Increase Productivity at Work

Productivity: a polite way of saying 'to do your job to the highest and most efficient standard.' Something we all like to think we do anyway, right? Well believe it or not, studies have shown that there are a few simple tips most employers seem to miss - tricks that will significantly boost staff productivity ...

If you've read our Avoiding Procrastination article, you will already know some of the wandering thoughts and distractions people might face in a typical working day. With the internet at our fingertips, humans somehow get the irresistible urge to seek comfort in comical memes, wonderfully useless articles or planning holidays to brighten up their days. It's just in our nature I guess. Which leads on to my first point... 

Be Lenient

That's right, allow employees a little down time every once in a while. According to Laura Reeves, "We need to be able to allow people in this technology age to think a little bit creatively; it's empowering people to get the work done in the way they need to get it done."

Of course there are lines to be drawn with this approach, in order to avoid employees abusing it too much. But the impact on morale and productivity this can have is surprising - particularly in a creative environment. What may seem like time-wasting web surfing, could actually be a cyber quest for inspiration or idea-gathering. This means when they are actually doing something 'productive', it's well researched and completed to a high standard.

Being a writer I know this all too well. Once I have been inspired by something, or unearthed a new direction to take an article in, I work more efficiently. If you gave me a blank piece of paper, no access to books or the internet, and asked me to write a masterpiece, my brain would dry up and the page would remain perfectly white.

Sunlight

Unless you have a team of vampires working for you, nobody likes to work in artificial light for 9 hours daily. Ensuring your office or workspace gets enough natural light can sometimes be a tricky one, but according to recent studies, "Scientists from Oxford University say employees who sit next to the window on sunny days are more alert, happier and harder working than those who sit in the middle of the office under artificial lights."

Unless you have a team of vampires working for you, nobody likes to work in artificial light for 9 hours daily.



Imagine every worker in the office is a plant. The plants getting the most sunlight are going to flourish and grow, whilst the ones in the dark corners might start to wilt a little. Installing personal skylights for every colleague is a bit extreme, but there are other steps that can be taken in order to avert this problem.

Having a selection of real plants in the office, access to a water fountain and regularly opening windows for a little while can all have impacts on productivity. Allowing your employees the freedom to move around the office and gaze out of the window, with wistful vigour, will help to stimulate their brain more. 



Happiness

When was the last time you saw any of your employees smile or laugh during work? If this question makes you think for longer than a few seconds, there is something wrong. It's a widely published subject that happy employees are productive employees. Sometimes this can be a difficult factor to control, after all 90% of happiness comes from within, but you can certainly make it easier for them to smile more often.

More and more companies are picking up on this and are going to the ends of the earth to make their staff want to go to work everyday. From lifts to work, free dry cleaning and slides instead of stairs at Google HQ - to the freedom of flexi-time and 12 months (full pay) paternity leave at Virgin - these companies are lighting the way to buying people's happiness in return for retention and productivity.

When was the last time you saw any of your employees smile or laugh during work? If this question makes you think for longer than a few seconds, there is something wrong.



Don't worry though, I do understand not every company is able to provide rewards and incentives on such scales of grandeur. So before you take a trip to Argos to buy an office slide for £14.99, take a look at the list below offering a few ideas on how to evoke happiness:

  • Allow moderated communication and laughter in the office. Nobody wants to work a full day in silence and seriousness.
  • Treat your staff to some office nibbles. Biscuits, cheese and crackers don't cost the earth, but the gesture and thought goes a long way.
  • Allow staff to customise their workspace. Letting them have family photographs on display, plush office chairs and other desk items makes them feel at home and promotes individuality.
  • Provide staff nights out for certain occasions - Christmas, summer or even a new employee starting. This improves team cohesion which directly impacts productivity.
  • Buy each other birthday presents. Have a pairing up system and office collection for everyone's birthday. The cost per head is minimal, but the impact on them come birthday time is priceless. 

The happiness of an employee is fundamentally what makes them more productive. Companies who look after their staff are far more likely to see productivity growth than companies who treat their staff as disposable robots. If you've read our article on Boosting Employee Retention, you'll discover the various other benefits of looking after your workers.

Engagement and Goals

Keeping your team engaged on the task at hand is an ever changing scenario. If they are enjoying a particular task then engagement will remain high, but if a task proves tedious, their interest will undoubtedly waver. So the first key is to try and matchmake employees to specific tasks. 

Giving a creative person a technical or statistical task might not reap the quality or engagement you desire. However, giving this task to the organised, spreadsheet-loving worker will have send them reeling in ecstasy. Some duties sometimes just have an employee's names on them.

Giving your employees certain quotas or tasks to hit before the end of a day/working week, incentivising them with prizes, can do wonders for efficiency and productivity.



If, however, you have no choice than to stifle an employee with a task that they might not be specialised or enthusiastic about, then there are still ways to make them engage and remain keen. 

Setting goals and targets is generally a sales environment standard, but nobody ever really thinks of it as being viable and applicable to other jobs. Giving your employees certain quotas or tasks to hit before the end of a day/working week, incentivising them with prizes, can do wonders for efficiencies and productivity.

By increasing employee motivation, the desire to complete tasks (and to a high standard) becomes stronger. Then, rather than working from pay cheque to pay cheque, your staff are emotionally involved in projects, wanting to deliver for your sake and for theirs.

The Sound of Silence

Contrary to popular belief, studies have found that ambient noise in a working environment promotes a more active brain. Ravi Mehta found in the aforementioned study that "a moderate level of noise not only enhances creative production but also leads to greater adoption of innovative products."

Music or general babble at the right volume is actually better than total silence for brain function.



More and more workplaces now might allow an office radio, personal music devices (there's a prehistoric phrase) and any other form of 'background' noise. The sound of silence, or consuming tap of keyboards all around, can become a brain-numbing, creativity-sapping void. 

Music or general babble at the right volume is actually better than total silence for brain function. But the volume is key - nobody wants to complete their year-end books in the atmosphere of a Rolling Stones concert, nor do they want to do it in the anechoic chamber.

Something to take away

So in an ironic twist, it turns out that the last X amount of minutes you have spent reading this article could be the most productive of your week. Maybe you already knew of some of these tips but haven't tried applying them, or are just curious about the actual effects they have, the best advice I can give you is to try them!

Switching up the way you do things, be it working independently or managing a team, is always good practice. It resets the brain from what might have become a mundanely repetitive working day. 

Conversation, music and weather all contribute ever-changing factors in a situation where the work-focus remains the same. These factors help to make the most intimidating of tasks seem a breeze to employees. You'll see less office burnouts and more office superstars. 

Hopefully you've found this article useful, please be sure to check out our other articles covering all aspects of the recruitment industry and other challenges you might face!