It’s not always easy to have high productivity in the workplace, but with this guide it can be.
Do you ever find yourself sitting at your desk thinking about how productive or unproductive you have been that day? You’re not alone. Productivity in the workplace is a hot topic amongst office-based workers specifically.
Productivity in the workplace can be defined by how efficiently and effectively employees achieve the goal and tasks set out for them; this will look different from company to company. However, this shouldn’t be measured by how many hours they put into their work. But by how much work they put into their hours.
Dips in productivity are very common. In fact, that’s probably why you’re here. The most common dips can be caused by:
- General loss of interest by the employee in a chosen field
- Negative or lack of company culture
- Lack of responsibility and accountability among employees
- No team spirit
- Absence of career development opportunities
- Poor management
- Poor communication systems
- Lack of appreciation
Whether it’s trying to understand how to be more productive or to understand why productivity levels have dipped there’s always two sides to the story; the employers and the employees.
We’ve put together our ultimate guide on how to increase productivity in the workplace from the perspective of these two sides.
So, whether you’re an employer or an employee you’ll be able to use the tips and tricks throughout this guide to help you in your workplace.
As An Employer What Can I Do To Increase Productivity In The Workplace?
As an employer, you should take some responsibility for the productivity levels amongst your team and in the workplace.
We understand that self-motivation and high levels of productivity are attributes that make an ideal candidate. However, we’re sure if we were to ask you if you always perform at your highest productivity level you’d laugh in our faces or straight-up lie. And that’s ok. But it is important to recognise when your team may need some pep put back into their step. As well as creating an environment that continually encourages productive workflow and increases motivation.
Follow these ten easy to implement tips to increase productivity in the workplace.
Have the Right Tools and Equipment Available to Your Employees
Imagine your boss asking you to build a house, but they provide you with no materials. No bricks, no cement, nothing. You’re going to be on the back foot and you’ll have to problem solve before even getting on with the task you’ve been set. Are you still going to be motivated to finish the task? We doubt it.
Now apply that scenario to your workplace. You want to set your team up for success.
You must have solutions in place that can reduce the amount of time and effort required for tasks – time is money, right? Not only will your employees feel as though there are fewer barriers to completion, but they’ll also be able to complete more tasks within the day.
It’s no secret that collaboration is a key driver of productivity; that’s why there are many software solutions out there that make it easier to connect and collaborate. Such as Asana or Monday.com for example. The best one to use really comes down to you and your team.
Be mindful in your selections, find out what your employees prefer to use, get their opinions and work with them – not against them.
Improve Workplace Conditions
Workplace conditions are crucial to productivity levels. If you have adopted hybrid working, you need to ensure the office is suitable for employees to work in.
If the office is regularly too hot or too cold, your employees will struggle to concentrate and consequently have a reduced workload. To prevent this, make sure that you have working heating and aircon.
Now we’ve covered the temperature of the office, let’s talk about office furniture. If you’re working in an industry that has your employees at their desks for 8 hours a day, they deserve something comfortable to sit on. Not only will this make your employees feel more ready to work, but the risk of aches and pains will also be minimised.
Offer Support and Set Realistic Goals
We all need a little bit of support from time to time. So, it’s no surprise that when employees feel supported they are more likely to perform to a higher standard.
When setting tasks, or doing employee reviews, offer your support on how to make improvements – rather than telling them what they are doing wrong or not doing at all. Make sure goals that are set are realistic and achievable. You likely use SMART goals for tasks but use them with your employees too. And when goals and targets are achieved, make sure positive reinforcement is given.
By putting these steps in place, employees will feel less overwhelmed and more motivated to do their job, thus increasing productivity.
Ensure Staff Are Happy
We spend, on average, 90,000 hours at work in our lifetime. We all want to be genuinely happy about coming to work, but sometimes the workplace environment can prevent that.
The biggest thing we found to increase our employees’ happiness at work is our ability to be flexible with their working needs. By allowing flexibility, our workers feel trusted and valued. Therefore, meaning they are happier at work and more productive in the hours they spend working.
One way to find out how your employees feel is to send out an anonymous satisfaction survey. By doing this, your employees have a safe space to be honest and open about their opinions. Once you receive the results, you will be able to identify any common occurrences and make improvements.
Happy employees = productive employees = happy employers.
Cut Back On Meetings That Could Have Been An Email
There is nothing worse than sitting in a meeting and thinking to yourself, ‘this could have been an email’. Actually, what makes it even worse is when these are scheduled in the middle of the morning/afternoon and you have other things you should be getting on with. All this does is stop workflow, reduce motivation and consequently reduce productivity among employees.
Before scheduling meetings, think to yourself, ‘can this be clearly communicated through an email?’ If the answer is yes, then you know what to do – stop the scheduling and start the email drafting.
Get Out of The “Perfection” Mentality
It’s unrealistic to expect employees to be perfect in everything that they do.
By pushing the perfect narrative, you could actually be decreasing productivity in the workplace. Trying to live up to the expectations of perfection can be mentally exhausting and stress-inducing for some employees.
