Workplace productivity is a hot topic right now. Employees want to improve their productivity so they can hit their goals, increase their earning potential, and enjoy a healthier work-life balance. Employers want to boost productivity to multiply output, grow revenue, expand their market share, and keep investors happy. Plus, a more productive workplace typically translates into more satisfied customers and a better brand reputation. It’s a win-win-win.
But productivity isn’t a switch you can flip up and down according to demand. Instead, it’s something you have to carefully cultivate from the inside out.
Today, we’re taking a hard look at what workplace productivity means in our modern era, why it matters, and what it takes to achieve sustainable productivity in your organization.
What Is Workplace Productivity?
In simplest terms, workplace productivity is the amount of work teams can complete in a given period. Increasing productivity means generating more output for your input. For example, producing more goods without increasing headcount, or expanding services without spending more budget.
Increasing productivity in the workplace requires a delicate balance. If an employer demands too much of their employees without increasing input, they may experience an initial burst of increased output. But they also risk burning out the workforce, losing top talent, and, inevitably, compromising the quality of their goods or services.
Sustainably increasing output often requires an initial investment and a few culture changes. For example, investing money in new technologies and giving employees greater autonomy will increase your input in the short term but is more likely to boost output over the long term.
Why Workplace Productivity Matters
You likely already understand the benefits of productivity from a financial perspective. But, as it turns out, workplace productivity will do much more than increase your immediate output.
Here are a few reasons it pays to focus on workplace productivity:
Promoting productivity helps you to create a more engaged workplace culture.
Recent data from Gallup shows most employees (85%) are not engaged at work, and the resulting loss in productivity costs organizations a whopping $7 trillion worldwide. Focusing on solving employee engagement will help increase productivity—and help you hang on to top talent amid the Great Resignation.
Workplace productivity is one of the key ingredients to well-being.
According to the Institute for American Stress, more than 1 in 10 employees have called in sick due to job stress, and more than a third experienced difficulty sleeping. And a study published by Health Advocate found stress-related illnesses cost companies as much as $300 billion in lost productivity.
As it turns out, a workplace that promotes sustainable productivity is also one that helps reduce stress.
Improving productivity helps everyone to do more meaningful work.
There’s an innate human need to feel fulfilled. In fact, employees who rank their jobs as “highly meaningful” are also 69% less likely to quit in the next six months, according to SHRM. And 90% of Americans are even willing to earn less money to do more meaningful work, according to the Harvard Business Review.
When we feel satisfied with our work, we’re more dedicated to it and thus more interested in achieving our goals.
What Makes People Inefficient?
Employee engagement and productivity have tanked since the pandemic began. But, even before COVID upended everyone’s lives, people were struggling to focus and make headway at work. Why?
More things are vying for our attention than ever before. Rapidly filling email inboxes, social media, gloomy news updates, closed daycares, and omnipresent mobile devices represent just a few things that interrupt our workflow.
Deep focus time is essential for sparking the creativity and innovation your organization needs to outpace the competition and get more done. But in today’s world, it’s almost impossible. Due to the distractions mentioned above, plus a litany of meetings and to-do lists chock-full of unrelated tasks, employees are constantly switching gears. And given it takes more than 25 minutes to get back on track after an interruption, according to a University of California study, we’re guessing people are getting little-to-no deep focus time at all.
Poor communication is one of the worst time vampires in any organization. When information is unclear or difficult to find, employees feel less empowered—which causes them to work more slowly, make poor judgment calls, and feel disengaged from their work.
How To Improve Workplace Productivity
So, what can you do to help cultivate better workplace productivity?
Limit personal distractions
This suggestion is admittedly tricky—especially with things like closed daycares being totally outside your employees’ control. There’s no way to keep life outside of work. But, encourage employees to avoid social media during deep focus times or even keep their cell phones in a desk drawer between breaks.
Establish quieter, private zones
If your workforce is in-office or returning soon, make sure there are plenty of spaces where they can go to concentrate away from the hustle-and-bustle of main gathering areas. For remote workers, encourage them to block off time for deep focus work and normalize turning off Slack or email notifications when they need to go heads-down on something.
Improve email habits
Create a more realistic email policy and let employees know they don’t have to respond to items immediately—especially if it’s a lower priority or their time and attention are needed elsewhere.
Limit unproductive meetings
Ask department heads and team leaders to reduce the number of meetings, so employees have more time to be productive. Never set a meeting without a clear agenda and goal, and ensure others do the same. Look for opportunities when team members may be able to collaborate asynchronously rather than having a meeting in real time.
Encourage regular breaks
Multiple studies have shown the human brain functions better when people have adequate rest. Normalize regular breaks, especially those that involve stepping away from their workstations for several minutes at a time. It’s also important to encourage employees to take time off throughout the year and end their workdays at a reasonable hour.
Recognize and reward your employees
According to data from Deloitte, employee productivity, performance, and engagement are 14% higher in organizations that prioritize recognition—and a 15% increase in recognition can lead to a 2% increase in margins. That’s because taking time to acknowledge employees for their achievements makes them feel encouraged, empowered, valued, and more interested in meeting their goals.
How Knowledge Sharing Can Improve Productivity
Things like limiting distractions, creating quiet zones, encouraging breaks, and recognizing employees are all fairly straightforward. But how do you overcome ineffective communication, reduce the number of meetings, and help employees make the most of their time?
This is where knowledge sharing comes in. Investing in knowledge management technology will help you achieve the following:
Increased speed to accessing knowledge
When employees can self-serve knowledge from a centralized platform, they don’t have to spend time tracking down a subject matter expert (SME).
Reduce research time
Whether an employee is speaking with a customer or looking for answers to a market research question, time is of the essence. Knowledge sharing ensures employees have access to everything they need to solve problems and make informed decisions without wasting time searching across a lot of different platforms or portals.
Reduce repetitive question
When someone has a question about something, there’s a good chance it’s already been asked and addressed by someone else. And when this information is recorded and easily accessible, it cuts down on the time SMEs spend answering those questions.
Reduce onboarding time
Onboarding ensures new employees succeed in their roles and help achieve organizational goals—but it can also take a long time. However, a knowledge management platform can significantly shorten onboarding time. Instead of expecting employees to memorize a ton of new information, they’ll have quick and easy access to that knowledge when they need it most. It also helps new hires feel more empowered to do their jobs well.
Reduce duplication of work
Duplicated work is another common time-waster and is usually the result of poor communication, information hoarding, and siloed teams. A knowledge management platform will ensure everyone has insight into existing projects, data, and reports so they don’t repeatedly reinvent the wheel.
In a time when employees are feeling more overwhelmed and burnt out than ever, and customer demand is reaching new heights, it’s easy to feel like you’ll never catch up (much less get ahead). But by focusing on sustainable workplace productivity, you’ll start to ignite a new fire within your organization and help everyone move more confidently in the right direction.