5 ways to stop wasting time searching for information
Numerous researches prove that searching for information kills productivity at work. Why is it so time-consuming? And what can be done to make it more efficient?
Benjamin Franklin said: „Remember that time is money”. It is indeed. Productivity at work influences the financial results of the organization. That is why having a look at some reports on the employees' efficiency, makes leaders think about corrective actions. Especially that some of the findings are just appalling. Let's have a look at some of them.
According to a McKinsey report: „employees spend 1.8 hours every day - 9.3 hours per week, on average - searching and gathering information. Put another way, businesses hire 5 employees but only 4 show up to work; the fifth is off searching for answers, but not contributing any value.”
Interact reported that „19.8 percent of the business time - the equivalent of one day per working week - is wasted by employees searching for information to do their job effectively.”
According to International Data Corporation, „the knowledge worker spends about 2.5 hours per day, or roughly 30% of the workday, searching for information”. They conclude that „an enterprise employing 1,000 knowledge workers wastes $48,000 per week, or nearly $2,5 million per year, due to an inability to locate or retrieve information”.
Why do employees waste time while searching for information?
The reasons for that can be analyzed from two perspectives.
The first one is related to conditions that the organization offers to its employees. It's mainly about:
- workspace at the office
- access to digital technologies
- quality of onboarding
- implementation of the knowledge management system
- supporting collaboration and exchange of information.
As we can see, the organization plays an important role. The leaders have the right to demand things done productively. However not without offering some crucial grounds for that.
Procrastination and time management
The second perspective is about procrastination. It should not be confused with being lazy at work. It is not relaxation either. Procrastination is when you actively choose to do something else than the task that should be done. It's about postponing tasks just until the deadline.
At this point, it's crucial to understand why people procrastinate. The main reasons are:
- exhaustion and burnout
- lack of motivation
- fear of failure
- being distracted at work
- lack of appreciation
- lack of self-discipline.
Procrastination creates grounds for stress and ineffectiveness. It requires much effort from the employee to fight it. It's about creating a personal vision, implementing time management techniques like setting priorities, creating a schedule, making to-do-lists as well as putting away distractions like social media, private phone calls or wasting time on internet chats with colleagues.
Ways to stop wasting time searching for information
1: Knowledge management system
Knowledge management is about documenting, storing, communicating, applying, auditing, and updating all of the company's knowledge systematically. It's crucial from the perspective of ensuring the organization's efficiency as well as building a competitive advantage.
There are numerous dimensions of implementing the knowledge management system in the organization. The first one is the strategic level. The organization has to be aware of what knowledge means for its development and make sure that the employees understand it too. Then the strategy has to be translated into policies and procedures.
The following aspects have to be verified while determining and implementing the knowledge management system:
- types of knowledge
- access to knowledge
- archiving methods
- naming methods
- identification of the most searched information
- updating knowledge.
The knowledge management system has to be a part of the organizational culture to be productive. It means that putting it on paper will not be enough. It has to be widely communicated within the organization so that everyone is aware of the policies and procedures being in force. It has to be presented to the new hires as well as regularly reminded to the senior employees via training, webinars, or internal notifications.
Learn more -> What is knowledge management and why is it important?
The quality of onboarding influences the first impressions of new hires and is one of the factors that determine the decision whether to stay in the organization. Not only does it create the image and reputation of the company but - what's more important - impacts the productivity of the employees.
The main objections to the onboarding process refer to not enough time spent on introducing new hires to the organization. They often feel left alone. As a result, they waste time searching for information and documents or bothering senior colleagues.
As onboarding is one of the factors influencing the employees' engagement and productivity, it should be planned strategically. It is worth preparing a „welcome pack” of information and documents for new hires, organizing internal training on organizational culture, familiarizing with technologies as well as assigning a senior colleague that will guide the new hire through the first couple of weeks. Taking time and attention to implement a new employee is an investment that pays off.
Read also -> How to boost employee engagement? 8 easy steps
3: Access to digital technologies
Repetitive and tedious activities are the most time-consuming ones. They not only lower the employees' productivity but also their engagement at work. The best way to stop wasting time on them is to start doing them automatically rather than manually.
Modern technologies come with the rescue. Organizations that want to grow and compete successfully thoroughly analyze the current state of the art and apply solutions that put them on speed. An example can be businesses that rely on services and appointments with customers like medical centers, banks, beauty salons. Instead of asking employees to follow the schedule and confirm the visits via phone, they prefer to invest in a technological solution or an app that enables creating a customer database and manage the schedule automatically.
The bigger the organization is, the bigger the challenges are. In particular in terms of the amount of information and the dispersion of knowledge. In organizations with extensive structures (i.e. insurance companies, call centers), searching for documents can be a very time-consuming task.
At BOTWISE, we believe that this problem can be easily solved with the right knowledge management technologies. Our solution uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to integrate existing documents/information sources. This allows our users to access all knowledge through a single intelligent bot window. Successful implementations prove that BOTWISE can reduce the time spent finding the right answer by up to 90%.
Take a look at our case study -> Santander Bank
The other way to stop wasting time searching for information is the usage of social technologies. Social media are mainly seen as a distraction but they can be used also in a productive manner.
According to the McKinsey report „The social economy: Unlocking value and productivity through social technologies”, „when companies use social media internally, messages become content; a searchable record of knowledge can reduce, by as much as 35 percent, the time employees spend searching for company information”. Usage of social media or blog helps to stop wasting time not only from the perspective of internal efficiency but also from the perspective of customers that search for information about the company. It enables access to data that is not available through websites or traditional news. Facebook posts can also be a source of tips and insights from potential customers in the process of new products development.
4: Time management
To stop wasting time, it is also recommended to implement some successful tips that prevent distractions and increase the effectiveness of every day tasks.
These can be the following techniques:
- making a list of things to be done and priorities
- setting deadlines
- introducing focus hours dedicated to performing the most important tasks / creative work
- creating a personal database of the most searched information and documents
- taking a break during working hours
- exploring own habits and determining the most efficient part of the day (for example focusing on the most creative work in the morning or the afternoon depending on own preferences)
- designating time intervals for internal meetings, phone calls, research on the internet, and checking e-mails
- designating time for personal life (regular holidays, hobby, social relations).
Sometimes, when procrastination becomes a serious obstacle to make things done on time and be in line with the every day schedule, dedicated training or joining a mastermind group can help.
5: Knowledge-sharing culture
All of the above aspects are crucial to limit the waste of time within the organization. However, they all have much greater potential to be successful in the atmosphere of knowledge-sharing culture. It requires a much broader perspective and in numerous cases - an organizational change.
The work environment is not without impact on how people perform their job. To enhance their productivity and prevent procrastination, it's recommended to support collaboration. It's about moving away from the silo structures in favor of knowledge exchange. There are many possibilities how this can be done:
- technical meetings
- notifications about successful case studies
- lessons learned not only from successes but also failures
- internal newsletter
- meetings with CEO/management.
Knowledge-sharing culture should be applied in every organization regardless of its size. However, the greatest benefits it brings to the organizations which staff is based in different locations.
Why stop wasting time?
There are many benefits from implementing ways aimed at increasing the effectiveness of searching and gathering information. First of all, it's about saving time and money. In effect, the organization becomes more productive and gains additional resources (both human and financial) to create added value, innovate, and grow. The positive impact is even wider. The employees' engagement grows and the work environment becomes much more cohesive. So it's not only business but also (what's more important) humans that begin to operate on a different level and with new energy.