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Increase Your Office Productivity

Originally published: 12.01.16 by Ruth King

When the 2008 recession hit, many contractors had to make tough choices for the survival of their business. One contractor decreased the hours for all of his office personnel from 40 to 30 hours per week. He was shocked to discover that the office got the same amount of work done in 30 hours as they had in 40. He realized that he had been paying 10 hours per week for non-productive time.

Are you staffing for the busy times or the slower times? If you hire office personnel to cover all of the busy times, they will not be productive in the slower times of the year. Employees are reall good at “looking busy” in slower times, and then complain they can’t get all of their work done in the busier times.

Make sure you track their productivity based on their job descriptions. Are there enough hours to do their job at normal times?

It’s much better to staff for the majority of the year and bring in temporary help for the busier times. One contractor hired for “summer employment” and found a stellar employee. Her responsibility was to help answer the phones and file.

The company found that she could do much more. How could they afford to keep her after the summer ended? One of their “regular employees” quit and she quickly learned that employee’s position.

If your office employees are spending more time on personal phone calls than doing their work, they don’t have enough to do. You’re paying them for working on personal issues rather than company work.

Issuing company cell phones is one of the ways to track this. If you let employees use their personal phones for company business, it’s difficult to track what is a business call and what is a personal call. The only cell phones that should be in reach during the day should be company cell phones.

Likewise, are employees spending your time surfing the web, on Facebook or other social media sites? This one is tougher to catch because employees can minimize these programs on their screen when someone walks by.

Some companies have blocked these sites from their computers. This has proved problematic, however, because your company probably uses some social media sites for marketing purposes.

Are job duties being completed on time? Is paperwork piling up? Are financial statements done on time? If there are excuses why tasks can’t be completed on time, then potentially you have the wrong person in that job. Or, they’re spending too much time on personal activities rather than work activities. Overtime should be non-existent, except in busy times of the year (if you don’t hire temporary help).

Meetings and training sessions are necessary. This is non-billable time for the field and the office. It is important that the field personnel know where they are going so they can leave right after the meeting. They should be on their way to their first call within 10 minutes.

Too many times there is a “meeting after the meeting” and the field employees don’t leave for 30 minutes to an hour after the meeting is over. This potential billable time is wasted!

Office personnel generally spend another 15 to 20 minutes socializing and reviewing the meeting before they start their work. When the meeting is over, it is time to do their job tasks.

Here is what your non-productive time costs your company:

If each office employee is doing personal work for only 15 minutes per day, that’s 1.25 hours per week or 62.5 hours per year, assuming 50 weeks per year. If your employee makes $15 per hour, that’s a cost of $937.50 per year. Assuming you earn an 8 percent profit, you have to generate $11,719 in revenues to pay for this non-productive time.

Determine how much non-productive time you are willing to tolerate. After all, it’s difficult to be totally productive a full eight hours every day. If all employees are getting their work done on time and billable hours are reasonable, you might be willing to tolerate an hour per day. Just realize how much your non-productive time costs your company.


Ruth King is president of HVAC Channel TV and holds a Class II (unrestricted) contractors license in Georgia. She has more than 25 years of experience in the HVACR industry, working with contractors, distributors and manufacturers to help grow their companies and make them profitable. Contact her at or call 770-729-0258.


About Ruth King

Ruth King

Ruth King has over 25 years of experience in the hvacr industry and has worked with contractors, distributors, and manufacturers to help grow their companies and become more profitable. She is president of HVAC Channel TV and holds a Class II (unrestricted) contractors license in Georgia. Ruth has written two books: The Ugly Truth About Small Business and The Ugly Truth About Managing People. Contact Ruth at or 770.729.0258.

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