Let’s face it: during a typical workday your team is scrambling from one task to the next. Attention is scattered across emails, instant messages, and meetings.
When it’s time to leave the office, you’re all exhausted. But if these efforts aren’t producing results, it might be time to examine your business productivity.
Here we present research-based strategies to regain control of your workday and improve business productivity.
1. Audit Your Existing Setup
Improving business productivity, begins with an audit of your existing processes.
Highly productive business share common traits, notes a review of business productivity data gathered by United Kingdom’s Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. Crucially, they’re aware of their own performance.
Taking stock of your existing processes means examining your workflows. Are there obvious blockages? Look for unnecessary meetings: could matters have been resolved via email? How about communications? Are silos hurting collaboration and causing delays?
Conduct this evaluation with your business goals in mind. Determine whether teams are spending their time on the most important priorities.
You might uncover the need for practical changes in the following areas:
Employees are more productive when they have the right training. That’s what this research study into 457 European SMMEs suggests.
Usually, new employees reach productivity six months after they are hired. But online training has the potential to speed this up significantly, reports this survey from Udemy. Perhaps it’s as simple as a one-hour training session on the new CRM, for instance.
Have you ever found yourself struggling with slow internet speeds? How about a computer that was prone to crashing? Underperforming equipment is a major productivity killer. Make sure employees have the basic technology in place to do their jobs.
Once you have identified your issues and devised a plan, develop a process for ongoing review and improvement.
2. Create the Right Environment
Do team members love the office they come to each day?
That matters because the right workspace boosts engagement, happiness, and productivity.
Study after study into business productivity comes to the same conclusion: a healthy work environment is key.
Work environment plays a major role in employee performance, reports this study published in International Journal of Productivity and Performance Management.
We see the negative effects of poor workspaces all the time.
But that’s not the worst.
An analysis by the World Green Building Council suggests poor air quality and high temperature results in 10% reduction in performance, including slower typing speeds. This survey of 1,601 professionals found 33% of office workers lost one hour of work each day due to environmental problems.
By contrast, employees that were exposed to more natural night got better sleep and were more productive, according to this study.
So, what do office workers really want?
A Future Workplace Wellness study ranks clear air, natural right, comfortable temperature, and low noise levels as the biggest levers for designing a high-quality, healthy workspace.
3. Promote Flexible Work
Beyond work environment, another way to boost business productivity, is to give employees control over how they work.
What this looks like depends on your organization.
One popular example is remote work. The number of employees who work from home grew from 39% in 2012 to 43% in 2016, according to Gallup.
Worried employees will slack once they have more freedom?
It’s likely the opposite.
An Owl Labs survey of 1, 202 remote workers, found 79% preferred remote work because of the increased productivity and concentration. Moreover, in this experiment, employees who decided to work from home, actually increased hours and performance.
Yet, flexible working isn’t only about working from home. It may also be a case of letting employees structure their workdays.
Although corporate culture favors early starts, some people are naturally more productive later during the day, according to research.
In fact, a fixation with work hours won’t yield better business productivity, says Adam Grant, an organizational psychologist. Creative, complex jobs need sustained periods of focus, rather than a eight-hour day filled with interruptions.
Creating a culture of focus comes next.
4. Reduce Distractions
The modern workplace is filled with distractions: emails, instant messages, calls.
Think about the demands of constant connectivity. Employees in this survey spent six hours a day using email. When it comes to smartphones, people tap, swipe or click on their phones 2,617 times each day.
It’s no wonder it’s getting harder and harder to carve out the time for sustained concentration.
Even worse is that at least 66% of employees won’t discuss their battle against distractions with their employers.
To start, identify the biggest distractions. If it’s social media, for instance, encourage employees to block certain sites while they work. This study found that when social networking sites were blocked, employees were more productive and could focus for far longer.
Consider the following posters to minimize distraction:
- Promote offline periods. Let employees disconnect from messaging applications and emails to get deep work done.
- Agree on terms for responding to messages. A 24-hour response might be sufficient for non-urgent messages. In this research paper, office workers took just under five minutes to stop what they were doing and open their email application. When they received an instant message, they took just 34 seconds to switch to the messaging application. All those interruptions add up over the course of the workday.
- Encourage breaks during the work day. This is especially important for knowledge workers and people who spend large parts of the workday at their desks. In fact this study found desk workers who took just a five-minute break every hour had more mental energy and attention, and less hunger pangs.
5. Ban Multitasking
Picture this scenario: you respond to a message on Slack, spot another email arriving in your inbox, and are about to open a new tab for some online research.
Let’s be honest, it’s not that hard to imagine, at all.
As modern professionals, we do our fair share of multitasking. And it’s sabotaging business productivity.
Rescue Time examined data from 50,000 users and found that people were spending half their workday multitasking with email and instant messaging.
Surely, you’re getting more done by doing two things at the same time?
Not so fast.
Research supports this fact: multitasking doesn’t work. That’s because it takes time to switch between activities, especially complicated tasks, making us less efficient overall.
Encourage employees to batch similar tasks during the day. And if they really need to switch, a brief ready to resume plan could help. This involves a short note to self detailing where you left the task and what still needs to be done.
6. Use Tech to Automate
The right technology tools can transform productivity.
Think about it: you now have the power to use technology to automate manual business processes.
Here’s a few pointers to get started.
Assess which manual tasks are taking up the most time. Maybe you routinely waste time waiting for documents to be signed. Consider a tool like eversign. Now clients can sign documents online, removing the need to printing and scanning.
There’s a caveat, though. Avoid using too many tools. The last you want is for employees to context switch throughout the day. And if you need to use different applications frequently, make sure they integrate well.
7. Avoid micromanaging
Most of us have had to deal with a supervisor hovering around our workstations.
Fact is micromanaging is the fastest way to demotivate employees.
It leads to disengaged workers, which carries high costs in terms of absenteeism and staff turnover.
An alternative approach is to promote autonomy and accountability.
This study found that leadership styles that encourage self-initiative led to more motivated, better performing workers.
Most importantly, a controlling supervisor may indicate a lack of trust. And employees who don’t feel trusted won’t perform well.
To start, ask employees how they want to be managed. Research shows, for instance, that millenials value continuous feedback on their performance.
Remember that micromanaging isn’t only bad for morale, it holds up the business if employees constantly have to turn to supervisors for direction. Effective workplaces use processes. So there’s less need for employees to ask how they need to handle individual situations.
Finally, if there are clear business goals, and employees have the tools and training to do the job, ask yourself, why are you micromanaging?
Start Improving Business Productivity
Building a successful organization forces you to focus your efforts on your most important priorities. Teams don’t need to bounce from one meeting to the next, buried under a constant stream of notifications and emails.
Far too often all that busyness doesn’t deliver real results.
The key is to build engaged, productive teams who have everything they need to do meaningful work.
So, go ahead. Start using these tips right away.
You won’t just get more done today—you’ll be investing in your future success.