One of the most fundamental problems in business has always been how to increase employee productivity. Too often, managers approach this need by trying to identify ways to pressure employees to work longer hours, make work their number one priority, and fear the consequences of not meeting performance objectives.
The problem with that approach is that it contradicts several key drivers of employee productivity such as engagement, autonomy, and overall well-being. In today’s knowledge-based workforce, how people feel about their jobs is one of the most reliable indicators of their performance.
Here are 5 research-backed and employee-driven strategies to increase workplace productivity:
1) Prioritize Employee Engagement
A lack of employee engagement is the root cause of most productivity shortages. According to Gallup’s State of the Global Workforce report, 85% of employees are not engaged or actively disengaged.
This has a substantial negative impact on workplace productivity because disengaged workers are slower, more distracted, and generally have poor to mediocre performance.
The good news is that you can re-engage most employees with some simple changes to your company’s management style. Here’s how:
- Recognize employee successes. Everyone wants to feel appreciated for the work they do yet, employee achievements often go overlooked. Take actions to ensure every employee success is acknowledged by a leader in your organization.
- Enable employees to have a healthy work-life balance. According to a LinkedIn survey, nearly 50% of American workers would choose flexible hours over a higher salary. Instead of forcing your employees to choose between their jobs and important events in their personal lives, give them the autonomy to decide when they work as long as they meet their performance standards.
- Give frequent one-on-one feedback. Research shows that employees crave consistent feedback. Constructive criticism and praise are reassuring because it lets people know if they’re on the right track and helps them pivot before making huge mistakes.
- Provide professional development opportunities. Employees are more loyal to companies who invest in their long-term success. If you don’t have the budget - or time - for intensive training programs offer subsidized online courses, mentorships, manager-led sessions, and similar learning opportunities.
In addition to these strategies, ask your people what more your company’s leadership can do to make them happier and more engaged at work. Their renewed energy and commitment will make engagement efforts worth the investment.
2) Let Employees Work Independently
Contrary to management trends, encouraging constant collaboration hurts productivity. The two main ways of promoting a collaborative environment - open office plans and meetings - have drastically adverse effects.
Employees in open office plans are distracted an average of 86 minutes per day and suffer from a 32% drop in well-being. Meanwhile, the average employee wastes 31 hours per month in unproductive meetings.
To increase your employees' productivity, you need to give them the freedom to work independently and collaborate when it adds value.
Here are some ways to do that:
- Give employees access to private workspaces. Ex. Cubicles, offices, quiet-zone spaces, etc.
- Only require them to attend meetings that cannot reach a resolution without their input. Any other information they need to know can be sent via email.
- Encourage people not to interrupt busy colleagues unless it’s urgent.
The fewer distractions your employees have, the better they’ll be able to focus on producing results that drive your company forward.
3) Create Structures to Ensure Accountability
Many employees who aren’t held accountable lack the motivation to be productive. If left unchecked, it’s easy for poor performance to become acceptable within your workplace culture. To avoid this, you need to create structures of accountability. Here are some examples:
- Have every employee set weekly goals and announce to their teams if they met them.
- Hold everyone responsible for improving at least one KPI.
- Set-up monthly one-on-one performance reviews.
- Put current team performance metrics on screens around the office.
Not only will implementing structures like these boost your organization’s productivity, but it will also increase overall employee satisfaction. A study found that 91% of people wish their companies held people more accountable - largely because it lessens conflicts caused by employees who don’t do their share of work.
4) Give Employees Access to Performance-Enhancing Technology
According to Deloitte, having access to adequate tools is one of the most potent drivers of employee engagement. Not only do tools play a critical role in the ease and enjoyment of work (both critical to productivity) but, they also are necessary for your employees to perform on-par or above your competition.
You can’t expect your employees to produce growth-driving results if they’re forced to rely on outdated technology. At the bare minimum, you should give them up-to-date versions of all the tools that are common in their field. If you have any additional room in your budget, invite your employees to provide you with a wish-list of tools they’d like to have and why. Purchase ones that they’ve demonstrated they will yield a return from.
The initial investment may be painful, but it will substantially boost your organization’s productivity.
Check out this article for tips on how to successfully roll-out new technology:
5) Encourage Employees to Take Breaks and Leave On Time
There’s a dangerous misconception that to increase employee productivity, you have to make them work longer hours and maximize the value of every minute they spend in the office. Not only can that management strategy create resentment among employees, but it also kills their efficiency. Here’s why:
- According to Stanford, employees who work sixty-hour weeks are less productive than those who work forty hours due to fatigue, stress and other distracting factors associated with being overworked.
- Our brains cannot reliably stay focused and efficient for prolonged periods of time. A study from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign found that taking brief breaks throughout the day allows people to resume tasks with increased focus and cognitive abilities.
To increase workplace productivity, you need to encourage employees to take breaks and leave on time. The easiest way to do this is having your leaders set the example. The energy-boost everyone in your organization gains will more than compensate for the lost working hours.
Improving employee productivity is an ongoing effort that will have substantial effects on your bottom line. Keep in mind that, while all of these strategies will make your teams more efficient, sometimes poor workplace productivity stems from employees being weighed down by too many small tasks that distract them from their value-driving work. If that’s the case with your employees, we can help.
Our virtual assistants can take care of all your team’s admin work such as expense reports, keeping your CRM up-to-date, calendar management, research, travel and more so that your team can focus on their strategic work. Plus, we manage your assistants and train backups so you’ll never go a day without service.
Schedule a free workflow assessment to learn more:
About the Author: Emily leads Prialto's content production and distribution team with a special passion for helping people realize success. Her work and collaborations have appeared in Entrepreneur, Inc. and the Observer among others.