Employees are a business’ greatest asset. The more efficient and engaged they are, the more successful the company will become. Unfortunately, the majority of employees (as many as 85%) report feeling disengaged from their work, which in turn hinders their productivity.
So, what can you do to inspire employees to take a more proactive approach to their jobs and stay engaged at work? Here are a few ideas:
1. Decide whether you have an “idle time” problem
According to Harvard Business School, the average American worker spends a lot of time waiting to be told what to do next. Researchers believe that this “idle time” could be costing businesses up to $100 billion per year in wages.
Idle time is likely to be a problem if you underestimate your workers, schedule more workers than necessary for a task or shift, or fail to repair necessary equipment. Better communication, regular performance reviews, and a commitment to supplying employees with everything they need to do their jobs will ensure no worker is left hanging around.
2. Set up a workspace that affords workers some privacy
Open-plan offices rose in popularity towards the end of the 20th century. Early proponents argued that removing cubicles and barriers between employees encourages collaboration, makes teamwork easier, and promotes company transparency.
However, research has shown that employees in open-plan offices are actually less productive than those working in more traditional setups. Even extroverted employees value their privacy and appreciate the tangible boundaries afforded by cubicles.
Workers in open-plan offices tend to use email to communicate more often than those who work behind screens, possibly because they subconsciously want to distance themselves from others.
You don’t need to build a cubicle farm, but offering workers the chance to use privacy screens or work in breakout rooms if they feel overwhelmed can be helpful.
3. Encourage people to take regular breaks
Research shows that the most productive individuals work in sustained bursts and take a substantial number of breaks. A pattern of 52 minutes’ work followed by 17 minutes of rest seems to be optimal for productivity.
Provide a comfortable room that workers can use to rest, socialize, and eat. Invest in a large fridge, microwave, and rapid-boil kettle. Keep chairs and sofas clean and tidy, and supply some reading material.
4. Open the windows
Fresh air is vital for health –and it improves productivity. Invest in an air purification system and open the windows whenever possible. Studies have demonstrated that elevated levels of CO2 in the workplace are linked with lower productivity.
5. Inject some fun into the office
Research shows that happy employees are around 12% more productive than their miserable counterparts. Little touches and fun initiatives can lighten the mood. For instance, you could set up a channel in your Slack for sharing memes and jokes, or encourage an impromptu karaoke session one Friday afternoon.
6. Use productivity tracking apps
Committing to a deadline improves accountability, which in turn increases efficiency. If you want to improve transparency in your team and ensure that everyone is working towards their goals, try DeskTime or a similar app that shows exactly what everyone is doing on their computers throughout the day.
7. Consider installing standing desks
It’s been established beyond reasonable doubt that prolonged sitting at a desk increases an employee’s risk of several serious conditions, such as diabetes and chronic pain.
Standing desks can be a viable alternative. Many people prefer models that allow them to adjust their posture throughout the day. Alternating between sitting and standing appears to work well for most employees.
8. Bring some plants into the office
Plants are naturally soothing and attractive. They lend the office a natural ambience, promoting relaxation and better air quality. Think about allowing each employee to pick a plant for their desk.
9. Make your meetings more efficient
Most of us have wasted hundreds of hours in boring meetings. Every time you consider scheduling a meeting, ask yourself whether it’s really necessary. If so, take the time to put together a structured agenda. Impose clear rules. For example, if someone starts to go off topic, make it plain that they will be politely but firmly shut down.
Do not hold meetings in cozy rooms that encourage people to stick around. Meeting spaces should be comfortable but free of distractions. Some companies prefer to use “huddle rooms” instead of rooms set up in a conventional format. In a huddle room, people must stand up to talk, which provides them with an incentive to get through the agenda in a timely manner.
10. Promote healthy eating and exercise
Mental and physical health go hand-in-hand. People who exercise regularly, eat a balanced diet, and stay hydrated throughout the day are more productive, happier, and less likely to suffer from stress.
You don’t need to spend a lot of money to promote a healthier lifestyle. For example, placing fruit bowls and jugs of water in strategic locations may be enough to encourage workers to make healthier snack choices. If there are vending machines in your workplace, consider reviewing the options on offer and substituting them with healthier alternatives.
11. Learn how to outsource tasks more efficiently
If you need to outsource tasks on a regular basis, draw up a list or database of freelancers and services you can call upon. This may save you a lot of time in the long run, because you won’t have to research your options every time.
Remember to consult your employees at every stage
Employees are more likely to feel engaged and supported if they are asked for their input. Before you make any kind of change, even if your ideas are well-supported by statistics and research, ask for employee feedback. You won’t be able to please everyone, but by listening carefully to everyone’s requests, you can make changes that will be generally well-received.