The U.S. government measures it, smart devices help us track it, and business leaders obsess about it. Productivity is the holy grail for business owners seeking to make their businesses more profitable.
Here are 10 hacks to help your employees be more productive at work.
1. Encourage (or require) breaks. Whether your employees have desk jobs, manufacturing or service jobs, breaks are essential. One study found the most productive people work for 52 minutes at a stretch and then take a 17-minute break. Intense focus on work, followed by a break, rejuvenates both mental and physical energy.
2. Get employees moving. Breaks work best when they’re taken away from the desk, computer or workstation. Encourage your staff to do quick stretches (even as a group) or head outside for a short walk. Sit-stand desks let staffers get moving while working; Texas A&M University research found employees using them are up to 46 percent more productive.
3. Reduce distractions. For office workers, our always-on digital culture can lead to an endless cycle of checking email, chat, social media and then starting all over again. Reduce technology distractions with “meeting-free” days, “no email” days, work from home days or office quiet hours. Since email and other communication technologies are designed to be addictive, Deloitte suggests using apps to remind employees to take breaks.
4. Give workers autonomy. Don’t micromanage. Employees hate it, and unhappy workers are less productive. Research by the University of Melbourne shows managers who provide support and autonomy, rather than micromanaging, are more likely to have happier employees and greater workplace well-being.
5. Connect with workers’ deeper motivations. In some industries, such as food service, work requires following a set formula without much room for discretion. For this type of job, tying work in to an employee’s larger motivations, such as supporting their families, has been shown to boost productivity. Hold “bring your child to work” days, company picnics, and other family-friendly events that connect workers’ families and the job. If possible, allow employees flexible hours or other arrangements to meet their personal needs.
6. Provide stable hours. Do your employees’ hours and shifts change every week? Keeping schedule changes to a minimum has been shown to make businesses more productive. In a study with the Gap, consistent, predictable hours improved employee retention, making the stores more productive.
7. Create a variety of spaces. If you’ve adopted the open office trend, you may want to reconsider. Staples Annual Workplace Survey reports 37 percent of workers in open-plan offices consider their workspace distracting. Provide some quiet places, meeting rooms, and common spaces such as break rooms so employees can escape the open plan when necessary.
8. Light it up. Exposure to light strongly influences our alertness levels. Allow as much natural light into your workspace as you can, or purchase desk lamps that mimic natural light.
9. Allow remote work. Only 32 percent of employees spend all their work time at the office. More than half (57 percent) say working remotely removes distractions. Some 3.9 million workers currently telecommute at least half-time, according to the 2017 State of Telecommuting in the U.S. Employee Workforce report, which estimates half-time telecommuting boosts productivity by 15 percent.
10. Engage your employees. This really isn’t a hack—it’s a long-term project. According to Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace report, 85 percent of employees are either not engaged or actively disengaged at work, causing $7 trillion in lost productivity annually. Disengaged workers have 37 percent higher absenteeism, 49 percent more accidents, and 60 percent more errors and defects in their work, Harvard Business Review reports.
To increase employee engagement, treat your staff with respect, provide learning opportunities, offer competitive wages and benefits, and foster community at work. These actions aren’t quick fixes, but they’re worth the effort. Creating a team of engaged employees is the best way to boost your business’s productivity
About Rieva Lesonsky
Rieva Lesonsky is CEO and Co-founder of GrowBiz Media, a custom content and media company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship, and the blog SmallBizDaily.com. A nationally known speaker and authority on entrepreneurship, Rieva has been covering America’s entrepreneurs for more than 30 years. Before co-founding GrowBiz Media, Lesonsky was the long-time Editorial Director of Entrepreneur Magazine. Lesonsky has appeared on hundreds of radio shows and numerous local and national television programs, including the Today Show, Good Morning America, CNN, The Martha Stewart Show and Oprah.
Lesonsky regularly writes about small business for numerous websites and for corporations targeting entrepreneurs. Many organizations have recognized Lesonsky for her tireless devotion to helping entrepreneurs. She served on the Small Business Administration’s National Advisory Council for six years, was honored by the SBA as a Small Business Media Advocate and a Woman in Business Advocate, and received the prestigious Lou Campanelli award from SCORE. She is a long-time member of the Business Journalists Hall of Fame.
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