Understanding Why an Employee is Procrastinating

Understanding Why Your Employees Are Procrastinating

While it is easy to dismiss procrastination as laziness or lack of motivation, it often has deeper roots related to mental wellbeing. Onebright explores why an employee might be procrastinating and provide some examples to help line managers better understand the mental health requirements of their teams.

We all fall into a procrastination loop from time to time, and that’s okay. But why do some people fall into this habit more often than others? 

Recognising procrastination can sometimes be a manifestation of underlying psychological challenges such as anxiety, depression, or a symptom of attention deficit disorder. 

When we understand that deeper psychological factors can influence procrastination, we avoid oversimplifying it and placing blame on the individual. This understanding helps us break free from judgment, and make room for a culture of support where we can encourage others to develop strategies that reduce the root causes of procrastination.

As a conscientious leader, you should identify the struggles your employees are facing and whether they are solvable with small actions or more thorough tactics. The first step is identifying the underlying factors behind an employee procrastinating to foster a supportive and mentally healthy workforce.

Below we outline some possible reasons behind an employee procrastinating and who is consistently failing to get work completed on time:

Lack of Clarity and Direction

The most common (and often overlooked) reason employees may procrastinate is a need for more clarity and direction. When employees are unsure about their roles, responsibilities, or the goals they need to achieve, they may feel overwhelmed about where to begin. Starting is often the most challenging part of any project for individuals who procrastinate. 

This uncertainty can lead to anxiety and a tendency to delay tasks. As a line manager, it is vital to establish clear expectations, provide a well-defined road map, and communicate effectively. Regular check-ins, goal-setting exercises, and clarifying any ambiguities help alleviate confusion and minimise procrastination tendencies.

Fear of Failure and Perfectionism

Fear of failure and perfectionism are other common reasons behind employee procrastination. Some employees may postpone tasks because they fear making mistakes or falling short of expectations. Perfectionism often stems from the desire to meet impossibly high standards, leading individuals to delay tasks until they believe they can achieve flawlessness. 

Line managers can support their team members by fostering a culture that values effort and progress over perfection. Encouraging open communication, setting realistic goals, and providing constructive feedback can help alleviate the fear of failure and perfectionism.

Work-related Stress and Burnout

Employees who face excessive work demands, long hours, and constant pressure may become mentally exhausted and need more motivation to start or complete tasks on time. Managers and leaders must be mindful of the workload distribution and ensure that employees reasonably balance their professional and personal lives. 

Promoting work-life balance, encouraging breaks, and fostering a supportive work environment can help mitigate burnout and reduce procrastination tendencies.

Distractions and Poor Time Management

Distractions and poor time management are significant contributors to employee procrastination. In today’s fast-paced and ‘always on’ culture, employees are bombarded with constant distractions like emails, social media, and other online platforms. These distractions can quickly derail productivity and lead to procrastination. 

Additionally, some employees may need help with practical time management skills, as without them, employees may struggle with poor prioritisation and task delay. Line managers can assist their team members by implementing strategies to minimise distractions, such as encouraging designated periods of uninterrupted work time. Moreover, offering mindfulness training can improve their ability to manage their time effectively.

Mental Health Challenges

Lesser understood is that employee procrastination can be closely tied to underlying mental health challenges. Issues such as anxiety, depression, or stress can significantly impact an individual’s ability to focus and prioritise tasks. 

Cultivating a culture that promotes mental health and supports employees facing these challenges is crucial. Providing access to resources like CBT therapy or Employee Assistance Programs can support in contributing to a mentally healthy workplace. 

Employee procrastinating? Partner with a corporate mental health provider

An employee procrastinating is a multi-faceted issue, often rooted in various underlying factors related to mental health. Through mental health training, business leaders can understand how behaviours seen in their teams can be better managed with support from a mental health provider such as Onebright.  

Acknowledging employees’ mental health challenges is crucial to your business strategy. Line managers can cultivate a highly productive and mentally healthy team by prioritising mental health and creating a supportive work atmosphere. Fill in the form below to talk to our team about understanding the business impact of improving the mental wellbeing of your employees. 

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