Procrastination At Work

Not now, later! Many of us postpone a task once in a while at work. It’s normal, but what if it becomes habitual or constant? We frequently hear people say “I can’t stop procrastinating.” Procrastination has become a popular word in work life, so let’s explore it in detail. 

What is procrastination at work? 

Procrastination at work can be defined as postponing work-related tasks that should be done right away, without the intention of harming others or the organization. It is like a snooze button on tasks at work. It can come out in different ways such as delaying an important task and dealing with unimportant, less urgent, or more pleasurable ones, like gossiping and taking long breaks. Another form can be engaging in nonwork-related activities such as scrolling on social media, online shopping, and playing games during work hours. It doesn’t mean you’re lazy. It is not a mental health problem either. Yet it can affect our wellbeing and work performance. Both employees and companies can face high costs and losses due to delayed work. 

Why do we procrastinate?

Instead of getting the work done on time, what is the reason behind delaying it? Many of us may find ourselves asking what is keeping us from calling back that customer? Why do we keep cleaning our desks and deal with unimportant issues instead of a presentation due Monday? The reasons behind procrastination are often considered personality traits, stress, anxiety, lack of motivation, fear of failure, and self-regulation or self-discipline. Even though they can affect getting tasks done on time, procrastination at work may result from many other factors. It can be a mistake to attribute them to individual factors only.  A reason can be the task itself, or its:

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  • Difficulty – Certain tasks may have a large scale and seem difficult to be managed. This can be intimidating. 
  • Uncertainty – Lack of clarity in tasks, expectations, and goals act as stressors, leaving employees without knowing where and when to start. 
  • Unrewarding or non-appealing tasks – We tend to do things that are rewarding and enjoyable. The same applies to work life. Research shows that less appealing tasks are the ones that are more postponed. 

Besides the nature of the task, there may be organizational factors: 

  • Workload – Demands and workload may cause burnout and lack of motivation to start a task. 
  • Resources – Lack of necessary resources, such as information, tools, programs, or support from a team to complete a task, are demotivating factors and contribute to procrastination. 
  • Work environment – Stressful, unsupportive, or toxic environments may lead to delays, distractions, fatigue, and burnout. So the work environment may play a major role in procrastination. 
  • Person-job fit – Compatibility between employees and the job itself or tasks they perform at work is an important factor. Research shows that good fit is effective in increasing engagement and reducing procrastination. So a mismatch between the person and the job may be a reason.
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First, the root cause needs to be identified. It can be personal, non-personal, or both. After finding out the “why,” we can find how to end it and work more productively.

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