Bill Gates said that he gives the most difficult tasks to the laziest people because they will find the easiest way to complete them. That’s the definition of productivity in a nutshell. Recently, a study in Iceland showed that a 4-day work week is equally or more productive than a 5-day work week. That tells us that productivity is not about how much time we spend working but how we work during that time. Since the 4-day work week will not come to our workplaces any time soon, it’s time to think of other ways to increase employee productivity. So here are 9 things you can try today.
9 Ways to Increase Employee Productivity
1. Be the best boss/manager
People usually quit bad bosses, not their jobs. Someone may love their job as much as they want, but a bad boss will kill their will to work.
On the other hand, everyone will go above and beyond for a great boss. They will stay after hours when it’s crunch time, take on tasks that are not in their job description, deal with bad clients, etc.
Why? Because they know that great bosses are rare, and if they switch jobs, they may encounter an abusive one. And who knows, maybe they will see you as a friend at some point and do things just for the sake of it.
Honestly, the bar is relatively low. All you have to do is not treat your employees as second-class citizens.
Primus inter pares, first among equals, be King Arthur to your Knight of the Round Table.
As a bonus, with the boost in productivity, you’ll get your pick of talent whenever you need to fill a position.
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2. Make it matter
Ikegai is a Japanese concept that translates to “a reason for being.” To achieve ikegai, one has to have both passion and a sense of mission with profession and vocation.
People who work in the fields they are passionate about will automatically be more productive. However, not everyone gets to do the job they love.
Let’s not kid ourselves. Chances are that many of your employees are here only for the paycheck. At best, they are treating the job they have now as a stepping stone to another position.
The only way to make them care more about their work is to make said work matter. For example, if employees feel they are contributing to something bigger or that they matter to the company, they will be far more passionate about that work.
In this case, it isn’t easy to give a blanket example of what to do because it depends on the industry and individual workers. But, you can start by not treating anyone as replaceable and show them you value their work.
3. Reward contribution
So, Bill Gates and the lazy worker. If you have a lazy worker who figured out how to do a task better, reward them.
Some bosses are so keen to see employees do the busy work they forget that the valid key to productivity is not working harder but smarter.
So, what should you do with the worker that figured out how to automate half of their tasks? Why not let them leave early? Or come late in the morning?
If the rest of the office sees that contribution can earn them perks, that will increase employee productivity.
However, not everyone will have the skills to make a significant impact. So, don’t forget to reward more minor achievements as well.
You can reward anything from answering emails to who comes to the office earliest. You know what behaviors and tasks have the most significant impact on your business. Turn them into mini competitions with rewards every week or month. Soon, you’ll never have a late employee.
4. Don’t micromanage, delegate
I understand you want everything to be perfect. I know that you think that you need to micromanage everything to make it happen. But it doesn’t. It’s doing the opposite.
Micromanaging both kills the morale and the workflow. To increase employee productivity, you need to trust they know how to do their jobs.
It takes more time to complete a task when you’re micromanaging everything. The worker has to do some work, then run to you for approval and further instructions. If they didn’t have to report everything to you, they could be doing at least twice as much work.
Learn to let go and delegate. Even if you don’t like how things are going, all your workers have twice as much time to fix their mistakes.
5. Time for a siesta
Okay, I am not recommending you close down your business at noon so everyone can take a nap. Still, we’re all human, and we need breaks sometimes.
One of the best ways to increase employee productivity is not to have them so tired they are constantly looking at the clock and waiting to go home. Allowing the workers to take regular breaks will keep them fresh and ready to tackle their tasks.
In Japan, one of the most hardworking countries, workers often take breaks to do radio taiso, aka simple gymnastics. In Britain, many worksites break for the elevensies or tea at 11:00 AM. And the French don’t rush with their lunch breaks.
Encourage your employees to take breaks throughout the day. If possible, get them moving and stretching.
Invest in the breakroom or whatever space the employees go for a breather. You would be surprised how much a lovely coffee maker or a potted plant can do.
6. Promote work-life balance
Have you ever called an employee after work hours or when they were on vacation? Then shame on you. This is one of those things that make them hate their job.
You may be a workaholic, but trying to keep up with you is burning someone out. We all need balance in our lives, and your employees need proper rest.
You won’t increase employee productivity if your employees are at their breaking point. Instead, respect that they have lives outside of work and their need for a breather.
If you still must send that email in the middle of the night, tell them that you don’t expect them to address it until the following day. Make sure they know that you are their boss during working hours only, and unless it’s an emergency, you don’t expect them to sacrifice their downtime for you.
7. Not every meeting is as crucial as you think
Let me tell you a secret: your employees hate all those meetings. You probably hated them when you were on a lower corporate branch.
After the first meeting or two at the start of a project, you don’t need to have any until you hit the major milestone or if something goes wrong. Pulling in your team every morning is just wasting time.
Especially those meetings that are supposed to promote “team spirit.” No one likes them. Again, waste of time.
Instead of having those, why not start a group chat or a message board? That way, everyone still knows what the rest of the team is doing without having to leave their workspace, go to a different room, and wonder when they can return to their task.
The best way to increase employee productivity is to let them work.
8. Communicate clear goals and targets
Don’t assume that just because your employees know how to do their work, you don’t have to break everything down. Instead, we often increase employee productivity when everyone has a clear goal.
However, it’s not all about clarity. Many employees lack job satisfaction because they think their work doesn’t matter. Managers and bosses are the ones who reap all rewards and accolades.
Setting clear goals and targets is one way of making them feel genuinely contributing. Human brains like it when we complete projects and reward ourselves with a shot of dopamine. Combine that with rewards, and you’ll not be improving employee engagement, you’ll see an increase in employee productivity.
9. Each employee has a preferred working style
Let’s go back to school for a moment. I did great in physics initially—full marks and even suggestions to pursue a related career.
Then, my teacher changed. My previous teacher was all about teaching us about real-life applications and problem-solving. The new one only cared about how much we could memorize from the textbooks. So I went from doing great to struggling in an instant.
You see, my learning style was more about understanding than memorizing. Excellent for knowledge retention but not so good for testing. If I still had my old teacher, I could be at NASA right now.
In the same way, your employee may be struggling right now. For example, imagine someone who is not a morning person having to deal with meetings and clients early in the work day—or telling someone who needs all those post-it notes to keep their workspace tidy.
Give your employees the freedom to complete tasks in the way they prefer. As long as they are not missing deadlines or impeding someone else’s work, you’re looking into a significant increase in employee productivity.