avoid employee downtime

How to Avoid Employee Downtime

When your systems, software, or employees aren’t operating at full capacity, your business suffers. Employee downtime can be costly, whether due to involuntary bottlenecks or personal distractions. So much so, in fact, that employers pay upwards of $100 billion in annual wages for time that employees spend idle.

In this post, we’ll take a look at the factors at play which can reduce worker productivity, and explore the tools and techniques to help your company avoid employee downtime.

What is Employee Downtime?

Before proceeding further, it’s important to clarify what we mean by employee downtime. You’ll find varying definitions for this term across industries and organizations but for our purposes, employee downtime is time lost in an employee’s workday due to intentional and unintentional stops. These breaks can be attributed to:

  • Equipment malfunction or technical failure
  • Scheduled (and unscheduled) maintenance
  • Pauses in production due to cybersecurity incidents
  • Accessing non-work related websites (social media, personal sites, etc.)

Essentially, the employee downtime we’re referring to in this article is any idle time spent when a person should be working but is not. 

Note: This does not in any way include scheduled breaks for personal downtime. It’s unhealthy to sit at a desk and stare at a computer screen for hours uninterrupted. Coffee breaks, stretches, short walks, and water cooler socialization are proven to improve health and wellbeing — and ultimately increase an employee’s productivity level.

Operational Downtime

Operational downtime covers any time in which a computer, system, piece of equipment, or network is not operational. If your machine malfunctions, your systems undergo routine maintenance, or your network crashes, you may be looking at unplanned employee downtime until the problem is fixed. If your team can’t access the internet, or, conversely, if there are no immediate tasks to which employees can shift while a machine undergoes repairs, people will have nothing to do but sit idly and watch the clock—while on the clock. 

A research team recently studied unplanned downtime across the manufacturing, distribution, logistics, energy, and medical industries. Their report found that 82 percent of companies have experienced operational downtime over the past three years, and the costs have been steep.

In a Gartner report, 98 percent of surveyed organizations said that a single hour of downtime cost their company at least $100,000, but this is a low-end estimate. Eighty-one percent of respondents put this figure at over $300,000, while 33% of organizations reported that downtime costs anywhere between $1–5 million per hour.

Manufacturers in particular risk heavy losses with employee downtime. If equipment halts production, whether by malfunction or increasingly by cyber attack, productivity stalls until the system is back online. The average manufacturing company can expect to incur up to 800 hours of employee downtime (and millions of dollars in revenue loss) each year. But that is a year without a manufacturing company experiencing downtime due to cyber attacks or software outages. In these cases, the number would be much higher.

Distracted Employees

Another common factor in employee downtime is, quite simply, distraction. When an employee takes personal time during scheduled work hours, their productivity suffers. Distraction takes many forms: when an employee browses the web during meetings, makes plans for the weekend instead of finishing a report, or scans social media while on the clock, they’re not focusing their energy on the task at hand. In 2020, the average internet user spent 2.4 hours per day on social media, a sobering statistic which certainly includes the time an employee should be working. 

An employee downtime survey of US-based organizations found that 78 percent of employees have idle time at work, and nearly 22 percent experience this on a daily basis. 

How to Avoid Employee Downtime

Knowing this, how can your organization avoid employee downtime and its associated costs? Operational downtime and distracted workers demand different responses. When it comes to addressing unplanned employee downtime resulting from technical failures, the best course of action is to have a flexible IT infrastructure. By switching from on-premise software to cloud-based systems, you’ll reduce service interruptions and operational downtime significantly.

To avoid downtime resulting from cybersecurity threats, invest in data protection, backups, and recovery services. One in three US companies reported suffering a data breach in 2020, though the actual number of organizations experiencing a security incident is considered to be higher.  Use the right IT tools to protect your systems and your users. Preventative measures can increase employee productivity, decrease downtime, and empower your staff.

One piece of software that addresses both operational downtime and distracted employees is protective DNS security. By employing DNS security, your organization is able to block malicious web content that has the potential to knock your systems offline. You’ll also be able to filter content so that your employees have access to appropriate, work-related websites. With DNS filtering, you can block social media sites, streaming services like Netflix and Hulu, and other categories of web content known for their distractive tendencies.

Because DNSFilter’s Anycast Network is completely redundant, our customers don’t have to worry about DNS resolution failure.
Customize your own content filters, block sites that lead to employee downtime, and eliminate access to websites known to harbor malware with the potential to halt your operations. To build your own content filters and see how DNS filtering can help your company avoid employee downtime, sign up for our 14-day free trial.

Serena Raymond
June 1, 2021
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