What can we do to maximize our productivity at work, wherever our workplace might be?
Productivity in the workplace
Many of us spend a big chunk of our waking hours at work. Just like everything else we do, we want to make the most of those hours doing a good job and being as productive as possible. But not all work environments are set up to maximize productivity, and in fact a lot of workplaces have set-ups or customs that actually interfere with productivity. Not only that, sometimes we don’t take the tools and habits that make us most productive to work with us.
So this week, I’d like to talk about how to be more productive at work, what interferes with it, how we can get past the interferences, how we can give our best at work, whether we are working from home or from an office, and whether we’re the boss or the employee.
Workplace productivity defined
“At its most basic, productivity is the amount of value produced divided by the amount of cost (or time) required to do so.”
In other words, workplace productivity is not the time spent on work, but work produced in time. It really is about how much value you are adding while you are there.
Tim Ferris wrote a book titled “The Four-Hour Workweek.” Though I don’t agree with everything he has to say in there, he does make some good points about the fact that we are often not being productive while we are at work, not adding value, and not producing what we were hired (or formed our business) to do.
If we can be more productive–that is, add more value for each hour we are at work–in whatever environment we are working, perhaps we can spend less time working, and have more time available for things that are equally or more important than the work we are doing.
What interferes with workplace productivity?
“Typical motivation killers include toxic people, abrasive personalities, lack of organizational vision, absence of opportunities for professional development, poor communication systems, autocratic management styles, and the feeling of lack of appreciation. Addressing each of these requires a variety of approaches. . . .”
- Phone calls, emails, and people stopping by
“According to a recent study by Udemy, 69 percent of full-time employees reported being distracted at work. This is for a variety of reasons, but things like social media, noisy offices, unnecessary meetings, and chatty coworkers are some of the main culprits.”
Using the wrong tools
“You’re only as good as the tools you use.”
- The tools you actually use to do your job – hammer, computer, scientific equipment – whatever tools you use
- Ancillary tools that help make work more efficient – copy machines, communications systems, software, etc
“When employees aren’t provided with the correct tools, they are forced to rely on what is readily available to them. This can lead to inefficient, slow work that might also result in incorrect completion of a task. . .”
Deploying the wrong approaches
- Inefficient workflows, whether arising from how the space is set up or from the order in which tasks are done – backtracking or overlap of work by multiple people
- The wrong people doing tasks
- “Nobody can do it as well as I can” – doing tasks that could be done by others
- Insufficient training, so people doing tasks they’re not competent at
- Lack of communication
- Lack of clear expectations. (If we don’t know what is expected of us, it’s hard to work wholeheartedly)
How can it be improved?
Create a work environment conducive to productivity. Equip people with the right tools. Give people ownership over their work. Provide feedback that encourages people to work both efficiently and effectively
“productivity is often linked to mental well-being and how happy the employers feel in the workplace. A positive workplace culture enables employees to achieve their maximum productivity by increasing their morale and preventing stress and burnt-out. When employees are more in control of their lives, they feel fulfilled and happier.”
Think about physical comfort (ergonomics). Provide work stations designed for the comfort of the people working there – good chairs and right-sized desks or tables.
“While colors, layout, the flow of spaces, textures, and materials affect the emotional response to the spaces, ergonomics is aimed at physical comfort that in turn affects mental well-being. Ergonomics is the process of designing or arranging workplaces, products, and systems so that they fit the people who use them.”
“Recent research has shown that lower back pain is the world’s most common work-related disability.”
Ask employees what they need.
“You might think that you already know what your team’s needs are – but you might be surprised by what you’d find out if you asked. Many people won’t speak up on their own if they need new software, a faster computer, or other tools to do their job – but if you ask, they’ll often tell you.”
Set clear and realistic expectations.
“Employees or personnel will be more motivated if they know what they are expected to achieve. Clearly stating goals or having a company vision provides guidance for everyone. Short-term goals, in particular, are effective in encouraging employees to properly manage their speed in doing tasks to meet targets. Additionally, it is important to provide feedback or show that employees are being supervised. Accomplishments should be acknowledged, while errors or failures in meeting targets should be promptly addressed.”
Establish clear and effective lines of communication.
Provide opportunities for skills development.
Think twice before scheduling meetings. Is it really necessary? Are the objectives specific and clear? Who really needs to be there?
There’s value in regular team check-ins, but consider a 5-minute standing or walking meeting, rather than defaulting to 30- or 60-minute sit-down meetings.
Develop good relationships with your co-workers.
Communicate with your supervisors – let them know what’s working and what’s not.
Take care of your body.
“One more unconventional tip is to take care of your body. Getting enough sleep and exercise can help you from feeling fatigued or drained at the office. You will be better able to maintain your attention throughout the day and not fall into the dreaded afternoon slump.”
Improving your personal productivity at work
Manage your attention
- Turn off alerts and silence your computer.
- Wear headphones to block out ambient noise and discourage interruptions.
- Declutter your workspace. Clutter interferes with focus, increases stress levels, wastes time (looking for things), can be a safety and health hazard, and looks unprofessional.
“A study by the National Association of Professional Organisers found that cluttered workspaces can lead to a company’s financial loss equivalent to 10% of a manager’s salary.”
- Physical clutter
“Your ability to focus is restricted in cluttered environments, as well as your brain’s ability to process information. Clutter makes you distracted and unable to process information as efficiently as you do in an uncluttered, organized, and serene environment.”
- Digital clutter – apps on your phone, stuff on your computer desktop, files we no longer need that can slow down your devices and make it harder to find what you actually need
- Mental clutter
“We often hold onto lists, information, and problems – uselessly crowding our brains with too much thought. Mental clutter is often caused when you clear physical clutter, but don’t necessarily deal with it. This couldn’t be truer for business owners who find themselves multitasking endlessly. For solving this problem try having a mental dump every few days. This translates into creating a to-do list each morning and prioritizing it. It’s impossible to do everything in one day – that’s why you need to keep everything contained and deal with it only when you are ready.”
Manage your energy
- Figure out when you’re naturally more focused and try to protect that time for work that requires focus
- Keep energy-boosting snacks handy for the midafternoon slump (not candy or sugary drinks, which give you a jolt of energy followed by a crash)
- Get up and take a quick walk when you find yourself dragging
Manage your tasks
- Batch similar tasks together when you can
- Do your most important task first (“Eat that frog!”)
- Take 5 minutes at the end of the workday to check your calendar, to-do list, etc., and write down your top 1-3 tasks for the next day. Decide what you’ll start with first in the morning.
Whether you work at an office or at home or in a factory, and whether you’re the boss or an employee, there are steps we can take to make those working hours more productive!
What do you think?
What interferes with your workplace productivity, and what tips can you share for being as productive as possible while at work? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below this post or in The Productive Woman Community Facebook group, or send me an email.
- The Four-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferris
- The Paradox of Workplace Productivity
- 6 Effective Ways to Enhance Workplace Productivity
- Workplace Productivity: Promoting Well-Being, Efficiency & Effectiveness
- The Importance of Providing the Right Tools at Work
- How Do We Design Workplaces For Maximum Productivity
- 10 Ways You’re Making Your Employees Less Productive
- How Clutter Impacts Your Work Productivity
- How Physical Clutter Negatively Affects Your Productivity
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