Employee productivity improved during the pandemic, a PricewaterhouseCoopers survey found. Compared with a previous survey taken during the pandemic, both employees and managers said the productivity level had improved.
Still, for business owners and leaders, keeping productivity up is a constant struggle. While some are lucky enough to oversee teams with excellent time management skills, who spend their workdays tirelessly completing projects and meeting goals, others are less fortunate — or they could be making decisions that adversely affect productivity in the workplace.
But leaders and workers alike can take strides to improve productivity and nurture a more engaged work environment. Here’s how.
What is employee productivity?
Employee productivity is essentially the positive output of teams in a reasonable amount of time allotted for given tasks. The workflow is constantly moving forward, and employees are producing efficiently. These individuals are always delivering real, quality results and spend their work hours performing the responsibilities and tasks they’re supposed to be doing.
Employees who are productive don’t waste time on social media or other activities that don’t contribute to their employer’s bottom line. They use their time effectively.
What factors affect employee productivity?
There are myriad factors that affect employee productivity. Some of them are within workers’ control, and some are within managers and leaders’ control. Others are outside of anyone’s control. Here are just a few of the common circumstances that impact productivity in the workplace.
Physical and mental health
When employees aren’t at their peak physical and psychological capacities, their productivity suffers. Stress, illness, and other conditions can make employees less productive and successful.
Absenteeism is certainly an enormous contributing factor — when employees aren’t working, of course, they’re not being productive. But presenteeism is another phenomenon that adversely affects productivity in the workplace. This means that while employees are physically present — either remotely or in the office — they aren’t in a condition to be working at their full capacity because of illness or mental health issues. Presenteeism means poor performance and is enormously costly to companies.
Workplace productivity and collaboration
The work environment sets the tone for individuals’ productivity. Collaboration, communication, and teamwork are critical to fostering a positive, engaged culture. The leaders, of course, set the tone. They can encourage — or discourage — this culture of collaboration and impact engagement and productivity at a higher level.
It may seem like a bit of a chicken-or-the-egg scenario, but it’s practically impossible to have a productive environment without employee engagement. At the same time, engagement can’t really exist without productivity. A leader must foster engagement.
What could cause your loss of productivity
Lack of well-being of employees or co-workers
We’ve touched on this, but it bears repeating: when your employees and team members aren’t at their peak wellness, productivity suffers. Employees who are coming into the office ill, stressed, or otherwise not at their best personally will suffer professionally, too. They will more than likely waste company time and employer resources.
In fact, a Colonial Life study found that half of workers surveyed lose at least one hour per workweek worrying, and another 20% lose more than five hours.
Distractions in the office
Unfortunately, most workplaces are full of distractions that prevent employees from completing their important tasks. Smartphones, the internet, social media, email, chatty coworkers, videos…the list goes on and on.
This isn’t resolved working from home. There, employees have other issues to contend with, such as kids, pets, loud noises outside, and more.
Lack of communication
Poor communication structures can lead to enormous workflow issues — and an overall lack of productivity. Without proper communication systems in place, employees have difficulty collaborating effectively. This contributes to a productivity loss at both an individual level and a company level.
What is employee productivity management?
Employee productivity management is the institution of systems that track and oversee productivity in employees. With many employees working remotely, businesses must put structures in place to track and assess productivity on a deeper level.
But employee productivity management also applies to in-person and hybrid offices. Many companies take strides to monitor how employees are contributing to — or detracting from — the overall productivity of the company and helping them achieve their goals and objectives.
Business leaders use different strategies and metrics to assess employee productivity, such as how many benchmarks they’ve reached, overall output, revenue accrued, and so on.
How to prevent productivity loss
Reasons to manage employee productivity
Employee productivity is critical to your business. Without it, simply put, your organization will fail.
There are a number of concrete reasons to encourage and oversee productivity. For example:
- You’ll have an easier time seeing bottlenecks in your operations.
- You will have a more engaged and satisfied workforce.
- You will ultimately realize a greater profit.
Initiatives to try
So, how can you make your business and employees more productive? These are initiatives to incorporate to maximize productivity at your organization and achieve stronger results.
1. Incorporate wellness strategies
Support work-life balance and wellness in and out of the office by bringing these strategies into the fold. For example, you might offer meditation and relaxation seminars and/or discounted gym memberships and reimbursements. Institute policies that encourage wellness, too, such as offering generous paid time off and giving employees mental health breaks.
These are ways to prevent or curb burnout, which is a strong contributor to a loss of motivation and productivity.
2. Reconsider knowledge access
Ensure employees have access to the tools and resources they need to do their jobs. Beyond that, make it easy for them to find everything they need. This should be part of your onboarding process, but you should also send reminders in case employees forget how and where to find critical information. In other words, make it easy for employees to be productive by putting everything they need at their fingertips.
Beyond that, look for ways to equip employees with the skills that will help them be more productive. For example, consider offering seminars and training sessions on tackling your to-do list.
