5 Things to Improve Productivity in the Workplace

A New Year can bring a lot of excitement to the workplace. New things to tackle, new approaches to take to achieve long-term goals and new ways to get teams to inspire each other, work better together and generally feel great about their jobs. But inspiring productivity can feel elusive at best. Just how can we create more productivity in the workplace when there are distractions all around? How can we help employees feel great while getting more done in their day?

We’ve come up with 5 great ways to inspire a group of people to be more productive and feel great about it in the workplace:

1. Say no to meetings

Okay, maybe not “no” to ALL meetings, but it’s time to stop having meetings just for the sake of having meetings. An excessive number of meetings is a well-known phenomenon documented in “Meetings Bloody Meetings,” featuring John Cleese. It’s good for a giggle and might just be a better way to spend the time you would otherwise use up in yet another meeting.

Before setting a meeting, consider whether it’s necessary. If it’s being held because “we always have a status meeting on Mondays,” but there’s nothing new to discuss, or there are only a few points to discuss or the communication is mostly one-way, do an update via email or another platform.

Brainstorming, product launches, company structure changes and meaningful project updates often require meetings and will benefit from having everyone in the room face-to-face. Having people together creates a synergy and can save time in that everyone is hearing things together and has the ability to respond, but if the information to be shared doesn’t require everyone in a room together, it’s best to share in a different way and save the time. Ultimately, meetings prevent people from doing their job. There is time required to attend a meeting, get to a meeting and get back into work after a meeting. This can reduce productivity and leave people feeling overwhelmed.

When meetings are necessary, create an agenda and stick to it. Allow for a minute or two of side chatter at the start, but get to the purpose quickly to reduce the amount of time away from work tasks.

Plus, to make meetings something to look forward to, ensure they are kept positive (wherever possible – obviously a company restructure meeting will have a different tone) and consider doing something different during the meeting to keep the energy high. This might be standing in a circle and bouncing a ball back and forth, put crayons and paper out to encourage doodling or consider walk and talk meetings.

2. Bring in technology that benefits productivity

We’ve all been in the conversation where someone introduces a new form of technology to help track, connect or communicate. There can be resistance or excitement from others when asked to use the new platform, but no matter their response, there will be extra time required to get familiar and comfortable with this new tool. Once that time is past, managers need to assess whether technology is helping or hindering.

Is it saving time in a reduction of emails, requests or information searches? Or, is it a new shiny object that distracts from the purpose? Take the time to consider what types of tech solutions can help and what can hinder, track the benefits and assess. Technology can absolutely make people more productive and leaders will embrace the idea that new tools can be of great benefit to everyone.

3. Encourage a one-thing-at-a time approach

Every person with an HR diploma knows that multitasking has been shown to be counter-productive. In fact, there are numerous scientific studies to prove this, like this one.

Encouraging team members to focus on one task at a time (while also ignoring email and other notifications) for blocks of time creates a much greater level of focus and better productivity. It’s important to also include breaks in between periods of focus. A popular method to follow is the Pomodoro Technique described on Lifehack. While it isn’t necessary to break tasks down into Pomodoros as explained in the article, it can be helpful in order to plan out the day. But, just using Pomodoros alone can be extremely beneficial for creating focused blocks of time.

4. Appreciate commitment, effort and results

Not everything someone does is going to be a “home run,” but consider the amount of effort and dedication that went into the project. If an employee was especially passionate about a project but it didn’t return the rewards expected, it’s still worth recognition. Great leaders take the time to reward action that looks to improve things, make a positive difference and advance the team, department or company. If that same project turned out to achieve better results than expected, then it’s time to give even more appreciation – it’s time to celebrate.

Employees need to know their efforts (whether successful or not) are valued. I once had a boss who said “getting paid is your reward for doing your job”, she really didn’t get it. Employees are not a manager’s resource to use and grind out and different employees contribute in different ways. Take the time to look for positive efforts and reward them publicly.

5. Encourage collectiveness with food, drink and conversation

Despite the bad rap it gets, hanging around the company water cooler and talking about the weekend, recent movies or kids’ sports is not a bad thing. If certain employees are doing too much socializing and not enough work, that’s a hiring issue or a performance review issue, but not a company policy issue. You want to encourage team members to get to know each other because when people like each other, their performance actually rises and they feel more job satisfaction. This too is backed by science.

So feel free to bring donuts, place a Friday pizza lunch order or provide snacks at special times to bring people together. This will create friendships and improve productivity to create a more harmonious workplace.

There are loads of ways for graduates of HR diploma programs to bring more productivity to the workplace – especially after the holidays are over and a little lift is needed. Take the time to get to know your employees and try a few things to see what has the best results. Remember to watch, evaluate and adjust as necessary to bring in new strategies when they are needed.

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