10 Strategies to Improve Employee Productivity

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Employee productivity is a major concern for most managers. Just about everyone wants their employees to be as productive as can be, so what can you do to help?

Article 6 Minutes

With the right strategies, it's possible to build employee productivity by encouraging team members to take ownership of their work and collaborate more effectively. However, not every strategy out there will work — and some can even be harmful to employee productivity. If you want to boost team morale, you'll need to use the right approach.

Here are ten of the best strategies managers can use to improve employee productivity:

1. Provide employees with the right tools

The right tech can make a big difference. Collaboration tools — like business chat platform Slack or project management app Trello — can make communication between individuals, teams and departments much simpler. These platforms can reduce the need for meetings and help employees organize workflows that depend on more than one worker. 

File-sharing tools can also improve employee productivity. With the right solution, workers can quickly share documents, making it easy to find what they need. They can locate documents without searching through email attachments or files stored on their local computer.

2. Offer training and skills development

Providing employees with opportunities to skill up can also encourage self-actualization and personal growth, benefitting both workers and employers. Training often yields a significant return on investment for companies willing to invest. Major businesses like Xerox, IBM and Motorola report training ROIs as high as $33 for every dollar spent. 

Effective training is also necessary for the efficient use of high-tech tools. While employees may learn how to use new technology on the fly, they'll usually be a lot more effective at handling these tools if they receive in-depth training. With the right education, employees can learn tips, tricks and best practices they may not have picked up on their own.

3. Encourage employee autonomy

Micromanaging can be bad for both managers and employees. 

This tip may sound counterintuitive, but managing less can actually improve employee productivity. Past research backs this one up — studies show that micromanaging wreaks havoc on employee engagement. As a result, it also weakens performance and potentially leads to absenteeism.

Encourage employee autonomy. Let your workers build their skills and develop workflows that work for them, rather than sticking to what managers think is best. You may find that you see a productivity boost from those you stop managing so closely. You'll also free up time for senior staff and management who were previously checking up on their teams.

If you're worried about how employees will fare with greater autonomy, you can still track their progress with tools like digital productivity trackers.

4. Create comfortable working conditions

Lighting, ergonomic seating and a comfortable office temperature all significantly impact employee productivity. With the right combination of lighting, temperature and noise level, you can increase office productivity by an average of 14%.

Finding the right combination of temperature and lighting may take some work. While there are average noise, temperature and lighting levels that work best, individual workers may have different preferences. Depending on your office's size, it may be worth considering specific employee needs when optimizing office illumination and temperature.

5. Boost team morale

Satisfied employees are productive ones. Create opportunities to make employees enthusiastic about where they work and excited to come into the office. You should also keep on the lookout for organizational morale killers — like a lack of trust between management and staff or ambiguous goals.

Engaged employees tend to stick around longer, too. Ensuring your workforce is satisfied helps your company retain skilled workers who will do their jobs more efficiently than new hires.

6. Use goals, feedback and positive reinforcement

It's hard to be productive when you don't know what you're working toward — or if you feel like your hard work is ignored. Setting clear goals can define what success means for a given task. Incentives for reaching these objectives can also make employees feel valued and encourage them to take ownership of their work.

You can also use goals and milestones to offer opportunities for constructive feedback and positive reinforcement.

7. Host team-building exercises

Team-building exercises can create a sense of office community. As a result, they can encourage collaboration and make it easier for team members to communicate. Team-building exercises can give new team members an idea of who they can talk to if they run into technical or workflow problems. 

8. Encourage a good work-life balance

Always being "on" means stretching your attention across all hours, rather than concentrating on where they'll do the most good. Overworked employees are less productive — and the more hours they work past a standard workweek, the less productive they'll typically be.

Many offices also have a fuzzy boundary between work and life — which can also harm productivity, with some employees checking their emails long after they've left the office. This issue means that even though they've clocked out, they're still mentally at the workplace. Although they're home, they're still in "on mode." This problem strips individuals of a chance to recharge with family, friends and recreation, meaning they're less able to bring their A-game when they return to the office the next morning.

Encourage your workers to be available when it matters and avoid stretching themselves too thin. Developing a good work-life balance can help employees stay sharp during the most crucial hours.

9. Communicate with your co-workers

Regular communication with your team, structure employee goals and keep them thinking about the future. Building hierarchies of communication within the company can also transfer knowledge among workers. New hires should know who they can reach out to for advice or guidance if they're struggling with an issue at work.

Creating an open dialogue between staff and management can help you uncover what may be hurting productivity. Once you're aware of these issues, you can work to resolve office distractions, broken or unwieldy tools and other productivity killers.

10. Offer opportunities to work from home

This suggestion may not seem intuitive at first — it's much harder to check on employee progress when they're out of the office. Plus, home is full of distractions. 

However, research shows that remote work can be a big productivity booster. In 2012, Stanford researchers conducted an intensive two-year study on how remote work affected productivity. The results? They found remote workers were up to 13% more productive than those who stayed in the office. Remote workers were also much more likely to clock in and out on time and take less time off.

While working from home can create distractions for remote workers, offices can also be very distracting. Remote workers have a lot more control over how they work — and autonomy is a big factor in productivity.

Boosting employee productivity

Following a few of the above strategies is a great way to start building the foundation of workplace productivity.

Investing in your employees tends to pay off — training and work-from-home opportunities have been shown time and again to help employees work more efficiently. But some of the best productivity-boosting strategies don't require any spending at all. Simple tweaks to office conditions, management styles that encourage autonomy and improved work-life balance can all be big productivity boosters.

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Megan Nichols

Megan Nichols is a technical writer and blogger. She regularly contributes to sites like ReadWrite, IoT Times, and Training Magazine. Megan also publishes easy to understand science articles on her personal blog, Schooled By Science. Follow Megan on Twitter if you want keep up with the latest trends in science and industry.

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