How To Increase Workplace Productivity
Regardless of which sector you operate in, business leaders are constantly on the lookout for ways to streamline their processes and work smarter, not harder. After all, those achieving more with fewer resources are most likely to succeed.
Since the cost of staff represents the largest outgoing for many firms, workforce productivity has particular significance and crucially affects a businesses’ ability to be competitive. As such, it’s important to create an environment that both motivates employees and gives them the necessary tools to succeed – including technology that eliminates wasted time and money – while not compromising on quality.
In this guide, we will be sharing 7 of our most trusted tips for improving productivity and increasing business output. For each tip we also share actions that you can take right now to start improving your organization’s efficiency. Topics we cover include:
- Flexible working
- Employee engagement strategies
- Training programmes
- Goal setting
- More efficient meetings
- Varying deliverable output
Ready to get stuck in? Let’s get started.
1. Champion flexible working
Sticking to a rigid schedule can be detrimental to morale and productivity. Flexibility, on the other hand, can build trust and make workers feel valued by the business.
So what defines flexible working? Flexible working is a way of working that suits an employee’s needs, for example having flexible start and finish times, or being able to work from home.
The COVID-19 pandemic meant a huge shift in the way people worked – with the government’s ‘work from home’ advice, many employees experienced the freedom of flexible working for the first time. Giving employees the benefit of cutting out commutes and more control over their home life.
A report conducted by academics at Cardiff University and the University of Southampton outlined how homeworking skyrocketed at the start of the first national lockdown – rising from 6% of employees before the pandemic to 43% in April 2020. The report also indicates that productivity among the majority of those working from home during lockdown either remained stable or even improved, compared to six months before.
Now that the government is encouraging a phased return to the office – some businesses may be considering scrapping flexible working altogether, and returning to pre-pandemic life. However, this could prove detrimental to the productivity of your staff.
A survey by Airtasker found that on average, office workers reported an average of 37 minutes each workday not getting work done (outside of lunch and standard breaks), whereas remote employees only lost 27 minutes of each workday to distractions
Although not all employees may find working from home beneficial, having the options in place for those to work from home that are able to do so can help to significantly increase productivity levels and business output.
If you are a business leader or a HR professional, and are planning on continuing flexible working yourself, why not champion this even further by explaining to your employees how you are going to take advantage of flexible working to boost your own productivity and wellbeing – leading by example.
For those who can’t work from home, flexible start and finish times can help with increasing the productivity of your employees.
Action this now:
- Download our guide on preparing your office for the new hybrid workforce which is packed with tips to help you prepare for a hybrid workforce including policy considerations, change communication and insights around flexibility and productivity.
- Consider carrying out a survey to understand how your employees are feeling. Google Forms allows you to create questionnaires and for your employees to submit anonymous feedback. Taking this first step shows that you care about your team and their answers might surprise you!
- Time and attendance software can help HR teams to implement seamless flexible working that works for everyone. Learn more about the technology considerations in our flexible working guide.
- Review your internal policies on flexible working and see if there’s more room for more freedom for your team; you could outline occasions where your employees might benefit from being in the office vs being at home. Trial small changes over a period of time to see how they impact your business if you feel nervous about making sweeping changes organisation-wide.
2. Improve employee engagement strategies
Although financial compensation for hard work is likely to encourage more of the same and help with increasing productivity, employees are more likely to be engaged if they find their work personally rewarding and feel like they are being listened to on a human level.
Research from Gallup shows that low employee engagement remains a persistent problem for organisations of all sizes around the world: the study found that just 15% of adults in full-time employment are ‘engaged’ at work – defined by the research company as being “highly involved in and enthusiastic about their work and workplace”
Happy employees are better engaged, and help to create better business outputs – meaning productivity is increased and the wellbeing of employees is maximised in tandem.
Action this now:
- Take a personal interest in employees’ work; this can be asking them how they are finding a certain task or project, asking their opinion on how to approach a challenge, or just congratulating them on a job well done.
- Explore platforms like Clear Review and benefit from custom engagement surveys combined with a scientifically backed wellbeing monitor that enables you to drive performance whilst keeping mental health in check.
- Give employees a sense of direction by finding out specifically what they want out of their work and how you can help them achieve their goals.
