Since workplace productivity levels took a nosedive in 2009, the UK has struggled to recover at the same growth rate it was previously achieving. And despite a slightly positive turnaround for workplace productivity in 2016, we still have a long way to go to get back on track with the leaders Germany, France and the US.
In 2015, when the government launched its ‘Fixing the Foundations’ plan to improve workplace productivity levels, Red Letter Days Motivates conducted their own research on the subject. Over 2,000 employees were asked to identify where output per hour was being affected and to find out what their employers were doing to resolve the issue.
The main findings were that employers were not being flexible enough with their employees’ time and that the hard working environment had a big impact on the work that was created – for example, employees who were allowed to work from home produced more per hour compared to employees who could only work from the office.
The research was initially set out to find what employers had done since 2015 to improve workplace productivity levels. A staggering 42% of employers had said they’d done absolutely nothing to correct the issue. Not one single thing. Nada. There’s many questions you can ask yourself as to why this may have happened – Is there a lack of knowledge on the subject making businesses anxious to change? Is there no time to think about it? Or are employees simply not being made aware of the efforts made by businesses?
Where are things going so wrong?
The complete findings of the research are available in the report – ‘Productivity in the workplace: what’s the real problem?’ by Red Letter Days Motivates. The research was used to explore an average day of an employee’s day to day working life and try to solve where things are going wrong. We’ve condensed the findings down into 6 handy little tips that are outlined in more depth through the report.
1. Flexible working
Developments in technology now mean that transactions, sales and products as well as tasks, sharing information and communicating can be done in an instant. So surely with the advancements we should be producing more per hour, not less. Restrictions as to where employees can work will go on to restrict their output. When asked 23% of employees said they get more done at home compared to 9% in the office. Enabling employees to work from home if they need to focus on big piece of work or a current project deadline will help them work uninterrupted and more efficiently. It doesn’t only apply to whole days at home, if you discover employees not working at their best ability, let them leave early and you’ll find when they return the next day, you’ll find them invigorated and eager to get on with the tasks they need to achieve.
Meetings are effective and essential, but only if done right. Employees said they spend an average of 1.2 hours a day in meetings, that adds up to 288 hours a year discussing the work, rather than doing the work. Meetings need to be streamlined and punchy with clear actions to take away this will make them effective – and worth it. Drum into managers that meetings should only take place if completely necessary. Ask yourself if the issue could be resolved in a more direct manner such as a quick phone call or face to face chat. If the meeting is essential, only ask those who are really required.
Is it time we said goodbye to the timesheet? A quarter (22%) of employees said they waste time every week filling out timesheets, or other similar admin. Timesheets have been used for years, however if we’re in an economy so focused on improving productivity, surely there’s a more productive way to record time. Get employees to tell you what admin bogs them down. Is it the timesheets, the weekly reports or meetings minutes? Review the issues and decide whether or not you can scrap them. If not, identify how you can streamline them instead.
How we did business dramatically changed when emails were invented. Communication was easier and deals were made faster. Yet, it seems emails could now be fuelling our productivity problems. 40% of employees receive between 26 – 75 emails everyday.
That means these employees on average are looking at whopping totals of 1,500 emails a month and 18,000 emails a year.
45% of employees said they receive so many emails that they have to respond out of hours.
26% of employees said that every week they have trouble finding a document because of the volume of emails.
Will the success of emails be the death of them? It seems we need to re-train the world on email etiquette. Tell employees to think twice before hitting the send button. A simple face to face conversation or a quick phone call may do the trick. You could challenge employees to not send more than 10 emails a day. It’ll improve their etiquette and train them to think differently.
5. Give autonomy
There’s nothing worse than a boss looking over your shoulder at your every move. It hugely hinders output and can put employees under unnecessary stress. Identify who the micromanagers are and give them tips on how to back off. Use managers who are good at trusting staff to get on with the job as mentors for your other managers, and reward managers for ‘good people management’ not just targets.
6. Show appreciation
Employees are at the heart of workplace productivity as they are the people on the ground doing the work. So surely their voices should be heard loud and clear when it comes to solving the issue? When asked, 14% of employees stated that better recognition from senior managers would help to improve their productivity. And 15% of employees said an increased feeling of job satisfaction would help to improve productivity. Think about how you feel if your work isn’t recognised in comparison to when it is. If your boss has said thank you it makes you feel motivated and valued. However if your boss ignores your efforts it is very demoralising. Treat your employees how you want to be treated. It’ll make a huge difference. Happiness is key to productivity.
7. Solving the real problems
When it comes to solving the workplace productivity issues, you’ll more than likely start fixing the top level problems. This isn’t a bad place to start, however the research confirms it’s essential to look at the smaller problems too. They could be adding up to create a much bigger issue than we think.
The good news about the smaller problems? You can easily change them without much investment. It may be a simple case of training managers on email etiquette, or giving staff more flexibility. OK we can’t ignore the big areas like restructuring your admin process. But a good strategy would be to tackle the easy issues first, while the business is working out how it’s going to afford and implement the new processes.
The article and research above is an extract from ‘Red Letter Days Motivates – Productivity in the workplace: What’s the real problem?’ report. The research was completed by an independent research agency and asked 2,040 employees in May 2017. The research was released in June 2017.
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