Today I’m going to tell you why increasing employee productivity doesn’t need fancy techniques or apps, all it takes is a little more freedom.
The old business model encouraged everyone to follow the exact same rules. The idea was that the more structured and regimented you made the work day, the more you could squeeze out of employees. All this really accomplished was squeezing the joy out of everyone who worked for you.
If you instead focus on the individuality of each of your employees and look for ways to nurture their talent — otherwise known as the reason you hired them — then they will naturally start to work to their best ability. In this article, we’re going to explore five ways to do that.
Allow Employees To Determine Their Own Break Times
Requiring that your employees all take the same amount of breaks, at the same time, for the same duration of time isn’t going to lead to a productive and organized office. Why? Because people are different. They require different things to work at their best, and being strict on them having exactly 45 minutes for lunch and not a minute more isn’t going to make them feel like they have much agency over their time.
If your employees spend most of their work day on a computer or otherwise engaged with technology, frequent breaks will actually make them more productive. Let them determine for themselves how often to take those breaks and for how long. Typically, people like to be productive, and they’re not going to come to work to do as little as possible. They have their own to-do lists and they’re not going to ignore their responsibilities. So implement a rule that employees can take breaks in the manner they see fit, and watch if the productivity and overall mood of your office doesn’t improve.
Introduce a Work From Home Option
There’s a fear that employees who work from home will do less work. While this isn’t true of newer businesses and startups, more established businesses tend to believe that all employees should be commuting into the office. It seems like this makes sense: if an employee is at work, you can monitor them, and they’re less likely to be distracted.
Well, that’s not exactly true.
There are a ton of distractions in the office, including unnecessary meetings that interrupt your employee’s time. Plus, the need to never mix the personal with the professional — i.e. your employee should concentrate ONLY on work while at work — can lead to a decline in productivity. If an employee’s at home and they need to run their kid to the doctors, they can do that quickly and get right back to work without having to worry about getting permission or commuting back to the office. Surprisingly, most people are good stewards of their time and not many employees see working from home as an excuse to slack off.
In a recent study, Ctrip, a Chinese travel center, experimented with having some of their employees work from home. They found that work-from-home employees not only outperformed their in-office colleagues, but Ctrip was also able to save $1,900 per employee over the course of the 9 month experiment.
So, give your employees the option to work from home at their discretion. This doesn’t mean that they have to become full time virtual workers, as there are benefits to having an in office team, but it does allow them to more fully integrate their personal life into their work life. Everything you can do to show your employees that you trust them will increase their happiness, and as a result, their productivity and likelihood of staying with your company.
Create “Fun” Areas in the Office
Relaxation or fun areas are the standard for new startups but more established or traditional businesses have been slower to adopt the trend. Most people are no longer working 9-5’s; they’re coming in as early and staying as late as the job requires. However, that doesn’t mean that humans have suddenly become adept at concentrating on work for 10 hour stretches.
Your employees need a break. They need a few minutes in the day where their thoughts aren’t consumed by work issues. By including an area where employees can relax — whether it’s a ping pong table or simply a quiet room — will allow them to re-energize and return to their work more focused than before. Including some kind of game will also improve office morale.
Have a Flexible Dress Code
Increasing productivity can basically be summed up in one simple concept: improve your employee’s sense of autonomy and their productivity will increase. People want to feel as if they are in charge of their own lives, and something as simple as not having to adhere to someone else’s dress code is enough to give them that sense of control. Of course, you do not want your employees coming into the office looking like they just rolled out of bed. However, if your employees are not in client facing roles is there any reason for them to dress in a suit and tie every day?
Allow your employees to be comfortable and they’re less likely to spend the last few hours of the day imagining the moment they can finally take off their “work” clothes. You don’t need to have casual Fridays if every day is an opportunity for employees to dress in whatever way is most comfortable for them.
Relax on Strict Working Hours
You’re running a business and you need to get certain things done. Your employees know this and, most of the time, they take a deep satisfaction in performing their job well. This means that you don’t have to enforce strict working hours. Experiment with letting employees determine their own hours; you’ll quickly be able to identify the people who aren’t applying themselves.
If you work in an industry that involves a lot of client service, then you will need to have some employees who work regular business hours, but there’s almost certainly people in your company who don’t need to be in the office from 9-5 or 8-6. Some people work best in the morning, others in the evening. This is where allowing a work from home option becomes useful. People can determine the time
In the beginning, it may be good to specify a time that you expect people to be contactable (especially if you use a group messaging/project management system like Slack) or a minimum response time.
For most of these suggestions, it’s going to take some experimentation to find out what works best for your business, office and employees. The key thing to remember is that you hired people who you felt were capable, so you should trust them. The ones who rise to meet your high expectations and increased trust will not only be more valuable employees, but they’re also more likely to experience increased job satisfaction and stick around. Employee retention is incredibly important in an increasingly competitive job market.