Provide Opportunities for Training and Development
It’s human nature to want to learn and develop, especially if you’ve been doing the same job for a long period. Remaining stagnant can lead to boredom, a lack of motivation and reduced productivity. As a result, training and career development opportunities can help employees progress through your business and keep them engaged and interested in their job.
Reduce Risk of Stress
Stress in the workplace is very common, but that doesn’t mean it’s not counterproductive. It’s the employers’ responsibility to ensure workplace stress is reduced as much as possible.
To reduce the risk of stress it is important to create an environment where employees feel as though they can openly express their feelings. Sometimes a large part of the stress comes from the fear of speaking up about issues so, it is important to mitigate that.
Actively encouraging workplace wellness is another tactic to reduce stress in the workplace. You could offer subsidised gym memberships, create chill out spaces in the office, have more social events or even put on a yoga morning.
Improve Your Leadership Skills
This could be a hard pill to swallow, but it might be time to improve on your leadership skills if you’ve seen a decline in productivity across the board.
Poor leadership skills leave employees feeling unmotivated, unproductive and generally unhappy. This is often due to a lack of respect towards their manager or management team.
We’re lucky that there are so many great leaders who are sharing their expertise and leadership skills through podcasts, books, and articles. Even if you think you’re the best leader in the world, there’s always room for improvement, right?
It’s pretty easy to want to micromanage your employees to ensure they are getting tasks completed to your satisfaction. However, all this does is come across as controlling and makes employees feel as though you don’t trust them. When employees feel like this, they become unmotivated and less productive. So really, you’re shooting yourself in the foot.
If you set realistic goals and offer your support where needed, as mentioned above, you’ll get more out of your employees. Higher standards of working, more work completed in a time frame and a better relationship with your team – the trifecta of productivity in the workplace.
To prevent micromanaging your team, set your expectations and offer clear instructions once you have allocated tasks and projects. Then, as hard as it may be, let your employees be. If they have any queries, trust them to ask you and be available for them when they do. But let them take control and ownership of their work.
As An Employee What Can I Do To Increase My Productivity In The Workplace?
Ok, so we have covered everything an employer needs to do to increase productivity in the workplace. Let’s dive into what employees can do to help.
To Do Lists
We are very aware that this isn’t a groundbreaking phenomenon. However, for us, it’s one of the most helpful contributors to our productivity. Everybody is different and what works for one person might not work for another – so keep that in mind, and work to find the best way of working for you.
Let’s break down the way that works best for us…
Firstly, we create a general monthly to-do list. If anything crops up throughout the month, we have a dedicated area to jot it down and remember it. This can be organised further through segments and dating; go crazy with the colour coordination if you like! We certainly do.
Following on from our monthly to-do lists, we then use a weekly to-do list. We use our monthly list to inform our weekly, with space for anything that may crop up. This is a really good way of making sure you know exactly what you should be doing throughout the week. The best way to set this up is by allocating a small amount of time on a Friday afternoon, where you’ll write your list for the following week. By doing it in this way, you’re able to write your lists whilst your brain is still in work mode, rather than trying to figure it out on a Monday morning. Therefore, increasing your productivity.
Our monthly to-do list informs our weekly, and our weekly lists inform our daily to-do lists.
We separate the tasks from our weekly to-do list by day to ensure we complete our tasks for the week. It’s important to ensure that the tasks you add are all achievable within your timeframe. Uncompleted to-do lists give a sense of un-fulfillment, which can tarnish motivation and productivity. Similarly to weekly to-do lists, it is more productive to write your list the day before whilst you’re still in work mode. By doing this, you are 1) Able to spend the evening free from thoughts of “what do I need to do tomorrow” and enjoy your rest more, increasing your productivity the following day. 2) Able to use your time in the morning better by jumping straight into your tasks for the day.
Bonus tip: Rocks, Gravel and Sand!
As you work through your to-do list, use the rocks, gravel and sand technique. This is where you prioritise your larger tasks to ensure they get finished, before working through the smaller, easier to complete tasks.
You may be thinking, we’ve already covered lists. Are there really more? And yes, that is true, but distraction lists are different.
Have you ever found yourself in the middle of one task when another randomly pops into your head, so you attempt to do that as well? You’re not alone. But, this way of working can be super disruptive to your current workflow and decrease productivity.
That’s where distraction lists come into play. Next time, when you’re in the middle of a task and something else pops up, just add it to your distraction list. That way you can get the distracting task out of your head and still remember it later!
Notification Silencing Apps/Phone Features
Now, we don’t know about you, but for us, our phones are hands down the biggest distractions and the main culprit of low productivity.
If you’re an iPhone user, you’ll be no stranger to the do not disturb feature – more recently changed to focus (big thank you to Apple for this new iOS15 update). Thanks to these updates, you can have custom ‘focuses’ and set your own do not disturb parameters. Allowing you to decide which notifications to receive and which to silence. Meaning you can avoid anything which may encourage you to pick up your phone, but still allow important notifications like from your boss.
