How Entrepreneurs Can Stamp Out the Toxic Culture of Busywork

man, computer, screen

Do you find your team doing busywork (tasks with no added value) to look preoccupied? If your answer is yes, don’t worry—you’re not alone. Researchers found that employees spend more than half of their day doing busywork. The 2022 survey revealed that employees’ busywork includes duplicate tasks. They also held meetings with no clear plan.

Busywork might appear to deliver results, but you and your team can do better. Read on to learn how you can stamp out busywork out of your work culture.

Uproot Ambiguity with Transparency

But why are employees doing busywork? One reason is a fear of looking less committed to their task. Some employees can finish fast because they work sharp. Employees who can’t do the same resort to busywork. If they can’t be as efficient, at least they’re seen doing hard work.

Entrepreneurs need to foster trust through communication and transparency to address this fear. You can try chatting with everyone on your team, from the cleaners to managers. Engaging with your staff can create a space for them to approach you comfortably.

Also, communication can cultivate trust between you and your team. Consider sharing updates and workload with everyone. You can assign tasks to those with a lighter workload through this approach. No one needs to resort to busywork anymore.

Unlearn Toxic Narratives About Downtime

Ironically, while appearing busy is a norm, well-deserved downtime isn’t. As an entrepreneur, it’s never too late to set the trend. For a good start, share with your team your tips for disconnecting. Does it involve not reading emails at midnight? Or reading emails but not sending a reply until the next working day? This exercise’s point is to show how you disconnect from work; your staff will feel encouraged to do the same.

Second, create a space that encourages people not always to talk shop. Ask about their recent trip to Mexico. Share how you get your flight tickets to Iceland and plan to explore. Be open and show each other how it’s okay to share about life outside their cubicles.

Value Meaningful Work Over Busywork

We’ve ticked the boxes for transparency and downtime—placing communication to the fore. It should give you room for meaningful work: doing work your employers hired you to do.

Unlike busywork, meaningful work has added value and impacts your business goals. Recognizing your team’s core contributions would help you as an entrepreneur and leader. When they see you value their meaningful work over busywork, they’ll know which one to focus on.

Meaningful Work Is In for Good

Although busywork doesn’t seem to disrupt daily operations, it can still be harmful. Busywork and other toxic work behaviors drive employees out of work. In the Great Resignation following the COVID-19 pandemic, employees said they left their jobs due to toxic work culture.

Busywork has no place in any entrepreneur’s team. When left unaddressed, it could suck the potential out of your team’s skills. As an entrepreneur, identifying busywork should be part of your expertise. This way, you can guide your team from its pitfalls and lead them back to work that keeps them motivated and engaged.

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