3. Define roles and procedures
A lot of confusion can arise from people not knowing to whom they should be reporting, failing to document their efforts properly, or not understanding what is inside and outside the boundaries of their job descriptions. This confusion often results in hiccups in productivity — for individuals and the entire organization.
Project management tools are one way to facilitate a transparent workflow and make it clear which people are responsible for which tasks, when they’re completed, their progress, and more. In addition to using these tools, write down overarching roles and procedures, such that everyone has an understanding of what they should be doing, to whom they should be reporting, and when they should complete their tasks.
4. Reconceptualize spaces and layout
A comfortable environment is critical to a productive workforce. Furniture, lighting, and other elements all play a role in how people work and whether or not they’re focusing on their responsibilities. Even small things, like a well-placed plant, can make a difference.
Consider your office’s layout, interiors, and exteriors. Look for ways to improve the comfort of your work environment and make it more conducive to productivity.
This is less relevant when your employees are working remotely, but you can still offer advice on how people should reconfigure their personal spaces and environment to maximize productivity.
5. Establish rules and expectations
Rules. They’re there for a reason.
As a leader or manager, you need to make your employees aware of the expectations and established norms at your organization. Spend some time considering what standards you should put in place to increase productivity and output. Make these rules clear and obvious to all employees, such as by posting them in a physical location that is accessible to everyone, emailing them out regularly as a reminder, and putting them in an online location like an intranet.
6. Avoid micromanaging
Some managers believe that if they’re not constantly looking over their employees’ shoulders, then the things that need to be done won’t get done. In fact, the reverse is true. Micromanagement contributes to a distinct loss in productivity.
If you’re constantly double-checking employees’ work or failing to let them accomplish tasks independently, without your frequent input, then you’re wasting your time and theirs — not to mention lowering morale. You’re also weakening overall performance.
As tempting as it may be to double- and triple-check everything, try not to. Your organization will suffer.
7. Hire for soft skills
Technical skills, also known as hard skills, are, of course, fundamental for doing a job well. But soft skills matter, too. In fact, they often separate the adequate workers from the great workers. They can also mean a more productive employee and overall company.
A lack of knowledge can contribute to a loss of productivity, but missing soft skills like organization, concentration, communication, collaboration, self-control, teamwork, and others can also affect it, too. People who do have these qualities are generally able to focus better than those who don’t and turn out better work and real results.
When you’re refining your hiring process, look for ways to measure and seek out these soft skills in prospective employees. Make it integral to your interview process, screening for people who seem to possess these important qualities.
Tips for avoiding distractions at work
What if you’re the one struggling with low productivity at work? Here are some tips for increasing and improving your concentration in order to achieve better performance, whether you’re working at home or in the office.
1. Use productivity apps and time-trackers
Your smartphone is a distraction, sure, but you can also turn this time-waster on its head and use it to your advantage. For example, there are plenty of productivity apps that will help you measure your progress and let you know how you’re performing. There are also tools that will prevent you from accessing distracting apps like social media during specific periods of time, enabling you to focus on important tasks at hand.
2. Take a break
It may sound counterintuitive, but taking short breaks throughout the day can actually increase your productivity. A quick walk around the block, a few minutes reading an article, or a small period spent enjoying a snack or meal away from your computer will help you recharge and enable you to tackle your to-do list with more energy and enthusiasm.
3. Avoid multitasking
You may think you’re doing more by completing multiple tasks simultaneously, but you’re actually accomplishing less. By multitasking, you’re giving many tasks only a fraction of your attention and thus being far less productive — as well as realizing worse results. On the other hand, when you give a single task your entire attention, you’ll accomplish more with greater focus and achieve stronger results.
4. Check your communications in batches
Chances are, you don’t need to use all your communication systems in real-time. So, rather than constantly checking your email, Slack, project management tools, texts, and social media accounts throughout the day, set times when you’re allowed to check them. Give yourself time limits, too. For example, when you do check, allot, say, 10 minutes at a time.
Of course, there may be situations during which you need to check more frequently, but unless you need to address urgent matters, try to limit yourself and exercise self-control.
5. Improve your sleep hygiene
A lack of sleep has an enormous impact on your mood and your health, both of which contribute to, or detract from, your productivity. That’s why it’s important to get a good night’s sleep.
We’ve all had that feeling when we haven’t gotten enough sleep — or enough quality sleep — and we feel like a truck hit us the next day. We might feel foggy, and even the smallest, most routine task seems like an insurmountable obstacle.
If you’re having trouble getting at least seven hours of sleep per night, the amount of time most adults need, try different strategies to help you, such as meditating during the day, keeping your backlit electronics out of the bedroom and powering them down well before bedtime, and increasing your physical activity.
Employee productivity can make or break your entire business. But you can avoid productivity loss and ultimately make your company more successful and profitable as a result. These are important steps to take in order to realize meaningful results — and become a better organization.