- Give employees the tools to manage certain aspects of their roles themselves, as it’ll give them a sense of autonomy, while freeing up managers to concentrate on higher-level tasks. For example, allow employees to choose which way they may want to solve a problem.
3. Design a training program
Not only can training reduce the frequency of errors and therefore the need to repeat tasks, but improving the knowledge and skills of employees also makes them feel more valued. In fact millennials rank training and development opportunities as the third most attractive factor in a potential workplace.
As a business, showing your commitment to employee progression is likely to instil in them a sense of loyalty and encourage hard work- something that is especially important for middle managers, as they’re instrumental in communicating the company’s vision and organising operations.
Implementing training can help inspire productivity in a number of ways:
- Refreshes old skills – By retraining employees on skills they may have learnt in the past, you can increase productivity by preventing small, basic mistakes. Retraining can also breathe new life into old tasks – or show your employees ways of performing tasks in different, more efficient ways. As an added bonus, retraining current employees is less expensive than hiring new ones.
- Teaches new skills – By teaching employees new skills, you can give them a new sense of purpose. It also reinforces to them that the business is willing and able to evolve. In addition to this, teaching employees new skills also highlights that the business cares about the personal development of the individuals, as these new skills could ultimately lead to career development opportunities.
- Builds employee confidence – Learning and maintaining skills can boost employees’ confidence. With greater confidence, they’ll enjoy a greater sense of value and enthusiasm on the job. This often translates into increased productivity.
- Enhances employee satisfaction – Satisfaction is essential for a productive workplace. Employees are satisfied when they’re given the skills and knowledge they need to perform their duties optimally. Training is an important step in providing the skills your employees need to perform their best.
Action this now:
Download our guide on How to Attract and Retain Talent in 2021. This guide dives deeper into how you can ensure you have the right people in the right places to drive success in 2021 and beyond, with training and progression as a key component in doing just that.
- Assess the training needs of your employees – where are the gaps and what skills are your employees missing?
- Set training objectives – what do you want your employees to be able to learn, are there collective objectives and also individual objectives?
- Create a comprehensive training plan – be sure to factor into the plan; learning styles, content, materials, resources plus how the training will be delivered
- Implement training initiatives – the training plan should be promoted to employees and participant progress should be monitored
- Evaluate and revise training plan – what went well? How could the plan be improved for future use?
4. Review your technology
Many successful businesses take advantage of powerful tools and applications that enable them to streamline complex workflows and processes such as payroll. With features and capabilities that automate repetitive and time-consuming tasks such as collecting and sorting information or paying bills, this simplifies your peoples’ work and leaves them with more time to focus on what matters most.
If you notice a slump in productivity, it may be time to analyse your processes and see where time-consuming manual jobs could be automated with the right technology.
It’s vital to choose solutions that take the least time and effort to set up and maintain, while bearing in mind the future needs of your business. Programmes that sync across multiple devices or can tie in seamlessly with existing software are sure to save time and create a connected workforce.
Investing in a particular piece of equipment or software could significantly increase worker output.
Technology also facilitates enhanced collaboration. Collaboration is a key driver of productivity, and technology has made it much easier to connect and work together.
Solutions that enable teams to discuss, plan, execute, and track work all in one place are especially valuable and the less friction you have when collaborating, the more teams can focus on being productive.
Top Tip: Maintenance is key! Sometimes it’s not enough to simply install a new piece of machinery or software and watch it fly. It’s worth scheduling regular servicing or checks to make sure everything’s ticking along as it should and avoid any time out of action.
Action this now:
- For industries that operate in sectors that require intense customer care that drains resources, consider implementing chatbots on your website, to take care of customers and automate processes such as booking rooms, tables and events.
- Ensure that the technology you use every day allows for easy collaboration and process automation. For example, some Microsoft 365 business plans feature business automation software such as Microsoft Flow and business intelligence apps such as Power BI.
- Alternatively, Google Workspace allows employees to collaborate in real time on documents and projects, and also features instant messaging for fast and efficient communication between team members.
- Then, look into the areas of the business where most time seems to be absorbed – ask your employees to let you know where they feel a task could be automated. Use the tools within your chosen software to automate tasks.
