Clocks away! Does clock-watching reduce office productivity?

Find out how, by banning clocks, companies see benefits of reduced clock-watching such as improved productivity and higher employee engagement.

clock-watching reduces office productivity: a black and white picture of a man trying to rewind the office clock

Time flies when you’re having fun. Unfortunately, you’re not always having fun at work.

When boredom strikes, time becomes less a measure of efficiency and more a countdown to clocking-off time. But do office clocks really reduce office productivity?

Time is for using, not for wishing away

Clock-watching plagues office life:

  • It emphasises attendance rather than productivity
  • It focuses on time rather that results
  • It’s a sign that employee engagement and morale have collapsed
  • It stinks of employee dissatisfaction.

Work may end at a set time, but clock-watching means employees will stop ‘working’ even earlier.

If 5.30pm is the time to leave the office, a ‘wind-down period’ starts at 5pm: people log off, tidy their desk, wash their mugs and straighten their ties until the bell goes.

In an office of 20 people that’s ten hours lost per day, 50 hours lost per week and 2,600 hours lost per year. In other words, clock-watching costs that company the equivalent of a full-time employee.

Don’t count down, break down the clock

AOL famously banned clocks and watches from its offices, even taping over the clock on monitor screens.

Clocks, it thought, were a distraction for employees.

Yet, timepieces help us organise our schedules and prioritise work. In an effective workplace they should order, not end, the day.

Methods like the Pomodoro technique use timers and alarms to break the daunting 24-hour clock into short, bite-size bursts of work.

Keep employees ticking with a metronomic tempo

Moreover, a high-tempo ticking clock can actually increase productivity as Naohira Matsumura suggests in his academic research.

It is all down to a process called shikake.


‘A Japanese word that represents a physical and/or psychological mechanism’, says Matsumura, ‘that triggers implicit or explicit behaviour change’.

In his research, Matsumura observed that a quickly ticking clock increases the pulse rate making the body more amenable to efficient work.

It’s how you use it that counts

Timepieces in the office should be for innovation, not observation, so make the clock your friend, not your enemy, and see productivity soar.

Get started with this free concentration timer from Turbine’s parent company, Articulate Marketing.

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