The Simple Ways That You Can Increase Productivity in the Workplace, Effective Immediately
It doesn’t matter what type of business you’re running or even which industry you’re operating in — every organizational leader is always looking for any and all opportunities to increase productivity on behalf of their workforce.
It’s the dream of every entrepreneur — capitalizing on some technique that lets their people work “smarter, not harder,” thus creating the type of very real competitive advantage that others simply cannot match.
It is also, of course, far easier said than done in most cases.
There are an unfortunately large number of factors that negatively impact office productivity. 90% of most American adults spent about two full workdays on Facebook per month, for example — and if you think a lot of that time isn’t happening while literally at work, you’re kidding yourself.
Along the same lines, another study revealed that workplace productivity drops by about 20% and even attendance drops by 19% during those warm summer months of the year. But then again, that’s not necessarily something you can control — unless you’ve figured out a way to control the weather.
But at the same time, there are a number of important factors that POSITIVELY impact worker productivity — it’s just that it is up to you to take full advantage of them. Therefore, if you truly want to increase the productivity of your business (and, make no mistake, you should), there are a few key things you’ll want to keep in mind.
Understand What Factors Impact Productivity
One of the most important things to understand about workplace productivity in general is that, more often than not, the productivity of your employees has far less to do with the employees themselves than you realize.
You may think, for example, that is the productivity of your workforce is low it may be due to too many distractions in your environment. You may see someone listening to headphones during the course of the day and think “well that’s why he or she doesn’t get more work done — they’re spending too much time on Apple Music and not enough time on getting their tasks completed.”
It’s an understandable point-of-view — but it’s also not necessarily one with any basis in fact. According to one recent survey, about 71% of people say that listening to music at work actually makes them more productive, not less.
Instead, workplace productivity is generally empowered (or impacted) by a wide range of different factors, like:
- One recent study from the experts at CareerBuilder revealed that about 53% of people say that they are less productive when their work environment is far too cold to be comfortable.
- Have you recently switched over to an “open office” environment and aren’t seeing the productivity gains that you thought you would? That could be because, according to another recent study completed by Exeter University, open office layouts actually lead to about a 15% reduction in productivity across the board.
- But maybe the most damning statistic of all is the following: according to the experts at Gallup, 85% of employees in the United States in particular say that they’re disengaged from their jobs. This leads to a massive $7 trillion in lost productivity every single year.
So again, the fact that someone is listening to headphones while on the job may not have the negative productivity impact that you think it does.
If you’re an organizational leader that is in a position to make changes to the environment of your workforce, you absolutely should do so using statistics like those outlined above as a guide. Sure, you may think you’re saving a little money on utilities by keeping your office temperature cooler during the winter — but how much MORE are you losing by way of damage to productivity rates?
Employee engagement is a particularly tricky topic, as it has less to do with any one major move and is more about a series of smaller and more strategic ones. Organizational leaders need to capitalize on any opportunity they have to create a more welcoming, communal environment. Sometimes, this takes the form of recognizing the accomplishments of the individual — and making sure that everyone else in the office sees this level of recognition, too.
Other times it can be as simple as ordering lunch for everyone on a Friday, or organizing that mid-week Happy Hour so that everyone can have some time to unwind and socialize.
Regardless, by understanding the factors that actually have a tangible impact on productivity, you put yourself in the best possible position to leverage them to your advantage with as few of the potential downsides as possible.
If you’re not an organizational leader, understand that you’re still in a very real position to impact positive change in regard to productivity. If you feel like you’re disengaged with your job, don’t be afraid to (politely) point out why. Any employer who actually cares about the well-being of their workforce should be more than happy to take constructive criticism to heart. If it’s too cold during the day and you can’t concentrate, let someone know.
Don’t be afraid to speak your mind because that is exactly how the arc of change moves forward.
Pay Careful Attention to How Technology Helps (Or Hurts) Your Workflows
Another important thing to understand about increasing productivity in the workplace comes down to the idea that all of that technology you’ve painstakingly surrounded yourself with may not be helping nearly as much as you think it is.
On the one hand, technology has made our personal lives and our professional lives better in a number of ways. We’ve never been more connected to both each other and to the Internet — meaning that communication, collaboration and all the other factors that allow us to do critical work every day have never been easier, either.
However, keep in mind that all of this comes with a cost. All day, every day, we’re bombarded with messages from smartphones and other mobile devices like tablets that, individually, may not seem like much. But taken together, all of those emails and push notifications are eating up a significant portion of our days that could be devoted to bigger and better things.
For the absolute best results, try to disable all visible and audible phone alerts whenever you’re in the middle of a work session. If your phone has a “Do Not Disturb” mode — as is the case with Apple’s iPhone, for example — try to enable it whenever you can. This doesn’t mean that you’re going to miss any of those critical alerts — it just means that you won’t immediately see them until you’re ready to devote attention to those particular topics.