5. Set realistic goals
Outlining clear objectives and paths to success is crucial for productivity. However, it’s important when doing so to be realistic and take into account the capabilities and limitations of your workforce. Otherwise, you risk disenchanting staff with unachievable expectations.
It is important to understand that you can set goals that are both big and small. If you only set big goals you will likely find yourself becoming disillusioned along the way, or they can seem simply impossible to achieve. Even big goals can often get broken down into smaller segments, which means they become infinitely more attainable.
Top Tip: Remember, when setting targets it is important to evaluate how the work (the outcome) compares. When deadlines have passed, it’s vital to analyse what was achieved and what wasn’t – and discuss this with staff to identify which elements can be improved.
Action this now:
- When setting goals, choose the most important productivity variables. These might be the ones with the biggest discrepancy between current and desired measurements, or the variables that lose the business the most money. To make this easier, you could list the most important and the least important variables and set goals in the order of the list.
- Then, use SMART objectives to help you plan and achieve your goals. While there are a number of interpretations of the acronym’s meaning, the most common one is that goals should be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound.
When you use SMART, you can create clear, attainable and meaningful goals, and develop the motivation, action plan, and support needed to achieve them.
An example of a SMART objective would be: ‘To achieve a 13% net profit by 31 March 2022’
Or ‘To recruit 3 new members of staff into the HR team by December 2021’
6. Reduce the length of meetings
Although meetings are important for formulating strategies and planning your approach, senior managers should look to be economical with language and not elaborate beyond necessity – as lengthy meetings eat into productivity levels.
Not only can long meetings lose us time, but on top of the actual meeting itself, you need to account for any pre-meeting activities and preparation, the post-meeting to-do’s, and also the “switching time.”
Switching time refers to the time needed to concentrate on a task after you have been interrupted. According to Harvard Business Review, it takes at least 15 minutes to become productive again after a break, and it takes at least 30 minutes to focus on a particular issue to then move forward or make a decision.
With all this time being swallowed up by meeting-related tasks – it leaves little room for more important things to be done. Cutting out 2 hours each week of unnecessary meeting time each week can significantly help boost business productivity.
Action this now:
- Ask yourself; is the meeting necessary? – Sometimes a meeting doesn’t have to happen. Before arranging or accepting a meeting, consider whether this could be sorted out over email.
- Be prepared – Have an agenda, and how many minutes you’d like to spend covering each point within your agenda
- Use a timekeeper – Keep an eye on the time yourself, or allocate the role of timekeeper to someone in the meeting, who can ensure meetings are kept efficient and succinct
- Make the meeting purpose clear and specific – this should help with the expectations of attendees and discourage people to wander from the topics at hand
7. Vary your employees’ work
While you want to make sure everyone is allocated to the right job according to their requisite skills, we all know that doing the same thing day in, day out can become tiresome.
Performing the exact same tasks over and over again can lead to employees feeling stifled, under-appreciated, or bored. Variety is the motivator that will spur your employees to be more productive, and encourage them to reach new heights of personal and professional improvement.
Offering employees a variety of work, highlights to them why their position in the business matters. If an employee is stuck on a tough project, a new challenge can remove the performance pressure and encourage them to see things from a different perspective.
Since 74% of employees rate their work as either “complex” or “highly complex,” employers must be able to provide relief if they are to keep employees happy.
Action this now:
- Varying the environment that employees work in can make a significant impact on their mindset and ultimately their output – consider implementing defined quieter areas and more collaborative areas so that employees can choose which area they want to be in when completing tasks.
- According to a 2019 Gesler Study, only a fraction of people would prefer working in a totally open or a totally private environment; 77% of respondents considered environments that fall between these extremes to be ideal.
- Where possible, try varying the type of work your staff members do – whether that’s putting them in another department one day a week, or just giving them the odd different-from-the-norm task.
- Not only will this improve their focus, but also expand their skills and allow them to gain a more comprehensive understanding of the business as a whole.
The common thread behind much of the advice in this guide is that being more human with your employees is a great place to start when attempting to increase productivity. Your workforce are your most valuable asset, so ensuring they feel happy, safe, motivated and valued is essential.
To summarise, increasing business output starts with identifying gaps, talking to employees directly, filling those gaps with training and extra support and then evaluating how well the plan is working.