9 Ways to Increase Employee Productivity in the Workplace
As an employer, you obviously want to hire and maintain a productive employee workforce and increase employee productivity. Productive and efficient employees are key to growing and expanding your business. Each organization’s workers, management, and practices are different but we have nine tips to improve productivity in the workplace. We hope that you come away with at least one new idea to put into practice for your company to improve productivity.
What is employee productivity?
The technical definition of employee productivity is output produced per hour. Whether you measure this by dollars or assignments or any other measure is dependent on what your company does.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics produces a quarterly report on labor statistics in the United States. The 2016 first quarter report indicates a 0.6% decrease in non-farm business productivity, while manufacturing labor productivity experienced a 1.3% increase. The report highlights the increases and decreases across various sectors such as durable goods manufacturing (0.6% decrease), non-durable goods (4.2% increase), and others.
While productivity across sectors may be up or down any particular quarter, over time the trend seems to be an overall increase across the board over periods of several years. We aren’t in danger of losing productivity!
Nine ways to increase employee productivity
How can you make sure your employees’ productivity stays on the upward trend? Encourage some of the following nine practices in your workplace.
1. Take Frequent Breaks
A research article highlighted by Fast Company indicates that the highest level of workday productivity can be achieved with frequent breaks. Specifically, the research indicates that employees perform best when they work for 52 minutes followed by a break for 17 minutes. An important factor of the breaks is that they should take place completely removed from the computer: workers should go for a walk, read a book, catch up with a coworker, or do another non-computer based activity.
2. Practice Realistic Planning
The same article points out that people tend to underestimate the amount of time it takes to accomplish tasks, leading to overwhelming to-do lists and poor prioritization. Teach employees to prioritize three major tasks for the day and build their to-do list from there once the first three projects are complete.
3. Stop Multitasking
Multitasking is a myth. It is better described as task-switching and can cut productivity by as much as 40% according to Harvard Business Review. It’s like switching between browser tabs in the brain, constantly trying to find the one that is relevant. Your employees lose valuable time and vastly increase the amount of mental stress on their plate when they try to multitask through their day. Focus on one project at a time.
4. Don’t Push for Overtime
According to a piece published by CNBC, the average work week in 2014 was 47 hours and nearly half of US workers are routinely putting in 50+ hours per week. Research has shown that productivity begins to decline after a 50 hour work week and “falls off a cliff after 55 hours.” More hours worked does not equate to higher employee productivity. Encourage employees to cut back on their long hours (especially if they are salaried) and to streamline and focus their efforts to improve productivity, efficiency, and morale.
5. Allow Telecommuting
If possible, allowing employees to work from home on a regular or flexible basis is an excellent way to boost productivity. Telecommuting can save a company money, increase employee productivity and work hours, and reduce employee stress and sick time.
6. Reduce After-Hours Communication
The same CNBC article continues, discussing the role of technology in the rising number of hours being worked. Email and cell phone use has blurred the line between work and home life. As an employer, do what you can to keep these two categories separate for yourself and your employees. If some of your best ideas come on the weekend or early in the morning, save them as an email draft to be sent during work hours.
7. Encourage Sleep
A 2012 study referenced by the New York Times showed that sleeping less than six hours per night was a top predictor of job burnout. US companies can expect to lose $60+ billion in lost productivity due to employee sleep deprivation. If your company has the ability to provide opportunities for afternoon naps and increased vacation time, you can expect a noticeable increase in productivity and employee retention.
8. Provide Regular Feedback
Giving regular employee feedback and performance reviews can be a key way to boost productivity and engagement in the workplace. Give employees specific and constructive feedback, and speak with them about setting and achieving goals to grow within their role with the company. Showing employees that you value them enough to educate and help them achieve their goals will be paid back to you through improved morale and productivity.
9. Get Happy
Happiness at work is a massive predictor of engagement and employee productivity. According to a 2013 research report published by the British Psychological Society, “Happiness is a mindset which enables actions to maximise performance and achieve potential.” Overall happiness for employees is important (including home life) but work happiness is important too. A worker who is miserable at work has no motivation to be productive. Workplace dissatisfaction may be an easy fix or may indicate a deeper issue the employee may need help with.
How to measure employee productivity
Measuring your workers’ productivity is different for each role. Productivity needs to be measurable and quantifiable but isn’t as simple as productivity equals output divided by input. Here are four ways to track and measure productivity without getting caught up in a numbers game that might not accurately reflect the value of your workers.
- Measure deliverables and tasks completed, not number of hours spent on a project.
- Track projects against deadlines to monitor and assess employee time management and efficiency.
- Use a task management software such as Percolate, Asana, Wrike, inMotion, etc. to monitor task completion throughout your team across all projects.
- Work with employees to set monthly and quarterly goals, then measure productivity against those goals.
Share your experiences with us
What experience do you have with measuring and boosting productivity in your own company workforce? Tell us in the comments below or on our Facebook page.