In recent years productivity has been gaining momentum as a key metric for measuring success, with most businesses and diligent employees keen to learn how to work smarter, not harder. As a result, you don’t have to look far to find books, articles, blogs, YouTube channels, podcasts and more dedicated to employee productivity, helping you improve your output and that of your team. We’ve scoured the available resources and put together our favourite tips to help you raise the productivity bar in your workplace and increase your company’s ability to produce its goods or services.
It’s widely accepted that taking short breaks improves productivity at work. Some theories advocate taking a break every 90 minutes to “pulse and pause” in unison with your ultradian rhythm, while others refer to the Pomodoro Technique and encourage short breaks every 25 minutes, with a longer break every 1 hour 40 minutes.
Whatever approach you subscribe to there are hundreds of smart phone apps and internet browser extensions available to help you and your employees stay on track.
Provide healthy snacks
Making fresh fruit, nuts and other healthy snacks available to your workforce can not only satisfy hunger but feed brains and boost productivity. A 2012 study of almost 20,000 employees found that those with unhealthy diets were 66% more likely to report a loss in productivity with employees who rarely ate fruit, vegetables and other low-fat foods at work 93% more likely to say the same. To counteract poor nutrition place bowls containing a wide variety of fruit within easy reach of employees, replace biscuits with nuts and seeds in meetings and stock vending machines with healthy snacks to encourage positive choices. If you’re ready to take your commitment to helping employees improve their health to the next level why not implement a range of workplace wellness initiatives?
Double up on screens
If you’re still using small, single screens on desktop computers at work there’s a simple, relatively low-cost change you could make to boost both employee productivity and staff morale. Multiple studies have found that using wider screens or doubling up and using dual screens can have impressive results when it comes to productivity. In 2003 Czerwinski, et al. noted an impressive 9% productivity increase when participants used a 46.5” curved screen compared to a 15” flat panel screen. Similarly, in 2007 Poder, Godbout, & Bellemare saw a productivity increase of 3.1% when dual screens were introduced over single screens. In 2017 computer technology company Dell commissioned research which found participants favoured dual-monitor setups, finding them dramatically more pleasant to use than single-screen configurations.
Maximise natural light
Lighting in the workplace is easy to overlook, but good lighting is key to keeping staff healthy, happy and productive. In 2018, a study conducted by Staples concluded that out of 7,000 office workers surveyed, 80% said that good lighting in their workspace is important to them with 40% having to deal with uncomfortable lighting every day. 32% said better lighting would make them happier at work and 68% admitted they would feel more valued by their employers if they considered their health and wellbeing and invested in suitable lighting.
One of the biggest areas impacted by a lack of natural light is sleep. A study by researchers at the Interdepartmental Neuroscience program at Northwestern University in Chicago, America found that compared to workers in offices without windows, those working in offices with windows were exposed to 173% more white light during work hours and, as a result, slept for an average of 46 more minutes per night. Employees suffering from insomnia or insufficient sleep experience significantly worse productivity, performance, and safety outcomes compared to those who get a good night’s sleep according to a study of 4,188 US workers. Annually these productivity losses were estimated to cost $1,967 per employee.
Support remote working
Advancements in remote working technology mean that employees no longer need to be tied to their desks. Secure VPNs connecting laptops to workplace networks and VoIP telephone systems make it easier to work from home and several studies have found that remote workers are more productive.
Stanford University professor Nicholas Bloom conducted a 9-month study with 16,000 call centre employees at CTrip, a Chinese travel agency. The results showed a 13% increase in remote workers’ productivity with 9% due to employees working more time per shift and the other 4% owing to more calls per minute. The latter is said to be due to a quieter, less distracting environment allowing employees to accomplish more in the same amount of time. Employees who work remotely are also noticing the difference themselves with 77% of respondents to a ConnectSolutions survey reporting a higher level of productivity.
The traditional 9 to 5 doesn’t suit everyone, and you may find employees are at their most productive earlier in the morning or later in the evening. Allowing individuals to choose their own working hours may be the key to increasing productivity and creating a better work-life balance for your team. Research from the Chartered Management Institute showed that 48% of the managers surveyed believe that flexibility allows for a more productive workplace while a YouGov survey in 2017 found that given the choice 66% of working Brits would prefer their eight-hour workday to start and finish earlier. Offering compressed hours, term-time hours, part-time or flexi-time working is becoming the norm and giving employees the freedom to manage their own schedules may help retain and attract the best talent.
We’ve all heard the theory that a cluttered environment leads to a cluttered mind and scientists at the Princeton University Neuroscience Institute believe this to be true. Their research has shown that our brains like order and when participants cleared clutter from their work environment, they found it easier to focus and process information, ultimately increasing their productivity. Implementing a clear desk policy is a simple way to encourage employees to stay organised and can help with other issues such as data protection.
When you and your employees get more done in the same amount of time, you’ll have additional resource for other business functions like strategy, research and development, quality and operations which could make big differences in your company. Why not implement a few of these tips and measure the impact they have on the productivity of your workplace? Or, if you prefer a more unusual approach, take inspiration from large corporations like Airbnb and Facebook who offer some weird and wonderful employee benefits that could also help enhance employee productivity.