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Eight surprising ways to boost employee productivity

Eight surprising ways to boost employee productivity

Thought LeadershipTop Stories

Managing a team comes with many challenges – from facilitating collaboration and communication to managing recurring tasks. One of the most pressing, amid a looming recession and economic uncertainty, is that of employee productivity. How can employees be empowered and motivated to do their jobs as efficiently as possible? It’s easy to do this the ‘wrong’ way, such as setting shorter deadlines for faster results and overloading employees with extra work, but long-term, this is only going to burn out your team. Treena Diebolt, VP People, Otter.ai, explains some sustainable, cost-effective and useful ways to boost your employees’ productivity and motivation.

Create a workspace that works for them

Small monitors, uncomfortable chairs and even poor lighting can halt productivity in its tracks. Because most of us spend hours at our desks every day, it’s crucial to implement a setup that works.
Don’t make assumptions: ask the individuals on your team about their preferred workspace style. Some may opt for a standing desk, while others would prefer an ergonomic cushion or dual monitor system. By making these simple adjustments (within reason), you’re reducing physical discomfort that can create barriers to productivity and a lacklustre workspace.

If your employees are remote, consider a work from home office stipend. This could be a one-off payment to set up their home offices or monthly stipends that covers approved remote costs or both.

Allow schedule flexibility

Regimented rules are a barrier to workplace productivity. For example, one employee’s commute may already leave them drained by the time they arrive in the office, while another may be struggling to focus while at home.

If your business allows it, empower your team to suggest their ideal schedule, whether that’s arriving after rush-hour traffic has subsided or opting for a designated remote day. As long as everyone communicates and deadlines are met, this gesture instils trust, reinforces healthy work-life harmony and helps everyone be as productive as possible in their own ways

Purchase plants for the office

It may sound like a whimsical solution, but research consistently finds that incorporating plants into the office increases productivity and boosts mood.

One study found that plants in the office increased productivity by 15%. Elsewhere it was revealed that 10% of employee sick days could be explained by a lack of natural light and plants in the office.

Prioritise workplace wellness

Afternoon or seasonal slumps are perfectly normal, particularly when sitting at a desk for eight hours per day. The science behind our post-lunch lull points to the ‘sleepy’ effect so many of the kinds of foods we eat have on our bodies, including white bread and most kinds of carbohydrates. Seasonal slumps are usually experienced during the summer, the time of year when team members are in and out of the office and the weather is at its most inviting.

It’s therefore important to take note of these cycles and see what can be done to benefit your team: luckily, there are ways to help boost employee wellbeing that will benefit them in the long-term and keep motivation high.

Whether that means offering office yoga sessions, nutrition coaching, in-office massage therapy or even switching things up with weekly outside lunches or walking meetings, prioritising wellbeing in the workplace will help to ensure employees are happy, healthy and more productive.

Personalise their incentives

Offering employee incentives for their achievements is a common solution to productivity challenges but taking the time to ensure the rewards are personalised takes the benefit one step further.

Ask your employees to provide a list of their favourite things, whether that’s their favourite meal, coffee order, sport – anything. Think outside the monetary box, too. One employee may prefer an extra remote day that week, while another member of your team might appreciate a coffee shop voucher. Taking the time to get to know what drives your team will inevitably result in incentives that keep them energised and motivated to get things done.

Optimise meetings and emails

For many employees, a day loaded with meetings isn’t great for knocking out that to-do list. Revamping meeting culture could be the key to unlocking productivity. With employees reporting that around 32% of meetings they attend could be skipped, it’s key to assess whether your team members’ motivation might be hindered by unnecessary calls. Our study with Dr Steve Rogelberg at the University of North Carolina found that employees spend 70% of their time in ‘unnecessary’ meetings multitasking, suggesting that employees would rather attend to their to-do list than take part in calls that they deem unnecessary.

Before you send off those calendar invites, ask yourself if this meeting is really needed. You may find that you can communicate this information in an email that can be referenced later and save everyone time.
If regular meetings are crucial, try and trim the invite list to key members only, or reduce the meeting times to 15-20 minutes to cover key points and prevent unproductive discussions.

Stop micromanaging and start delegating

Constant supervision not only renders task delegation pointless, but it can even make employees feel demoralised or cause them to lose faith in their abilities.
Instead of micromanaging, focus on managing your own expectations and requirements. Provide realistic goals and outcomes and once you delegate, leave them to it. Your employees will feel trusted, more confident and more focused without someone looking over their shoulder and second-guessing their every step.

Implement anonymous employee surveys

Every employee is different. What’s killing one team member’s productivity may be the driving force behind another’s. Conduct short, regular surveys with your employees to ensure they’re feeling happy and supported. Some effective questions include:
• On a scale of 0 to 5, how would you rate your work-life balance?
• Do you have access to everything you need to effectively do your job?
• Are you given enough opportunities to develop your skills?
Creating an opportunity for everyone to quickly communicate their views, pain points and attitudes will help you realise what’s working and what needs a second look. Be sure to heed the advice and feedback you receive, too.

There are many schools of thought around the debate between anonymity and transparency. Critics see transparency as ‘brave’ but there is no right or wrong way to share constructive feedback. Enforcing a culture of silence that doesn’t allow employees to share their point of view will ultimately lead to silent grudges, which is plainly bad for both employee productivity and business. Make it a priority for everyone to be involved and have their voices heard.

Simplicity is key

The tips above might not seem hugely groundbreaking, but they are small changes that can make a big impact when it comes to productivity. With oncoming economic pressures, it’s never been more important to ‘do more with less’ – and recognising the issues that your workforce may be facing daily is key to ensuring employee wellbeing while driving efficiency. Implementing these changes may not boost your team’s productivity overnight, but keeping your team comfortable, happy and supported can have a steady, lasting effect on employee efficiency, retention and productivity. A wise team member once said to me that ‘small improvements are still progress’. Focusing on simple improvements will add up to create a big impact over time.

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