We’re spending more and more time in the office. Yet productivity is stagnant. According to published research, the average employee only works about two hours and 53 minutes per day. And that’s with most of us burning the midnight oil more often than not.
So what can you do about it to buck the trend? There’s no one-size-fits-all fix, nor is there a single game changer. Enhancing productivity requires a multi-pronged approach and it’s also an iterative process. Here are 4 ways you can gear up productivity in your workplace.
Note: this article is primarily geared towards managers or small business owners, but pretty much anyone who works in an office setting or otherwise can gain advantage from some of these tips. Try them out for yourself!
SET UP A COMFORTABLE WORKING ENVIRONMENT
Your office should be set up to empower your employees, help them do their best work. If they’re sitting on a random collection of desks and chairs you bought from the office equivalent of a yard sale, chances are your team is not going to match its potential.
And this isn’t just a physical comfort issue either. According to the Association of Canadian Ergonomists, for example, enhancing the work environment will also have positive effects on the psychological and cognitive state of your employees.
Convinced? Here are a few relatively inexpensive ways to improve your work environment:
- Use the right lighting. Poor lighting can lead to eye strain, headaches, and it just zaps energy levels. Give employees access to natural light if possible, but also invest in task lighting. For example, a small USB desk lamp can help employees who often have to read reports or papers alongside their laptop work.
- Introduce nature. Look around your office. How many plants do you have? If the answer is close to zero, you may want to consider adding a nature boost. Adding plants can lead to measurable improvements in office performance and morale.
- Quiet rooms. Open plan offices are great for communication, but not the best for focus. Try and provide a room (e.g. the meeting room when not in use) where people can sit and focus on a single task for an hour or two without interruption. To further boost productivity, you can add a wireless and remote-controlled room indicator such as Luxafor Switch that displays personal and room availability, and shows people are focused on the work at hand and should not be disturbed.
REDUCE COMMUNICATION AND USELESS MEETINGS
We’ve given you the worrying stat at the top of this article: most office dwellers don’t even manage three hours of productive work per day. A lot of this has to do with how managers swell up the workday with countless emails, Slack overload, and meetings galore.
To improve productivity, get rid of about 80% of communication. And give your employees the freedom to turn off their smartphones when they’re at home. They don’t need to reply to an email within five minutes, and that ‘important call’ can probably wait until tomorrow. You’ll soon realize that most communication isn’t just unnecessary, but also a waste of valuable time.
GIVE YOUR TEAM THE TOOLS TO WORK
Leveling up your team’s toolset will give them a huge advantage when it comes to productivity. The software market is flooded with a range of apps to help streamline workflow, reduce distractions, and collaborate effectively on projects. Careful, however, tool overkill is also a potential problem. These are some popular favorites:
- Task trackers: This is particularly important, especially if you’re working as part of a team. Tools like Trello or Asana are useful.
- Communication apps: In today’s world, a lot of employees work remote. If this is the case for your organization, reliable communication apps are unmissable. Slack is a popular option, with Microsoft Teams being a solid and growing alternative.
- Toggl: This app is a great task tracker and productivity tool. It’s lightweight, does what it needs to, and isn’t too invasive. It allows you to track billable time, and helps employees prioritize work and trim useless tasks.
- Zapier: This nifty little tool is all about integration. You can program to your heart’s content, for example by setting up an automatic download of project email attachments to Dropbox or get notifications on Slack for absolutely everything (e.g. email, calendar notifications, Google forms, etc.).
- Xtensio: A productivity tool like Xtensio can make working with teams easy and manageable. You can share live documents and work together under one team space. There are many built-in templates available.
TRUST YOUR EMPLOYEES
Our final piece of advice isn’t about fancy software packages or snazzy new management techniques. The best way to enhance your team’s productivity is all about trust.
Let go of any micromanagement tendencies and back off.
Give your employees ownership of their projects, the autonomy to make decisions, and the freedom to split their working day in the way that works best for them. Of course, everyone will need to perform within certain practical confines, but otherwise you need to learn to let go.