3 Bad Workplace Habits and How to Break Them

Even the best employees have a few bad workplace habits that they need to break. The problem is sometimes we’re not aware of our worst workplace practices. Just in case you’re still trying to figure out ways to improve, here are three of the most common work blunders and a few tips on how to avoid them.

1.Being Late

You woke up early and ready to go, but the train isn’t on time. Now you have to hustle into your office 15 minutes behind schedule and explain to your boss why you’re late. We’ve all been there and while the occasional late arrival may be unavoidable, consistently showing up to work late is unprofessional and can inconvenience your colleagues. There are a few things that can contribute to tardiness but there are also a lot of ways to overcome the bad habit.

  • Get some good shut-eye. If you find yourself struggling to get out of bed in the morning, there’s a chance you’re not getting enough sleep or practicing healthy habits. Seven and a half hours is the recommended sleep time for adults and, while it’s not always possible to get the full 7.5, going to bed at around the same time every night could make a lot of difference. If you aren’t getting a full night’s rest, it could come down to a lack of discipline, in which case you’ll have to train your body to get used to early sleep and early rise.
  • Leave room for error. Traffic and unexpected delays happen all the time. Instead of starting your 25-minute commute to work at 8:30 in the morning, leave even earlier. That way, if something goes wrong, you have enough extra time to compensate for the delay and get to the office on time.
  • Plan ahead. When the work day is over, you’re probably exhausted and the last thing you want to do is prepare for the morning. However, preparing things like lunch, clothing and even breakfast could save you a lot of time that you can then dedicate to your commute. Instead of ironing your clothes and packing lunch in the morning, have everything prepared the night before.

2. Poor Communication

Miscommunication happens, especially in the workplace. But if you notice a lot of uncertainty around deadlines and tasks that you’re responsible for, you may not communicate effectively enough. Poor communication habits can lead to mistakes and can waste time. Checking in with your boss and co-workers every day may seem excessive, but remember they can’t read your mind. Over-communicating is better than assuming they know what you have on your plate.

  • Respond promptly. If you receive an email that doesn’t seem pressing, you might take a peek, close it and claim that you’ll get back to it later. When you do this, you’re creating more work for yourself and reducing the chance that you’ll respond in a prompt manner. In fact, you may forget to respond all together! If the message requires a short response, you might as well get back to the sender right away. If the message can wait, set a time during the work day to respond to your emails.
  • Be clear and keep it short. Effective communication is truly an art. While you want to express yourself as clearly as possible, you don’t want to send convoluted messages. Emails that are too long and contain too much detail can lead to just as many mistakes as lazy responses. This is because the person you’re communicating with may not have the time to read it thoroughly. Details about deadlines and expectations are always important to include, but put yourself in the recipient’s shoes and think about the type of message you would want to receive.
  • Choose the right medium. The lunchroom may not be the best place to tell your boss that your assignment will be a day late and an email is probably the worst way to outline detailed instructions for a complicated task. Sensitive conversations are best to have in person, and if you notice your email running on, this could mean that your message warrants an in-person meeting or phone call.

3. Getting Distracted

It is difficult for anyone to focus on one task for 9 hours, which is why it is important to take breaks every now and then. But if you feel like you’re always getting caught on your phone, that’s probably because you’re spending too much time tending to distractions. Being distracted at work not only appears unprofessional to supervisors and other coworkers, it can greatly affect your performance, efficiency and ability to meet deadlines.

  • Take a real break. No, taking a five-minute break at your desk to check your phone doesn’t count. In fact, that may be a surefire way to get distracted in the first place. If you’ve been working for a while and feel yourself hitting a wall, stand up from your desk and change your surroundings. If you don’t take real breaks, your productivity will decline and you’ll be more prone to distractions throughout the day.
  • Unplug. As millennials, it can be difficult to imagine a world without our phones and laptops, but sometimes being constantly connected to the outside world can create distractions. If you’re trying to concentrate on a task, but you’re constantly seeing social media notifications on your phone, you will be tempted to check them. If you’re not ready to turn your phone off entirely, maybe try turning off your notifications.
  • Stay engaged. Sure, it’s easier said than done, but if you’re always on your phone in the office, that probably means you’re not interested in the task at hand. Think about why you like the work you do and if you’re unsure of the purpose of an assignment, ask. If the task is truly boring you to tears, it may be time to ask your supervisor for some new assignments.

The list of bad practices goes on, but if you can learn how to break these bad workplace habits, you’re on your way to becoming the best employee you can be.

For more reading on better workplace habits, check out these articles:

Worst Professional Mistakes- Advice from GovLoopers

Healthy Workplace Habits

How to Disconnect from Social Media


This post is part of GovLoop’s millennial blog series, First 5 

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