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September 29, 2022
March 3, 2021

How to Improve Employee Productivity

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Productivity is one of the most commonly thrown around buzzwords in the business world, and for good reason. Productive employees will get more work done more quickly which makes the company more profitable. Who doesn’t want that? Most leaders hope that their employees work away, always organized and productive, just like bees in a hive making sweet, sweet honey.

However, recent research shows that employees at many organizations around the world are more like sloths than bees, slowly doing the bare minimum level of work. To put it in perspective, only 7% of employees feel productive in the workplace, and studies show that office employees are only productive for 31% of their workday (or about three hours each day). This doesn’t mean that employees are lazy. Unproductive people are more a result of the workplace than their own lack of engagement.

So how can you create a healthy buzz of productivity around your office or workspace? What can you do to encourage employees to stay motivated and engaged with their work? First, let’s take a look at what productivity is, and then we’ll go over a few ideas for increasing productivity in your workplace.

What Does Productivity Mean?

Employee productivity means that people are efficient and effective with the work they do. They get high-quality work done in a short amount of time, and they use their time wisely to maximize high-impact results. 

There’s a fine line between busy and productive, but it’s an important distinction. Productive employees do great work that impacts the company—busy employees spend a lot of time on a lot of projects that may not be worth the investment.

So how do you keep employees from merely being busy and motivate them to be productive? And, more importantly, how do you help employees who are neither busy nor productive? Here are a few ideas.

1. Do Everything You Can to Help Employees’ Mental Health

Over 41 % of employees say that stress makes them feel less productive. And in today’s world of pandemics and wars, stress is all too easy to run into. Here are some eye-opening statistics:

  • 83% of U.S. workers suffer from work-related stress.
  • 62% of employees report high levels of stress and extreme fatigue.
  • 41% of employees cite their workload as the source of their stress. 34% cite people issues.
  • Companies spend 75% of an employee’s annual salary to cover for lost productivity due to stress.

Stress is extremely common for employees. While a certain amount of healthy stress is to be expected at work, unhealthy stress doesn’t have to be a part of your workplace. Here are some tips for creating a mental-health conscious workplace:

  • Offer flexible work hours or work sites to fit different employee circumstances. For some people, a long commute can be a huge source of stress. For others, a 9 to 5 shift might make their lives more difficult. If you can, let employees choose what’s best for them.
  • Create wellness programs and then SUPPORT them. A lot of businesses have wellness programs, but many employees don’t take advantage of them. Participate in them yourself to set a good example, and incentivize employees to take part. Never make employees feel like they’re wasting time if they use work time to meditate, take walks, or exercise.
  • Provide extra PTO for mental health days. Encourage employees to take time off when they need it. A few days off each year to mitigate stress is much better an employee quitting because the stress has built up too much.
  • Set strict rules on communication. If your employees answer emails or chats when they’re off work, put a stop to it. Make sure every employee, from the lowest to the highest level, has time to relax and unwind.

By following these tips, you change your culture to have an employee-first, productivity-second mindset. This may sound backward, but focusing on employee wellbeing will naturally create a more productive environment.

2. Increase Engagement and Lower Burnout

This is a similar idea to lowering stress, but it’s important enough to have its own point. Burnout is the feeling of disengagement or apathy created by prolonged feelings of work-related stress. And 61% of employees are burned out on the job, which costs the U.S. more than $300 billion each year in absenteeism, turnover, and diminished productivity.

Similarly, disengagement is a lack of excitement or purpose at work, and 85% of employees are at least somewhat disengaged at work on a regular basis (18% of which are actively disengaged).

We have an entire blog that breaks down employee engagement, what it is, and how you can measure and improve it. Here are a few highlights from the blog to get you started:

  • Align workplace goals and missions with employee work. When you align individual work with organizational purposes and values, engagement can increase by as much as 49%!
  • Create a culture of recognition and happiness. Did you know that 40% of employees would put more energy into their work if they were recognized more? When you create a culture that celebrates the people around you, everyone is happier and more excited to be there.
  • Offer career development opportunities. When you provide learning and development opportunities, employees feel more invested in the work they do. They’ll also feel like you appreciate them more, which is the single highest driver of engagement!

When employees are engaged and happy at work, productivity increases by as much as 17% and profitability increases by nearly 21%.

3. Optimize Workplace Conditions

This one is self-explanatory. When it comes to physical workplace conditions, make sure your office has plenty of natural light and plant life around each room. Ensure that everyone has ergonomic office equipment (whether they work from the office or from home).

Mental workplace conditions are just as important. Ensure that employees get any and all training they need to do their jobs. Employees who don’t know how to effectively do their jobs will be more stressed and less productive. 

Also, managers need to learn how each employee prefers to be managed. Don’t micromanage employees who work best with limited oversight. And don’t ignore employees who crave additional guidance.

Employees who are comfortable at work, both physically and mentally, will be empowered to do their best work.

Let’s Get Productive

When businesses are focused on productivity before anything else, they’re putting the cart in front of the horse. It’s a backward thought process that can damage their culture and, ironically, their productivity.

However, when you put effort into transforming your culture into an employee-centric environment, your people will have the energy, freedom, and comfort to hit their productivity goals out of the park.

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