Most businesses are always looking for new ways to improve workplace efficiency. But this doesn’t mean adding more hours to the work schedule.
Busyness and efficiency are not one and the same. Efficient teams manage their time well, producing high-quality work fast without ever sacrificing quality.
Fortunately, if you’re in management or HR, there’s a practical approach to coach employees to increase efficiency.
And here are the simple research-backed strategies you should focus on.
1. Get Regular Feedback
If you want to make your team more efficient, start with feedback from teams to determine the issues.
Here’s a few ideas to get the ball rolling.
A study in the International Journal of Science and Research found ongoing training improved productivity and business results. Of course, this is a longer-term project, but there may be quick fixes.
You can, for example, assess whether employees need help adapting to a new work technology. And, thanks to the internet, you have access to high-quality, free courses via platforms like Coursera, Lynda, and Udemy.
There’s no way around it: meetings are part and parcel of professional life. But, how well does your organization run meetings?
Most people say they lose time due to poorly organized and unnecessary meetings. An efficient meetings process respects employees time, and only discusses the most important issues.
In this Salesforce study, 85% of workers said poor collaboration caused project failures.
Do teams in your organization understand how their work impacts other departments? Despite the fact that they’re working on different parts of the same project, one team may have no idea what the other does.
At the very least, managers should work closely. But ideally, teams should gain insight into how other units work, share processes, and consider areas for improvement.
2. Plan Weeks Before They Start
It’s easy to get buried under emails, phone calls, and urgent tasks day after day. By the end of the week, employees may feel exhausted and unfulfilled.
Fortunately, proper daily and weekly planning goes a long way to increasing workplace efficiency.
In Train Your Brain for Success, Roger Seip recommends taking an hour or two each week to reconnect with your goals and create a weekly plan.
Reminding your team about the difference they’re making is a powerful way to create a positive company culture and increase motivation. If your team has weekly or daily huddles, discuss the mission and encourage team members to reflect on the upcoming week.
Encourage employees to set daily tasks that align with company goals. Rather than a to-do list, suggest a results lists.
Make time to acknowledge progress because it’s a proven source of motivation. Researchers found people who feel like they’re moving closer towards their goals are more productive.
3. Personal Time Management for Employees
When it comes to workplace efficiency, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. After all, we all have different tasks and ways of working. However, sharing proven time management strategies may help employees develop their own system for getting things done.
These simple and trusted time management tactics have been shown to improve workplace efficiency.
Most modern professionals have a full plate. We’re always juggling several tasks and multiple deadlines. How do employees decide where to focus their efforts?
A project management tool is a good way to help employees plan their work. There’s also decision-making techniques like the Eisenhower Method. Encourage employees to discuss what projects to prioritize if they’re not sure.
Encourage employees to batch similar tasks to improve efficiency. Instead of switching gears throughout the day - from emails to presentations to customer calls - employees get to zone in on one task and do it well.
4. Create the Right Work Environment for Efficiency
When you step into Etsy’s new Brooklyn HQ, you’ll see plant-lined walls, vast open courtyards, and kitchens packed with snacks. There’s a breathing room for yoga classes and sweeping views of Manhattan. Etsy spent $40 million upgrading the 200, 000 square foot building.
So, why did the company make such a massive investment?
Etsy’s new office was guided by input from its 800-plus workers. By listening to staff, Etsy built a work environment that made it easier for employees to perform well.
The research is clear on this one. By setting up the right office space, you increase workplace efficiency. Reducing distraction is an important part of this process.
So, it’s no surprise that quiet spaces for work was high on the list of requests from Etsy workers. A survey by Rescue Time found 51.5% people were interrupted throughout the day. Only 41% of employees in this Oxford Economics study said they had tools to filter out distractions at work.
Open plan layouts have made matters even worse. Now in a perfect world, team members would collaborate better when the walls come down.
In reality, open-plan offices decrease collaboration. This study found the number of emails and text messages increased when companies made the switch to open plan and face-to-face engagements dropped.
Open plan offices are bad for productivity, too. Distracting noise levels hamper employees’ concentration.
But worst of all, open plan offices are bad for workers’ health. A study by scientists from Stockholm University found employees who worked in single offices took less sick days than those in open plan offices.
How can you help? You don’t need a new building or even a multi-million dollar revamp. A good mix is to give people space to do different types of work. Designate areas for meetings, collaboration, and deep work.
When it comes to managing disruptions, share tips on how to use social media and the internet effectively. For interruptions in the offline world, how do people know when urgent responses are needed for mails and messages? When is it OK to interrupt a coworker? Set some rules of engagement.
Telecommuting is another way to give employees control over how they work. A recent Gallup study found 43% of employees were doing some kind of remote work. Google’s five-year study showed remote workers were as effective as employees who worked in the office, based on performance reviews and promotions.
5. The Research-Backed Benefits of Taking Breaks
If you want employees to stay efficient, they need to manage their energy. Human brains weren’t designed to focus indefinitely. After a while, the quality of work will diminish.
That’s why putting in longer hours doesn’t yield improved productivity. This study by John Pencavel found working more than 50 hours per week made people less productive.
The problem is that it’s even easier to rack up extra hours now, thanks to the internet and smart devices.
How many times have you responded to a work email or text after hours? You’re not alone. At least 35% of people in this Pew Internet Research study said the internet increased the number of hours they worked.
On a day-to-day basis, experts recommend taking breaks every 75 to 90 minutes. Another study showed people were most productive when they worked in 52-minute bursts. A good strategy is to make sure staff schedule regular breaks throughout the day.
6. Use Technology to Improve Efficiency
To improve efficiency, your team needs the right tools.
If you’ve ever endured glitchy network connectivity, you know it’s a productivity killer. Consider that 39% of employees in this study said they were frustrated with work technology. Do you have reliable, fast internet? Does the technology work like it’s supposed to?
Successful organizations use technology to work smarter, not harder. That’s always been true. This research paper studied organizations in the 90s, presenting a clear link between advanced technology and higher productivity.
The only difference is that it’s never been easier to take advantage of these benefits. You don’t need to know how to write code to create easy automations, for instance. And McKinsey found as much as 45% tasks could be automated.
To identify work that’s ripe for automation, assess the repetitive tasks employees perform regularly.
Take text. Most of us spend a lot time of typing. Imagine if your most frequently used words and phrases were typed for you. Tools like TextExpander let you automate common phrases. Create short snippets once and draw on them for future correspondence.
Electronic signing and digital workflows are also obvious choices for automation. Consider a tool like eversign for document management. Store templates on eversign and get people to sign documents digitally.
Then, there’s applications like Zapier and IFTT that allow all your applications to talk to each other. Automatically create Google calendar events from Asana tasks. Working in HR? Add Zoho Recruit candidates to a mailing list.
The right automations will wind up saving your team loads of time. Time employees can spend on tasks that add real value to the organization.
Improve Workplace Efficiency With These Simple Tips
We hope these tactics inspire increased workplace efficiency within your organization.
Remember, while most of these techniques won’t cost you a cent, the payoff is invaluable. Watch ideas turn into action plans; goals transform into accomplishments.