Are you running out of ideas as to how to boost workplace productivity?
You’ve armed your staff with state-of-the-art gadgets and software, signed them up for the latest workshops and webinars, and outfitted their workspaces with the most modern furniture. In your quest to improve the effectiveness of their productive effort, you think you’ve done all you can to improve productivity.
But have you considered the issues, behaviors, and distractions that poke holes in productivity? If not, it’s time to take a long, hard look at seven productivity drains that could sabotage your good intentions.
Does your company culture encourage productivity? If the answer is no, carefully consider the message your company culture is sending regarding “getting things done.”
“Nothing will plummet your business’s productivity faster than negative company culture,” says Blair Koch, an experienced entrepreneur and executive who now leads facilitated peer group forums of presidents, C-suite executives and business owners as the CEO of TAB Denver West. “Employees feed off of their leader’s behavior, so it’s up to you to bring a positive, optimistic, and forward-thinking energy to the office each and everyday.”
According to The Alternative Board (TAB) 2017 Pulse Survey: Business Leaders and Productivity, 14% of respondents felt that their company culture was hindering productivity. If your negative company culture is leading to bad attitudes and low productivity at work, Koch says it’s time to make changes.
“Develop a culture of productivity, accountability, fun and innovation by challenging your team to work together to achieve goals,” she says. “A good example might be: ‘Let’s achieve an overall 20% improvement in performance.’”
Koch suggests use your company’s metrics to determine whether that means faster product delivery, improved accounts receivable and accounts payable, better quality, less inventory, or something else.
“This will take a real team effort to make happen and make productivity soar,” she says.
If your office still produces (and keeps) cabinets full of paper records and reports, you could be contributing to an often-seen productivity drain.
“Another common productivity drain I see is too much dependence on paper,” says Koch. “ In order to have more equity in your business, you need to automate.”
According to Koch, automation — primarily through technology — creates efficiencies which improve productivity. And if you’re not sure where to begin, ask some of the younger members of your team.
“Millennials comprise the largest workforce right now, and they demand automation,” she says. “Listen to their suggestions for using technology to increase efficiency across your business. Stop relying on paper and identify the apps, software, and programs that will streamline your processes.”
Recently a number of studies have shown that not getting enough sleep has a negative impact on workplace performance – including productivity.
As an assistant professor at the College of Information Studies, University of Maryland, Eun Kyoung Choe researches the self-monitoring of personal data, including sleep and productivity. She says she sees many people — students as well as professionals — sacrifice sleep so that they can work more and be productive.
“However, lack of sleep negatively affects the following day’s mood and sleep, and one can easily get into a vicious cycle. So it’s important to recognize how one’s sleep affects their productivity and mood for the following day, and understand that getting enough sleep actually helps them be [more] productive overall.”
Share information on the sleep/productivity connection via newsletters, or even accommodating afternoon naps in the workplace are two ways to address this productivity issue.
If your staff uses smartphones with internet and email access, chances are they may not be as productive as they could be. That’s because checking email is one of the major productivity drains impacting – well, everyone, both at work and at home.
According to a University of California study, checking emails provides “random positive reinforcement” with the occasional email that’s really important. Yet checking emails makes us “self-interrupt”, and it’s difficult to then maintain optimal productivity and refocus on the task at hand.
The TAB productivity survey findings support that theory.
“According to TAB’s productivity survey, business owners are losing 25% of their day to email,” says Koch.“ In today’s electronic always-connected environment, we receive more emails than ever.” Koch says that often people will “hide behind” an email instead of picking up the phone or conducting an in-person meeting, and this may waste time, reducing productivity. “Sometimes a lengthy email conversation can be solved with a quick phone call,” she says.
The solution? First, figure out how much time you’re actually spending checking emails – and also surfing social media and internet from your phone or computer.
“Nowadays, people have access to many productivity tracking tools, like RescueTime, which help them be aware of how they spend their time on computer,” says Choe.
“Once you start tracking, it might be surprising to know how much time you actually spend on productive activities vs. distracting activities.”
Koch suggests mitigating the amount of time you spend on email daily by turning off distracting email notifications, such as pop-ups, audio alerts, etc. Then pick two or three times per day to check your email – maybe first thing in the morning, noon-ish, and at the end of the day. Next, set an “out of office” email response that informs people you only check emails during these times, and in case of an emergency, to call you.
Koch says it’s also important to organize your email inbox to help reduce the amount of time spent on emails. “Set up folders and rules,” she says. “For example: you probably receive a fair amount of email that is educational in nature – newsletters, blogs, etc. Set up a rule in your email that has these emails automatically sent to a dedicated folder. “
That way, says Koch, you can read them during off hours, and you won’t spend working hours sifting through them.
If your workplace includes open offices and few private, quiet workspaces for employees, you could be hindering productivity. According to a 2016 Harvard Business School study, both positive and negative “spillover” (e.g., attitude, work ethic, productivity) increased as the distance between workstations decreased. If your staff works in close quarters with other employees who aren’t very productive, overall productivity in your organization is likely to decrease.
In addition, Gallup research shows that workers who have their own personal workspace are 1.4 times more engaged at work than those who don’t.
Face-to-face meetings are an important aspect of the business world, yet not all meetings are productive. In fact, according to the TAB productivity survey, while business owners said they spend 20% of their time on “in-person meetings,” just 4% believe their meetings are 100% productive.
“One of the most common issues with meetings is that they don’t look forward,” says Koch.“Instead they just update people on what has already happened.”
Stop this productivity drain by making it a policy to limit in-person meetings to those involving customer sales and client acquisition, plus strategy sessions focused on developing your business. Send review/summary emails to update your team on the latest developments instead of scheduling an in-person meeting to save time that’s better spent on activities to drive your business forward.
Related: 3 HR Metrics That Matter
Though your hiring process may not be the first thing that springs to mind when thinking about productivity drains in your business, the truth is that hiring the wrong person for the job does impact productivity. “Having a solid team in place is critical for productivity,” says Koch. “It’s expensive, time-consuming and morale-busting to have a revolving door of employees coming in and out of your business.”
In a survey conducted by staffing company Robert Half, 36% of respondents chose “low productivity” as one of the biggest impacts of a bad hiring decision.
So what do you do if you’re seeing a high turnover rate in your staff? “Review your hiring process, so that you have a better chance of bringing on the right people the first time,” she says.
These common productivity drains may occur in varying degrees and in businesses across all sectors and sizes. Consider your own organization, and consider which of these productivity issues come into play.
Do you face company culture issues, a flawed hiring process, or another productivity issue? Pick one or two to start with, and formulate a plan of attack. Remember, as a human resources leader, you have the power to make decisions that could improve the productivity in your workplace. And in the long run, this can help improve your business’ productivity, and ultimately your company’s bottom line.