Email. Social media. Texting. Gossip. Office productivity is a fragile thing, seemingly beset on all sides by distractions like these. But that fragility is dangerous, given that high and consistent levels of productivity are critical for your business’s success. How productive you and your team are during working hours has a direct impact on the quality of what you deliver.
If your team is suffering from low productivity levels, something needs to change. But before making any rash moves, consider whether you can make some small effort/big impact tweaks to increase your productivity. Any business should be able to implement these hacks with relative ease and great results. Why not try several—or all of them?
1. Make Sure Everyone is Taking Regular Breaks
In the old days, there were set break times when employees could step away from their work and relax for 10-15 minutes. Today, it’s less structured. Most workplaces allow employees to manage their own schedules—as long as they’re getting the results expected of them, they can plan their days how they see fit.
Unfortunately, this can sometimes mean people end up taking no breaks at all. You’d think this would enhance productivity, but it actually has the opposite effect. The time-tracking app DeskTime found that the 10% most productive workers work an average of 52 minutes, then break for 17. People need regular breaks to recharge, otherwise they’ll spend all that extra time working at a suboptimal level.
2. Declutter the Office
It’s easy for even the most organized people to let their desks get cluttered by papers, food wrappers, gadgets, and everything else that makes its way into the office. But, Leo Babauta writes, “For today’s knowledge workers, every distraction is a drain on productivity and sanity. Every ringing phone, instant message, flashing email reminder, pile of papers, cluttered sticky notes and phone messages and knick-knacks and memo posted on the wall—each of these things slows you down, wastes your time and energy, and stresses you out.” The answer? A work space free of distracting clutter. Babauta extols the productivity virtues of cleanliness in the office in his Lifehack article “10 Steps to a Zen-like Working Environment.”
At the end of each week, encourage your employees to take some time to organize their spaces. It doesn’t have to be a full-scale cleaning job (or the type of Zen minimalism Babauta advocates), just enough to give the place a good pick-me-up.
3. Take Time to Point Out Successes
Let’s face it: even at the most exciting companies, working through long projects can feel like a slog. Whether it’s a product development team rolling out a new version of your offerings, a marketing team planning a campaign for branding your business, or even just an HR department building new training materials, sometimes it’s hard to stay focused and enthusiastic when every day starts to seem the same as the last.
Keep your team energized and on task by keeping everyone regularly updated on each project’s progress. Knowing that they’re moving ever closer to completion and racking up successes along the way can be a major boost to morale, which is crucial to keeping workers engaged and committed.
4. Limit Meetings and Make the Most of the Ones You Have
In “10 Simple Steps to Exceptional Daily Productivity,” Red Hat CEO Jim Whitehurst tells Inc.com that “whoever invented the one-hour default in calendar software wasted millions of people-hours.” He’s right: most meetings don’t need to be that long. Some meetings don’t even need to happen at all, and an email will do. Before you schedule a meeting that pulls everyone away from what they’re doing, ask yourself if it’s truly essential that everyone get together to talk.
If you do need to hold a meeting, send out a clear agenda beforehand and be sure to stick to it. If you’ll realistically only need 30 or even 15 minutes to cover what you need to, schedule that shorter block of time. Invite only the people for whom the issue at hand is truly relevant. These principles will help you run meetings that enhance productivity and show value for everyone’s time.
Also consider employing Asana’s “No Meeting Wednesdays” rule. With one full day per week devoted to working on projects—without the distraction of frequent meetings—your team will get more done.
5. Let Everyone Work However They’re Most Comfortable
Everyone works differently. Some people need the structure of their own desk in the office to do their best work. Others prefer to hop around, going from their desk to a conference room or other vacant area. Many now prefer to handle their business remotely, whether it’s from a library, coffee shop, or their own homes.
The rise of email, video chats, and other collaborative technologies has made it so even dispersed teams can work seamlessly together without hiccups. Knowing this, you should be open to letting your employees explore the way they work best and then plan their days around it. Remember, productivity is all about results. If your team produces quality work and meets deadlines, there’s no real reason why you shouldn’t let them organize themselves.
6. Have a Set Workflow and Managerial Structure
All too often, productivity is severely dampened simply because employees aren’t clear on what they’re supposed to be doing at a given time. Workflows do change based on changing circumstances in your business, but you should try to codify them as much as possible.
Clarify the chain of command: make sure everyone knows who they report to and avoid creating situations where employees feel like they have too many managers.
7. Promote Well-Being
Coffee, donuts, and candy might provide short-term sugar rushes, but their negative impact on the overall health of your team can have a marked effect on productivity. Still, people love snacking and going back to the coffee pot for seconds and thirds (or more likely, fourths and fifths) during the workday.
To help curb some of these unhealthy behaviors, provide healthy snacks—fresh fruits, yogurt, trail mix—and lots of water to your employees. These are healthy alternatives that nevertheless provide the energy your team needs to get through the day.
8. Encourage Activity
It’s hard to stay energetic and focused when you’re sitting in a chair all day long. Even during meetings, you may find that people can’t stay focused because they’re slouched in their seats.
You can remedy this by using exercise balls instead of chairs, or even outfitting your office with standing desks. These have had notable results in terms of improving employee wellness, and some anecdotal studies have strongly attested to the productivity benefits of these products. If nothing else, give your employees the opportunity to get up and walk around or go outside for a while. Getting the blood pumping can do wonders for anyone’s creativity and productivity.
Productivity means everything to the success of your business. Take steps to foster your team’s productivity by boosting employee morale, encouraging healthier behaviors, and designing smarter workflows.
What You Can Do Right Now
Ready to try some of these hacks to boost productivity around your office? Here are some simple ways to start today.
- Encourage employees to take regular breaks, especially active ones.
- Tidy up the office.
- Minimize meetings, and keep to a tight agenda for those that are necessary.
- Swap out sugary snacks for healthier alternatives that will promote energy.
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