In other words, you need to be selective about not your own access to technology, but how technology can access you. If there is a series emergency that needs to be communicated by a spouse or other loved one, feel free to leave those messages enabled.
But remember that under the best case scenario, our technology should support and empower the way we like to work — it shouldn’t hurt our ability to be productive and stick to one particular task. You should always try to be strict about how you’re actually using those devices and come up with a system that works for you that lets you invest your time in the right ways given the task at hand.
Make an effort to be in charge of your software — don’t let your software suddenly take control of your life.
Come Up With a Productivity Plan and Stick With It
Another great step you can take to increase productivity involves coming up with a plan for how you like to work and sticking to it whenever you can. This is true both for those organizational leaders who are trying to get more out of their workforces, and the individual employees themselves.
Remember that every person is a bit different from the next, meaning that a productivity plan that works incredibly well for one person may be woefully inadequate for the next.
To help make sure this process gets off on the right foot, take a day or two to outline exactly how much time you’re spending on certain tasks. Try to figure out how much time you’re spending responding to emails or going through memos from the day before, for example, as opposed to actually spending time on work that is moving the business forward. The chances are high that, once you have this raw data to analyze, you’ll find out that certain tasks (like emails) take a lot more time than you thought.
Include everything: from the time you’re spending on daily tasks to social media usage, interacting with apps, taking breaks and more.
Once you see which tasks are eating up the majority of your time, you can start to rearrange your day to make this process work for you. If you realize that you’re at your most productive in the late morning before lunch, for example, try not to spend that hour responding to emails until the afternoon. Don’t try to do so right when you get into work in the morning as you’re only using valuable time that can be better spent elsewhere.
One recent study revealed that only about 17% of people are actually able to accurately estimate the passage of time — meaning that most people probably don’t even realize how much effort they’re devoting to tasks like responding to old emails that don’t add up to much in the long-run. If you’re an individual employee, try to come up with a productivity plan that works for you. If you’re an organizational leader looking to get more out of your workforce, encourage them to do the same.
It may seem straightforward, but you’d be shocked by how much you can gain from such a seemingly simple task.
Consider the “Two Minute Rule”
You may not know Steve Olenski’s name, but you’re no doubt familiar with his work.
He’s been a writing professional for over two decades, having contributed to major publications like Forbes and he’s even lent his talents to major national TV spots that aired during the Super Bowl. He’s worked for Ad Age, Ad Week, Business Insider and more — and he’s a very respected voice within the entrepreneurial community.
Not too long ago, he came up with what he calls the “two minute rule” — that is, a process during which if you identify a task or job that can be completed in two minutes or less, you should do so immediately. His theory is simple: if you have the ability to complete a task immediately, it’ll actually take less time in the long-run than having to return to it later in the day.
If nothing else, it’s a great way to prioritize your time and focus on the volume of accomplishments that you’re completing during the day. Completing that two minute task may not seem like much initially, but when you realize just how many of them you’ve finished during the course of a single day, they add up to something far more powerful than any one of them could be on their own.
Again — this is the perfect piece of advice for both employees and their leaders to follow.
The Trouble With Meetings
Last but not least we arrive at the concept of meetings — something that organizational leaders tend to think are far, far more helpful than they actually are.
According to one recent study, employees spend an average of about an hour a day in meetings — to the tune of about 31 hours every single month. It’s important to note that this exact same study also revealed that 50% of employees say that meetings are the number one time-waster at their job.
Sometimes, meetings are a critical way to get everyone on the same page. They’re necessary to check in on the status of a project or answer any lingering questions or concerns with a large group of people at one time. However, these situations are far rarer than a lot of people would like to admit.
Before you call that next meeting as an entrepreneur, ask yourself if it’s really necessary from a logistical perspective. What information are you trying to get across and exactly how valuable is it? Does the meeting justify its own existence, or can you accomplish the exact same thing with a quick email or inter-office memo?
As an employee, before you say “yes” to attending that next meeting, think about the time investment it requires and what you COULD be devoting all of that effort to during the same period. Don’t be afraid to say “I’m legitimately busy during this period and I think that staying at my desk is a better use of my time. Can we find another day to get this done?”
No entrepreneurial worth working for should ever balk at the idea of you staying behind during a meeting because you’d like to work harder and make them more money. Don’t ever let yourself forget that.
Along the same lines, you should know that businesses that adopt some type of unified communications phone system (otherwise known as UC) tend to see a 52% improvement in workplace productivity, which itself translates to about a 25% increase in operating profit. This is because communication is an invaluable part of the worker productivity experience, and meetings tend to hurt more often than they help.
In the end, any one of these tips would likely be a way to appreciably increase productivity in the workplace across the board — whether you’re an employee or an organizational leader doesn’t actually matter. When taken together, however, they all add up to something truly meaningful — an opportunity to create a more efficient, more forward-thinking environment that you literally cannot afford to ignore.