Our Connectivity or Our Work

Figure 1: Average Use of Time, 2014

Figure 1: Average Use of Time, 2014

By now, most of us have been behind someone texting and weaving as they drive or had dinner while looking at the top of the other person’s head while they text and eat. For all of the benefits of technology and connectivity, it possesses a more challenging side as well.
A recent article about service in a famous New Year City restaurant does a good job illustrating the impact of our connectivity or linkages. The management noticed that most social media sites rated the restaurant poorly on service and this was a change from previous ratings of the restaurant. Specifically, the sites mentioned that the service was slow and the wait for a table was too long. Since the management could not identify anything that had changed with the quality of employees or the primary processes, they hired a company analyze the wait staff. Like any good consultant, the outside firm started with recommending more training and increasing the quality of the workforce.
In order to demonstrate the “change” in the workforce and the quality of service, the outside firm requested that the management review the internal video feed from the past as well as what its system collected more recently. The hope was that by comparing the footage from two different periods specific factors influencing the timeliness of service could be identified.

After comparing a busy day in 2004 to one in 2014, the results were shocking. A review of 2004 revealed the following:

  • Customer comes into the restaurant.
  • Customer spend on average eight minutes looking at the menu.
  • Waiter shows up almost instantly and takes the order.
  • Typical appetizers arrive within six minutes.
  • Two (2) out of 45 entries are sent back.
  • Waiters are responsive to tables.
  • After the check is delivered, most leave within five minutes.
  • Average time in the restaurant: 1:05
  • Customer comes into the restaurant.
  • Eighteen (18) out of 45 customers asked to be seated somewhere different from initial seat.
  • Before opening the menu, most are on their phones taking pictures or other activities.
  • Seven (7) out of 45 had the waiter come over right away for an average of five minutes to show them their phone or help with the WIFI.
  • When menus are opened, most place their phone above the menu and continue to type or surf.
  • Waiter checks with the table multiple times.
  • Average time from taking final seat to placing an order: 21 minutes.
  • Typical appetizers are delivered in six minutes.
  • Twenty-six (26) out of 45 customers spend an average of three minutes taking pictures of their food.
  • Fourteen (14) out of 45 customers take pictures of each other eating the food for an average of four minutes.
  • Nine (9) out of 45 customers sent their food back to be reheated.
  • Twenty-seven (27) out of 45 customers asked their waiter to take a group picture and in 14 cases they request is for multiple photos for an average of five minutes.
  • Eating takes 20 minutes longer than ten years ago due to stopping to be on your phone and 15 minutes longer for the bill o be paid.
  • Average time in the restaurant: 1:55.

It was no wonder that people felt service changed, the behavior of the customer had changed during the last ten years and that change added 55 minutes to the cycle of “turning a table.” Moreover, if this restaurant mirrors most there is also an increased use of phones by the wait staff as well. How many times have you looked around for the person waiting on your table to see them in a doorway on their phone?

As leaders in our own organizations, we face a similar challenge. Technology and connectivity has changed the workplace in some fundamental ways and is only going to increase in the future. For illustration purposes, let’s compare the results from one workplace in 2004 and 2014. Drawing on a recent productivity study of an insurance company’s employees and supervisors, the analysis looked at what employees spent their time doing. In 2004, employees spent about 56 percent of their time working on duties and tasks assigned. The biggest non-productive competitor for time was socializing with coworkers followed by participating in personal calls. The results for 2014 appear in Figure 1. While personal time took up about 43 percent of utilized time in 2004, it now represented closer to 64 percent of available time in 2014. The use of personal cell phones reached almost 25 percent of an employee’s time. Although it was not in large blocks or continuous use, it was a short, steady part of the day for staff. When employees were asked about the time spent on their personal phones, the most common response was “I had no idea.”

What do these results tell us?

  • As employers, we need to make sure we have clear policies and expectations on time usage at work.
  • There are increasingly levels of blending between the professional and personal, not only after hours, but during hours.
  • As the world changes, we have to as well.
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