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5 Ways To Determine If Employees Are Busy Working Or Doing Busy Work

Looking around your business you probably see busy employees. From office to office people are meeting, papers are flying, emails are being sent and phones are ringing. But, as a CEO, president or business owner, if you look closely, what are employees really doing? Are they busy working or just doing busy work? Is it difficult to even know the difference?

Business meeting: Busy working or busy work?All too often employees point proudly to the number of hours spent working as evidence of their contribution to the company; completely oblivious to whether or not the perceived hard work has anything to do with the overall growth and success of the business. Certainly there are employees working productively. But if your entire workforce isn’t really working productively, how can your company possibly achieve its goals – daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, yearly? 

Ask yourself:

Is this happening at my business? 

To ensure your work force is truly working toward the company’s overall success, you must review the objectives for work being done at each level within the organization. No matter how small or large the company may be. This is especially important during times of business growth.

Employees and managers alike can mistakenly believe that if someone is busy doing something then the individual is working and being productive. Frequently much of the work being done isn’t cost effective for the company. Sometimes the work does not need to be done at all.

If a company is to grow, everyone must understand the purpose of their work. Specifically, how their personal effort will directly impact the short and long term objectives and goals of the company.


Let’s look at what it takes to really have each and every employee busy working rather than just doing busy work. Here are 5 ways to determine productivity and to maximize profits while people enjoy their daily work:


1) Job Descriptions:  Does each position in your company have a job description? When were the job descriptions last updated? Each new employee should receive a copy of the job description during the hiring process. Have individuals sign off on the job description to ensure they understand how the job fits into the company. Longtime employees should get a copy of their job descriptions as well, usually during annual reviews as a basis for discussion.

In addition, employees frequently complain they are doing tasks and responsibilities that were “not in the job description.” Employees need to understand business people have to be flexible, and, from time to time, will be asked to do things not specifically detailed in the job description. This is why hiring for attitude is critical to a company’s success. Most workers understand this, and are usually willing to stretch themselves outside the comfort zone of their job. When there is no understanding of specific responsibilities, however, there is anger and chaos. A job description is important because it communicates to employees what, exactly, the expectations are. It has the potential to eliminate busy work and focus on keeping the employee busy working – which is why an individual is hired.

Finally, what does the job description actually say? All too often job descriptions are very scripted, dull and boring. If you want employees to look at their jobs differently it begins with how it is described to them. Think about it: If someone handed you the same job description how would you feel working in that particular position? In fact, have you ever thought of writing a job description for yourself as a CEO, president or business owner?


2) Review Work Flow:  Examine each aspect of the work flow to determine how it could be performed more efficiently. Begin by looking at the process from an overall company perspective, then by department, and finally, by job. As you review each area, think about how you could revise, refine and redistribute tasks to increase productivity. Take all the job descriptions, lay them out and look at them, thinking carefully about your product or service from beginning to end. Think about how the product is sold to the customer, the production materials being ordered and the bills going in/coming out of accounting.

Ask yourself:

Is there a flow? 

Where are the gaps?  

Divide your company into different areas so you can easily identify opportunities for improvement. For example, as you look at sales, production, accounting and human resources, where are the bottlenecks? How can you simplify work systems? Take time to talk with all levels of employees on an impromptu basis about their work individually and collectively. Help employees to make the company a better place to work. This will also help with retention of employees in today’s vastly competitive workplace. Work flow is key to less busy work and MORE employees being busy working on what needs to be done.


3) Think: Successful business people know how to think, both for themselves and for the company. They know how to solve problems. Look for solutions. Understand what the challenges and consequences of each potential option will be. Even more important, in your role as a leader, employees need to understand how to look at things from the customer’s point of view, not just from the employee’s side, realizing exactly what is possible and what is not. Thinking about business in the right way leads to less busy work and more employees being busy working on the right things at the right time.


4) Coach and train employees: Many CEOs, presidents and business owners understand the need for training programs, but equally important is the value of constant, consistant employee coaching. Training is certainly valuable because it helps employees work up to a higher and more productive level, which hopefully brings more work satisfaction for everyone. Coaching, however, can also help encourage more productive workers, recognizing talent and contribution. It will also help encourage receptive less productive employees to become aware of their true potential. Training and coaching can definitely help turn busy work into employees being busy working.

Unfortunately, periodically, there will be people who are not a fit for your business. For employees who can’t be coached and simply do not fit within your organization, give them the opportunity to leave your company with dignity in order to find a place where they can be successful.


5) Your company’s structure begins with you. CEOs, presidents and business owners provide the vision and leadership for the entire organization. How you work and the impression your daily work habits make on employees often determines the mood and effectiveness of the entire company.

Ask yourself:

  • Am I setting the example of productive, tangible work?
  • Or am I really spending my days pushing around papers, and contributing to the atmosphere of “busy work”?


Take the time to look around your company today.

Look past the computer screens, the ringing phones and the employees going to and from their desks or meetings.

Ask yourself:

  • Where are people busy working? 
  • Which ones are just doing busy work?  


Dig deeper into all of your company’s operations, weeding out problems and shining a bright light on success.

Gradually, you’re certain to find new ways to enhance productivity by reducing or eliminating busy work, and lead your company to MORE success and greater profit with a motivated team of employees.


 To your success!


Howard Lewinter guides – focuses – advises CEOs, presidents and business owners throughout the United States to MORE success – MORE profit – less stress. Get MORE from your business! Talk with Howard: 888-738-1855.






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