If you don’t have an iPhone or don’t want to utilize these features there are many apps available that have been designed to prevent users from picking up their devices.
Hold is a great, free app that gives you points for not going on your phone. The longer you go without picking it up, the more points you receive. These points can then be spent on rewards. We will admit that they aren’t the best rewards, but hey, they are free and generated with minimal effort – who doesn’t want that?
Forest app is another brilliant app to reduce device pickups and distractions. During your time of focusing you will receive virtual coins. These coins can then be spent to plant a tree. The forest team partners with a real tree-planting organisation to ensure these trees are planted. Not only are you staying focused, but you’re also doing great things for the environment. However, this app will set you back £1.99, but that just seems like a great investment for this win-win situation.
Set Personal Deadlines
Setting personal deadlines before actual task deadlines is a helpful way to ensure that you stay on track with projects and tasks. This will also mean that you’re not working flat out to get something finished in a short amount of time, reducing your stress and helping to increase your productivity.
Take Short Breaks
It feels as though there is a lot of pressure and expectation to be focused and productive for the entire workday when actually the brain needs to rest.
Borna Bonakdarpour, a behavioural neurologist and professor of neurology, found that the main culprits behind our limited ability to focus are cognitive overload and energy use. Additionally, research has found that for every 2 hours of focused work, you need 20-30 minutes of rest.
Schedule time throughout the day where you allow yourself to take 20 minutes of “rest”. Stepping away from your computer and getting some fresh air would be the ideal solution. However, it might not be feasible to find something that works for you.
During your rest period, it would be advised to not do anything that could be difficult to stop. Like scrolling through social media for example.
Get Better at Emailing
Oh, emails. Don’t you just love them?
It’s time for us all to get better email habits.
Dedicate time to respond
Firstly, dedicate set times to respond/send emails (if not urgent). For example, schedule time in the morning to go over emails from the day before. And then time in the afternoon to follow up on anything that came throughout the day. Obviously, this is just an example. But by setting time aside, you will free up time to complete other tasks. Additionally, you’ll stop multitasking between the task at hand and responding to emails.
Stop responding to emails right away
Secondly, don’t reply to emails straight away unless it is urgent or it is within your dedicated timeframe. This way of working is just disruptive and encourages multi-tasking, which is actually counterproductive.
Improve the way you send emails
Finally, get better at email. Many things can be done to be better at sending emails. The key point for us is to ensure that all information is provided in the first line of communication. By doing things, you’ll avoid the dreaded back and forth until you reach a conclusion. To help with this, think about what additional information you can add that would be helpful to the person receiving it. Give them as much information as you can to reduce the need for returning questions. Use language like “if this, then that”, providing scenarios and solutions to your email. These emails may take longer to write, but they’ll save you time in the long run.
Understand When You Have Your Most Productive Periods, and Utilise Them
As human beings, we are all different. That includes what times we are most productive.
Some people work better in the morning, while others perform better in the afternoon. It’s all about understanding when you are the most productive and utilizing that time.
By understanding your ‘golden hours’, you can better plan your day by focusing on the more difficult tasks or longest tasks at this time. During the hours you feel a dip in energy or motivation, you can use this time to complete the easier tasks at hand. By doing this, you should feel less overwhelmed with certain tasks and complete more tasks at a higher level.
Set Yourself Goals
This one is pretty self-explanatory, right?
I’m not talking about big life goals, but small, achievable goals that you can reach in a short period.
You might be having a week where you’re making your to-do lists too overwhelming and not getting through everything. For the following week, set yourself the goal of crossing everything off and have a plan in place to ensure you do so.
Or, you may have a deadline coming up and it feels overwhelming. Break it down and give yourself a task-based goal every day.
And remember, keep them SMART.
You might think that by doing multiple tasks at once, you are being more productive. But, it’s more likely to be the opposite.
Spreading yourself over different tasks at once means there are less focused thoughts. This can mean the work produced isn’t being completed to a high standard, or you’ve accidentally spent more time than necessary on the tasks and wasted time.
By focusing your priorities and focusing on one goal at a time, you’ll be able to increase your workplace productivity.
Track How Long Tasks Take You
Understanding how long tasks actually take vs how long you think they take is another way to increase productivity.
We’re sure we’ve all wildly underestimated the length of time a task would take us. By overestimating task length, you run the risk of not completing everything you need to do. This can have a knock-on effect and create more stress later down the line. And what negatively impacts productivity (well, for most of us anyway)? Stress.
If there are tasks that you do frequently, start making notes of how long it is taking you to complete. Once you’ve monitored this, you can work out several things: Firstly, the average time it takes so you can write more efficient to-do lists. Secondly, from tasks that take you longer, you can highlight areas to improve on next time. Finally, you can identify tasks that actually take you less time than you thought and use these as your gravel & sand when using the jar method of prioritising.
And That’s a Wrap
There we have it, 20 ways employers and employees can increase their productivity in the workplace.
The key thing you should take away from this is that everybody is different, and value the importance of finding what works for you, your team or your own motivation.