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Bad employee habits can destroy a company – here’s how to stop them

Written by Angus Shaw on Friday, 24 August 2018. Posted in HR, People

From innocent mishaps to landing in hot legal hot water, we heard from employers and specialists about how they prevent common staff habits

Bad employee habits can destroy a company – here’s how to stop them

Workers‘ bad habits like letting milk spoil or pinching crisps from each other may seem trivial. However, those seemingly innocent yet maddening mannerisms can cost companies both productivity and worse. Moreover, solving these issues is far from easy. “It’s my opinion that pretty much every annoying habit you could think of in a co-worker – from personal hygiene to eating smelly food to gossiping – all come down to a lack of awareness,” admits Piers Moore-Ede, head of digital at CompanyDebt, the advisory firm. “Rooting these [kind of problems] out at the individual level is impossible but working with people’s essential outlook can have truly positive effects.” So let’s take a look at how you can avoid quaint quirks from collapsing your business. 

Most business leaders hate it when employees waste time on their smartphones instead of working, an obvious inhibitor to productivity. On the other hand, you can spot personal devices being used for professional calls and emails even in the least tech-oriented workplaces. Therefore employers must tread carefully when tackling phone distractions. But Michelle Raymond, HR and business growth specialist at The People’s Partner, the HR consultancy, drew the line at using the gadgets at critical staff meetings. “We implemented a no tech zone which meant you couldn’t bring laptops into certain meetings,” she explains. “This encouraged people to listen, make notes and be attentive without any tech distractions.” 

Other common workplace peeves have to do with food. For instance, research by Ebuyer, the tech retailer, shows rotten food or milk is the fourth biggest irk for 2,000 workers. Moreover, another study by Workthere, the brokerage service, revealed £121m worth of food was pinched from offices in the last year ”My solution included arranging a fridge Friday clear out.” explains Raymond. “Those items that were not labelled or were out of date were thrown out on a Friday evening. I ensured that there were labels and marker pens nearby so staff could label their items and this caused workers to be more disciplined and aware.”

Although, it’s not just the food itself but also how your employee eats it that can cause friction. “Working in close quarters with people can amplify any colleagues’ habits you find irritating or otherwise,” says Mike Davis, head of SME at AXA PPP healthcare, the medical insurance provider. However, he advises employers to avoid making a big thing out of it if they can. “Unless someone’s timekeeping or eating style is detrimental to the business’ success, it’s best not to obsess,” he says. “In fact, it’s perfectly likely that you have a quirk that someone in the office finds annoying. The most important thing to keep in mind is how you work as a team.”

It's nothing compared to printer jams left uncleared, which Ebuyer ranks above food annoyances as the third most irritating habit to staff. But to employers, carelessness around this equipment can prove far more serious. Raymond, for instance, needed to stop workers hitting print and leaving sensitive information in the open. “I installed a print and release system which meant that you could send something to print but would have to go to the machine and put in a four digit code to get it released. That way you would have to stand there and wait,” she explains. Indeed, in the age of GDPR, there’s no room for error when it comes to handling private documents. “This avoided confidential information being left for all to see and is a GDPR compliant way of safeguarding information.”

When negligent habits become detrimental not only to workers but the company, it’s imperative to nip it in the bud. For example, Moore-Ede sees a warning system issued against employees who become lax when it comes to password protection. “We have clear disciplinary measures in place for transgression, since this is something that carries tremendous risk for the whole firm,” he says. 

While your business may not feel the heat now, not enough can be said for cracking down fast when it comes to sloppy employee habits as a whole. 

About the Author

Angus Shaw

Angus Shaw

With a keen eye for politics as editorial assistant, Angus can often be found scanning the horizon for the next big waves crashing against business shores – which makes up the time when he's not setting sail at Radio Caroline, the former pirate station, on weekends. Follow him on Twitter @Angus_Shaw for his latest cognition

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