate “work time” and “leisure time” clearly. Work bleeds into family time and has the downstream effect of increased stress or even burnout.

Remote workers, thus, cannot get the rest they need and their productivity at work is negatively affected.


Set a working schedule and follow it religiously.

Managers of remote teams should encourage their team members to set healthy boundaries between professional and personal life.

They should also refrain from promoting the “always on” culture wherein employees are expected to monitor and respond to work emails and calls during non-work hours. Instead of boosting performance, such expectations create additional stress and fatigue.

Remote work offers employees and managers the flexibility to work out a schedule that suits them both. Productivity is no longer about time in the seat; instead, the quality of work and results matters.

Employees can use collaboration tools like Slack and MS Teams to keep coworkers updated about their working hours since remote teams tend to be spread across several time zones and geographic locations.

2. Remote collaboration challenges

In a physical office, coworkers can communicate and collaborate easily. Information is exchanged using documents, projects, or items. People can schedule impromptu meetings or have quick face-to-face chats to resolve issues or discuss ideas.

However, remote workers are hampered by the digital divide. Disparate time zones, different working hours, and lack of adequate information often place limitations on effective collaboration and communication. Email is simply not enough.

Collaborating online also requires greater effort than logging into a bunch of collaboration tools and video conferencing platforms. Team members require more context and access to information to make decisions. Holding back vital information breeds mistrust and discontent within a team.


Apart from chat tools and video conferencing tools, remote teams need common communication channels to facilitate the smooth flow of information. Everyone should be on the same page with respect to project goals and objectives.

Managers can set an example by maintaining transparency. Instead of passing on information through team leaders, they can schedule short video calls, send emails, or share messages on common channels.

Thus, everyone receives important developments and updates and no information is withheld.

3. Isolation

Remote work has its benefits in the form of flexibility and time saved on not having to commute back and forth, but it can be incredibly isolating. Without regular interactions between coworkers, people can feel lonely and disconnected from their company.

Activities that people in the office take for granted like going out during the lunch break, commiserating over coffee, or catching a quick game of table tennis cannot be done in a remote environment.

These activities are just as important as work meetings because they help coworkers bond and understand each other better. This translates into better collaboration on work projects.


The onus lies on managers to build a positive remote work culture for their teams. Some activities that companies use are:

1. Virtual water cooler conversations – Replicate offline watercooler chats with virtual meetups using tools like Jackfruit or Houseparty. Increased informal bonding helps people get along better at work.

2. Icebreaker games – Playing fun games like virtual Pictionary or Three Truths and a Lie that break the ice between coworkers and help them understand each other. People learn to collaborate better and in turn, this boosts the productivity of the team.

3. Employee recognition – Everybody likes a pat on the back, even if they already know that they’re doing a good job. Managers and employees could give each other virtual high-fives or thanks during meetings or on communication channels to recognize good efforts.

4. Employee engagement – Engaged employees often perform better at work and stay longer at a company than disengaged ones. Engagement tools like Culture Amp help remote employees stay engaged at their jobs and feel connected to their teams. It also keeps them motivated to perform their tasks well.

4. Difficulty tracking and managing tasks

Managing a remote team entails keeping track of small tasks that add up to ensure that projects are completed on time and within budget.

If managers fail to oversee the day-to-day tasks of their remote workers, it is bound to have an effect on the productivity of the team. Remote workers need clarity and guidance on their daily tasks, too.


Managers can monitor project-wide progress and track remote workers’ daily tasks using project management tools.

Tasks are assigned based on real-time availability without managers having to individually check in with team members. Automated reminders tell managers when a deadline is approaching, so important milestones are not missed.

You can make use of Kissflow’s project management templates to help you get started on internal projects effectively.

Be more productive with Kissflow Project

Kissflow Project enables you to plan your work, stay informed about the progress of your team, and deliver results on time without the need to constantly check in on team members.

Its intuitive and clutter-free interface makes it easy for even informal project managers or non-project managers to navigate the platform.

All communications and project-critical documents can be accessed from a central location, thus saving time and accelerating workflows. In addition, its quality reporting capabilities allow you to monitor specific aspects of a project to make informed decisions.

Sign up with Kissflow Project today to effectively manage your projects and boost the productivity of your team!

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