Job Seeker Blog - Spark Hire

7 Ways To Keep Your Employees From Becoming Desk Potatoes

The potato. It tastes wonderful mashed, scalloped or fried and is a delicious addition for almost any plate. In the workplace, however, avoiding desk potatoes is essential to keep morale and productivity high.

What Is a Desk Potato?

A desk potato is a person who sits at his or her desk all workday, but achieves little to nothing, usually due to computer distractions, including social media platforms and games.
Desk potatoes are the unmotivated members of your workforce who may be less than impressed by your company culture. And, what’s worse, they may rub off on your other employees.

Creed Bratton from “The Office” is one example of a desk potato. Creed’s potato characteristics include shirking informal office responsibilities to other employees and playing never-ending games of solitaire.

Desk Potatoes Are Unmotivated

The simplest way to avoid desk potatoes in your workplace is to keep employees motivated and engaged in your company. You want your employees to love what they do and where they work.

Motivated employees give everything they have to every task. They rejoice when your company does well and feel inclined to work harder when your company suffers disappointments. What’s more, they make excellent role models to other employees, and they serve as the best (not to mention free) advertising for your company.

Avoid Desk Potatoes At Your Company

Does Creed sound like any of your employees? Don’t throw in the towel! Try the following to get your employees motivated!

1.     Clearly Define Your Vision

Think of your company’s vision as a roadmap; it needs to be clear and easily understood by everybody. What’s clear to you may not be clear to everybody else in your company. Ask your employees if they agree with and understand the company vision. If most are saying they don’t, perhaps it’s time for a one-on-one meeting or, possibly, a parting of ways.

Your vision also needs to be easily accessible and widespread. Imagine how many Apple employees have “Think Different” plastered somewhere in their office. It’s a simple, yet effective tactic you can try in your company.

2.     Give Your Employees What They Need

Anyone who has ever watched the program “Undercover Boss” knows that high-ranking businessmen sometimes lose touch with the common employee. Put yourself in your employee’s shoes. Is he playing computer games because he’s uninterested in his work? Or is it because he’s not being challenged by the work he’s been given?

3.     Encourage Two-Way Communication

If there’s one thing the explosion of social media has taught us, it’s that people enjoy being talked with, not talked at. Does your company encourage employees to offer new ideas? Do you have a forum for disgruntled employees to talk about issues or complaints? Initiate an open door policy for your office, and encourage your employees to speak up. They may have your company’s next great idea already cooked up.

4.     Highlight Excellent Performance

Many companies tie excellent performance to financial rewards, but that’s not the only way to highlight your best employees. Begin by practicing everyday acts of kindness like praising them to other employees. If your company has a newsletter, create an ongoing section that highlights an employee who has gone above and beyond.

5.     Discourage Office Politics

Networking is a key to a successful career, but networking and office politics are not interchangeable. Office politics is nothing more than gossip and schmoozing and should be eliminated from your workplace. After all, it is a workplace, not a high school. Discourage office politics by confronting it head on. Give a formal warning to employees discovered practicing office politics and let all other employees know the behavior is unacceptable.

6.     Be Respectful

This seems like a no-brainer, yet a 2010 Adecco survey found that nine percent of employees don’t believe their boss respects them. Don’t be one of those bosses. Respect the unique characteristics each of your employees brings to the team.

7.     Make Work More Fun

I’ve seen great examples of companies that have transformed their offices into highly productive, yet laid-back work zones. Take Valve Corp., a Washington videogame company, for example. It boasts employee free massages, laundry service and desks with wheels, which allow ultimate collaboration.

On-staff masseuses may not be in your budget, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make work fun. Encourage your employees to take a power walk outside if they’ve hit a wall, and make casual dress days or holiday dress-up days company traditions.

Follow these steps and you’re sure to keep potatoes where they belong—the cafeteria!

Does your company have desk potatoes? How are you keeping the potatoes from spreading throughout the office?

Image Courtesy of JillHillMedia.

Heather Huhman

Heather R. Huhman is the Career & Recruiting Advisor for Spark Hire. She writers career and recruiting advice for numerous outlets, and is the author of Lies, Damned Lies & Internships: The Truth About Getting from Classroom to Cubicle (2011), and #ENTRYLEVELtweet: Taking Your Career from Classroom to Cubicle (2010). Connect with Heather and Spark Hire on Facebook and Twitter.