Method to the Madness: How to Let Go to Increase Productivity

Posted by Christine Ziebell on 2/26/2016 2:52:26 PM

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Method to the Madness: How to Let Go to Increase Productivity

It’s a no-brainer. I wasn’t surprised when a Gallup study reported that business units in the top 25% of their engagement database have considerably higher productivity and profitability ratings.

What puzzles me is why so many companies still haven’t figured out policies that will improve the performance of their employees. If staff productivity isn't where you want it to be, don’t despair. I’ve compiled a list of the productivity tips I’ve found to be the most effective. (Some of them seem too strange to take seriously, so just trust me.)

Work time is work time and personal time is not. 

Just because employees can read and respond to email at home, while out with friends, or on vacation, it doesn’t mean they should. Letting employees enjoy their free time makes for happier employees. Simply put, letting people recharge makes them more productive at work.

Use the right tool for the job.

Let’s talk about email. Misuse (and overuse) of email absorbs too much of everyone’s time. As you probably know, multi-recipient messages experience an endless succession of “Reply All” responses. 90% of the people on those email loops probably didn’t need to receive them, but they had to open them to make sure they weren’t missing something important–because, let’s be honest, few people understand how to encapsulate key points so the preview pane will display them.

Or someone hijacked the email thread to tell a joke, send a lolcat link (although Japanese study revealed that looking at cute animals improves concentration, who knew?), or started a completely new discussion without changing the title.  

And for the love of everything holy, do not email something to the whole group for input and comments. It blows a big productivity hole in someone’s day when multiple rounds of asynchronous comments in a document need to be reconciled. Make it clear to your employees that their in-progress drafts belong on a collaborative intranet portal under version control.

Friendships rev productivity.

Studies have shown that social relationships improve workplace satisfaction and make employees more productive. Even remote workers need some level of social interaction to keep their stress levels from interfering with productivity. The great thing about remote workers is they consider most electronic interactions enough socializing. Having chat groups and online collaboration tools available to them is the way to go. If they are socializing with each other, they are probably spending less time socializing with their friends (which will yield your company no benefit) on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc.

Ditch the 9-5. 

Some of us are morning people, and can plow through piles of work before 8 a.m. Others are night owls, and their creative brilliance and focused productivity blossom between midnight and 3 a.m. Allow employees to determine their peak productivity interval and use it wisely. Allow employees to work remotely – at least occasionally. Sometimes they can be more productive when working from the comfort of their own homes without the daily distractions of the office.

Slow down periodically to speed up.

Counterintuitive, yes? Break the workday into 25, 50 or 90-minute highly focused sprints interspersed with 5-15 minutes of non-work. Let employees use those breaks for a power walk, stretching, a mini-meditation, or short conversations.

It really works, according to Tony Schwarz, an engagement consultant who wrote:

"... You can push yourself to your limits for short periods of time, so long as you have a clear stopping point. And after a rest, you can sprint again."

Change the acoustics.

Soft music playing in the background can create a positive atmosphere at the office. However, some workers can find it distracting. Happy medium? Try instrumental music or music with lyrics in an unknown language. Apparently verbal engagement with music competes for brain bandwidth with the part of the mind that is getting the work done.

Drive organizational change. 

If you’re not happy with your team’s productivity, give some of these tricks a try. Try new organizational models and give your employees more freedom. Most importantly, acknowledge that past a certain point, productivity plummets when you ask them to work longer hours.

Category: Productivity


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