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7 Causes of Low Employee Productivity and How to Solve It

Find out what’s causing low employee productivity in the workplace and discover strategies to address it. Learn how to monitor productivity with software.


By ActivTrak

An employee exhibiting low employee productivity due to exhaustion.

At a time when quiet quitting is on the rise and focus time is hard to come by, maintaining high levels of employee productivity may seem like a pipe dream. In reality, it’s a critical predictor of success. After all, disengaged employees cost companies $8.8 trillion in lost productivity worldwide. 

Thankfully, there are ways to reverse this trend. But first, you need to figure out what’s causing low employee productivity within your organization. 

To help, we’ll examine potential sources of low employee productivity and provide strategies for addressing them effectively.

The most common causes of low employee productivity

To address low employee productivity, you need to know what’s causing it. Most instances fall into one or more of these seven categories.

1. Lack of motivation

One of the primary causes of low productivity is a lack of motivation. When employees aren’t motivated or don't have enough work, they feel disengaged, uninspired and less committed to work. This problem is most prevalent at organizations that don’t take the time to create a culture of encouragement or recognize and reward achievements.  

2. Poor management

If you see productivity dip within a specific team, that’s a sure sign management practices may be to blame. Even high-performing employees need help managing their time and prioritizing projects. Without proper guidance and support, they’ll become frustrated and unmotivated. Failure to communicate and provide feedback has devastating consequences for team productivity

3. Insufficient training

There’s a reason 94% of workers say they’d stay at a company longer if it invested in helping them learn. Proper training is essential for providing employees with the skills to do their job effectively. Without it, employees are left to guess and productivity suffers. They won’t know which software to use or how to follow your processes and procedures.

4. Lack of proper role alignment

When an employee's skills and strengths match their day-to-day responsibilities, productivity is bound to increase. But if someone starts taking on tasks that fall outside their normal scope of work, the opposite happens. This usually occurs when a high-performing employee says "yes" to too many requests below their paygrade, or when people aren’t receiving proper training for new responsibilities added to their role. As a result, it’s important to ensure role alignment with the strengths and skills of employees.

5. Unbalanced workloads

Unbalanced workloads occur when some employees take on too much work and others don’t have enough to do. Left unchecked, this leads to severe productivity problems. On the one hand, overworked employees will eventually burn out and become less engaged. At the same time, underutilized employees may feel undervalued and unchallenged. This leads to less productivity on both ends of the spectrum — a place you definitely don’t want to be.

6. Personal issues

The importance of employee well-being can not be overstated. Unaddressed personal problems, such as financial stress or health issues, make it difficult for employees to concentrate and perform at their best. When people don’t feel comfortable seeking help or speaking out, the impact on productivity will continue to grow.

7. Too many tasks at hand

In cultures where long hours are prized, productivity almost always suffers. The more your employees take on, the greater their risk of burnout. The result is more fatigue, less engagement and lower quality of work. Even companies that actively work to prevent employee burnout experience this when high-performing employees have a hard time saying “no.”

Strategies to boost employee productivity

Now that we’ve identified the root causes of low employee productivity, let's explore effective strategies for supporting employees and creating a more productive work environment.

1. Enhance motivation

The more motivated employees feel, the more likely they are to go above and beyond. In fact, when people believe their employer cares about them, they’re 38% more engaged and 18% more likely to go the extra mile for the organization. To fuel this level of motivation, have open conversations about productivity — set clear expectations, recognize achievements and express appreciation for a job well done.

2. Improve management practices

If you measure productivity and see a shift in performance for a particular team, consider investing in leadership development programs. Strong managers know how to inspire and guide employees, but these skills don’t always come naturally. Learning how to set clear goals, communicate effectively and offer the right support will make a big difference in team productivity.

3. Provide adequate employee training

For people to be productive, they need to have the right skills. Make sure you equip employees with the knowledge and tools they need to perform their jobs effectively. Provide comprehensive training programs tailored to the specific needs of each employee will accelerate competence and overall performance. Better yet, by investing in regular training sessions you’ll equip teams to tackle the latest industry trends and technologies with confidence.

4. Match skill sets to responsibilities

When was the last time you evaluated employee roles and responsibilities? If it’s been more than six months, prioritize role alignment. Comparing the job description each person was hired to do with their actual day-to-day work will reveal any discrepancies. This is one of the most effective ways to improve employee productivity quickly — without making any major organization-wide changes.

5. Rebalance workloads

If some employees are working long hours while others don’t have enough to do, it’s time to identify and fix unbalanced workloads. Make a list of all tasks, then work with employees to determine the best person to take on each responsibility and divide workloads evenly. By regularly evaluating and distributing workloads, you’ll help reduce the risk of burnout and ensure each person is primed to be as productive as possible. 

6. Support work-life balance

It’s not just what happens at work that matters. Supporting employees in their personal lives is also an important part of productivity. Research has long shown that every $1 spent on mental health services yields a $4 return on investment. You can achieve this by offering employee assistance programs, flexible work arrangements and counseling services to help people navigate personal challenges effectively.

7. Help overworked employees

If all signs point to overworked employees, help people overcome their overwhelm as soon as possible. Don’t wait until a project ends to address it — the sooner you assist employees facing too many tasks, the better positioned your entire team will be to meet goals. Whether you adopt new project time management tools or offer more flexible work hours so people can work where and when they’re most productive, the key is to act swiftly.

Increase employee productivity with ActivTrak 

It’s never been more important to track productivity. But you can’t improve what you don’t measure. That’s where ActivTrak comes in. Our productivity management software tracks key productivity trends and delivers them in easy-to-digest dashboards. You’ll never have to guess which issues cause dips in productivity, or what steps you need to take to address them. Schedule a demo to see how you can start monitoring and improving productivity today.

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