HR & Staffing Productivity

How to Tackle Employee Procrastination

Evan Goodman
Written by Evan Goodman

While not all employees are chronic procrastinators, many businesses might boast their fair share of them. As an owner or manager, you may already understand that procrastination is not emblematic of laziness or even a lack of motivation, but it can feel that way when your business faces important deadlines. Procrastination in its elemental form simply means “delay.” Your employees may be immensely busy, and put off important tasks that require substantial time to finalise. If you work with employees who make procrastination an art form, here are some tips that may help.

Manage with Action

Ideally, you should never have to remind your employee to work, and yet, the role of the manager is to provide this encouragement in one way or another. Instead of engaging in remarks that your employee could possibly misconstrue, try to manage the situation with action. Prioritise tasks for your employee. You may want to clear certain tasks from their to-do list entirely. Assuming your employee is proficient at what they do, they may simply need help to overcome the impulse to procrastinate. By managing their schedule when important deadlines are looming, you can help deliver altogether.

Reward Early Completion

Incentives can work wonders for motivating people to reach their deadlines early. While you can provide a program of incentives, you can also offer an incentive on a personal or situational basis. Even a small incentive can prompt employees to begin a project. This is something you could discuss with your staff, meaning they will receive something they actually want. You may have specific employees who struggle with procrastination, therefore you may need to spend time with them to help create individual goals. It is better to be rewarded for early completion, than reprimanded for a missed deadline.

Promote Partnerships and Collaboration

Some people struggle when they work independently on important projects, which can lead to delays. Pairing up employees, or allowing them to create teams, allows them to check in with each other and promotes accountability. Collaboration can lead to progress on important aspects of work tasks. It may be worthwhile to match up employees who work well together in order to ensure success on any number of project fronts. The grouping needs to be thought through as its objective is to pair staff who positively impact and encourage each other. For many employees, this collaboration is very helpful as it reduces stress or anxiety around the task.

Eliminate Distractions

Some managers may find it necessary to examine what employees are doing if they are not working on specific projects. No one likes to be micromanaged, but it is important to remind employees to avoid distractions when they have looming deadlines. That could mean reminding them to limit their time on social media during working hours, or not to take personal calls unless it’s necessary. Simply mentioning to employees the need to eliminate distractions effectively reminds them how important their work projects are. 

Design a Workshop

If you have a number of employees who find it difficult to complete work on time or to stay on task, it makes sense to offer a workshop for employees. Participants can learn how to create effective, actionable, daily to-do lists that help them manage tasks. They can also learn numerous ways to combat procrastination. You might invite a business coach or psychologist to discuss workplace procrastination and how to overcome it.

Encourage Employees to Ask for Help

If your employees feel overwhelmed by their task or aspects of it, encourage them to discuss their fears. When your employees feel that help is available, they may be more comfortable diving into projects. When assigning big tasks, try to include information about other employees who may be able to offer assistance, or perhaps suggest meeting times when you are free to discuss specific elements of the project.

Procrastination does not have to be an obstacle for your staff. The key to coping successfully is to recognise it exists and tackle it directly.

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About the author

Evan Goodman

Evan Goodman

Over the past 30 years, Evan Goodman | Business Coach has founded numerous ‘start-ups’, built them into successful businesses and gone on to sell them. He has experienced and overcome most of the common challenges faced by business owners and leaders and understands the pressure and stresses that running a business can cause.

He also recognises the value and importance of getting sound advice and support when faced by these common challenges and of being prepared to openly discuss issues with a coach or mentor.

Since building up his last business into a national company, and selling it in 2009, Evan focusses on coaching SME business owners on how to become business leaders. He has a Masters of Business Coaching degree UOW; creating a unique blend of experience, expertise and coaching best practice for his clients.