6 Bad Work Habits and How to Overcome Them

Macgill Davis

Bad habits are sneaky and detrimental, whether they’re in your personal life or work-related. At first, they may make you feel good, relieved, or entertained. But then, they start to chip away at your goals, values, and timelines.

We’ve all fallen into bad work habits at some point — like getting too comfortable at work, having a messy desk that slows down your productivity, or being too informal with professional relationships and bringing personal issues to the work environment.

Whatever yours are, it's helpful to reflect and review how you work to ensure you're not sabotaging yourself. This article discusses six bad workplace habits that hinder productivity. The goal is to help you replace them with good habits that make you more efficient.

1. Showing up Late or Missing Deadlines

Showing up late and missing deadlines are signs of poor time management. If done on a recurring basis, they indicate a lack of discipline and respect for others' time. Although every company has a different work culture and rules regarding punctuality, it's always good to stick to set timelines and not keep others waiting for you.

Of course, there are times you may be stuck in traffic or an important meeting spills into the next. You may be stretched too thin or not have the resources to meet a deadline. These can happen to anyone. However, constant tardiness, without good reason, is one of the most damaging bad habits at work. 

Breaking the habit: If you're someone who struggles with being on time, first accept you have a problem managing your time. Then, go deeper to understand why you're often late or missing deadlines. You may discover that you lose track of time, misjudge how long it takes to complete tasks, or have too much on your plate. Whatever your reason, note it and come up with a solid solution. 

For example, if you find it hard to get up in the mornings, you can try leaving your phone far from your bed. That way, when the alarm rings, you're forced to get out of bed to turn it off. Whenever you are unavoidably late, communicate proactively and let your team members know as early as possible.

2. Spending Work Time on Social Media

At this point, social media use has become pervasive in many lives. It's not news that chatting, scrolling, and content creation can be a productivity black hole.

Although there are benefits, like sharing your work and making professional connections, many people struggle with using social media productively and often waste work hours on these sites. What may seem like a quick, harmless check-in can drain your focus and efficiency, with time slipping away unnoticed. Also, research shows that social media addiction in modern professionals often leads to comparison, distraction, brain fog, and burnout.

Breaking the habit: If you spend more time than you'd like on social media sites, begin to track and limit your use of these sites to dedicated time blocks in your day if you need to use social media as part of your job. If you don’t need to use social media for work, then you may want to save social media scrolling for your breaks or after-hours. This way, you're still taking advantage of the upsides to social media without infringing on your productivity.

If you struggle with sticking to time blocking, consider using social media blocking apps, deleting the apps from your phone, or turning off notifications when working. You may also consider leaving your phone face-down or in a drawer while you work.

3. Projecting a Negative Attitude

Negative feelings can come from working long hours, having too much to do, or not getting along with your coworkers. Maybe a new job is turning out differently than you expected. Whatever the reason, having a negative attitude affects your thinking, actions, and productivity. It may make you difficult to work with or connect to, alienating you from others who can help.

When you're at work, resist the urge to talk or act without thinking, and watch your body language to ensure you're sending the message you want. Speak kindly and accept constructive criticism to improve your work performance, even under challenging situations.

Breaking the habit: Make an effort to be more positive at work if you have a negative attitude. Spend some time reflecting on what influences your bad mood. When you recognize the problem or triggers, you can take steps to fix them so you can relate amicably with the people around you.

Overcoming a negative attitude requires practicing emotional intelligence: going from self-awareness to self-regulation and empathy. This means not getting defensive when someone says something you disagree with. Instead, listen objectively, and think before you respond.

4. Procrastinating

Bad work habits: stressed woman falling asleep while working

Procrastinating is voluntarily delaying a course of action despite expecting to be worse off for the delay. It's clear self-sabotage if you think about it. You know that putting off work until the last minute often means you won't be able to deliver your best work, yet you do it. This can lead to unnecessary stress and anxiety. Worse, your procrastination may make you miss deadlines and get in the way of others doing their jobs.

Breaking the habit: Procrastinating is a tough habit to break, but there are many strategies you can try. One option is to break projects into smaller tasks you can complete in bits. Another is to try eating the frog — completing the most important or difficult task of the day first thing in the morning.  Or you might try habit stacking — building new habits on top of old habits. For example, you may decide: After I pour my coffee every morning, I'll complete the most important task for the day.

5. Having Poor Communication Skills

Poor communication at work may lead to misunderstandings, tension, and conflict. It can make you seem less competent and lower your chances for growth. Examples of poor communication skills include:

  • Forgetting to pass on important information
  • Not responding to phone calls or notifications
  • Being loud, rude, or too emotional
  • Spreading incorrect information
  • Speaking badly about others

Breaking the habit: If you struggle with communication, pinpoint your issue and try to improve on it. Be sure to ask for clarity when you don't understand something that's being communicated, and ensure you respond to your emails and messages within a reasonable amount of time and only during business hours. Depending on how often people contact you, you can set a reminder to check notifications once or twice during the workday.

6. Working Long Hours

Tired man falling asleep while at work

More people work longer hours when they work from home. Life and work blur into the same space every day, and you may find it difficult to switch off from work at the end of the day. Even when you have personal time, you may find yourself going through your work to-do list in your mind. 

It makes sense why people work longer: They think it will make them more productive. However, not having any breaks is a terrible habit. Taking regular pauses from work helps improve focus and creativity, good work-life balance, and a balanced perspective. No matter what you do, ensure you spend time out of the office. A healthy and balanced life makes time for rest, leisure, and other pursuits.

Breaking the habit: Set boundaries between work and your personal life, so they don't bleed into each other too much. For example, don't check emails after work hours, and develop a shutdown ritual to help you switch into out-of-office mode at the end of each day.

Use Rize to Kick Bad Work Habits

Bad work habits reduce productivity and career development, but there are many strategies to overcome them. Identify yours and come up with the best ways to manage them. You can research and develop routines, rituals, or productivity systems that help you overcome bad workplace habits. 

Be intentional about how you go about it. Consider measuring how well you perform with your current work habits using Rize, a smart time-tracking app for monitoring focus and productivity. Instead of guessing where your time goes, you can get real numbers behind your work starting today. Are you ready to improve your work performance and discover the habits holding you back from peak productivity? Get started with a free trial of Rize.