There are countless myths floating around about productivity (and how to increase workplace productivity), so here are some truths:
- Starting your day early doesn’t make you more productive: starting your day at a time that makes sense for you and your body does. One of our founders, Hannah is an early riser, while the other, Noam, enjoys a later start. Both are incredibly productive.
- Working from an office doesn’t increase productivity.
- Multitasking isn’t always a bad thing.
- Working smarter is always better than working longer. Our culture glamorizes pulling all-nighters and working 70+ hour weeks, while completely ignoring the research that strongly suggests productivity falls off a cliff after 55 hours worked in a week.
If you’re a founder looking to increase workplace productivity in a healthy way, consider these 5 tips:
Tip 1: Trust Your Team.
In our experience, when your team is clear on their obligations and knows their performance will be measured in terms of results, they are accountable and responsible for their work. Letting go of micromanagement practices and trusting your team to do their job can be tricky for managers and team members alike, but it is essential for increasing productivity (and morale).
Some key steps we take that allow us to trust our team include:
- Develop an effective onboarding process (we refine ours continually, including seeking feedback from our team members).
- Provide training, where required.
- Help your team set clear targets for their work, and
- Provide the tools they need to succeed.
From there, get out of their way and give them space to work out how they’ll manage their workload.
Tip 2: Empower Your Team.
An empowered team has the right tools, technology, and information to do their jobs efficiently and well. There are processes in place that ensure team members know what to do in common situations and to reduce the number of scenarios where they will need to rely on others. But, they will also know that they are supported if they do require help.
Empowered teams are able to complete their daily tasks with less friction and fewer stumbling blocks. As you’d expect, this can increase productivity.
Here are a few suggestions for empowering your team:
- When they speak, truly listen.
- Provide opportunities for professional and personal growth.
- Provide positive feedback often and constructive feedback where required. (Note also that female employees tend to receive more vague feedback than male employees. You might consider implementing guidelines to ensure fair distribution of constructive feedback.).
- Give them permission to make certain decisions, and seek their input and solutions for decisions that require supervisor/managerial sign-off.
- Provide boundaries and set expectations to ensure your team members know exactly what they need to do to complete a task successfully.
Tip 3: Encourage Physical and Mental Wellbeing.
Poor physical and mental health are both associated with increased absenteeism and reduced productivity while at work, with poor mental health being considered one of the largest contributors to poor productivity. In fact, research suggests that any worker who is at risk of developing poor mental health is likely to be less productive than other workers. (You can find a recent review of the available research here).
As a result, encouraging physical and mental wellbeing amongst your workforce is one of the best decisions you can make for promoting productivity. While your health and wellness programs will look different depending on your operations, there are common features of effective workplace wellness programs (according to the US Department of Labor). They:
- Support employee participation in healthy behaviors.
- Rely on prevention-focused workplace wellness strategies.
- Reward healthy employee behaviors, either through financial incentives or recognition (or both).
In our case, we regularly share tips in our internal email encouraging employees to develop healthy habits. We’ve shared ways to develop healthy sleep hygiene and to sneak more exercise into the workday. We also strongly encourage our team to work hours that make sense to them and to carry workloads that allow them to have a life outside of work too.
Tip 4: Make Sure Your Meetings Make Sense.
Thoughtful communications can have an enormous impact on workplace productivity – particularly so when it comes to meeting management.
Meetings often run too long, involve parties with no real interest in many of the topics covered, and/or could have been conducted through other means – like a few quick emails or phone calls. It’s important to be thoughtful about who you invite to a meeting and consider whether their time might be better served doing something else and receiving a summary email afterward.
The number of meetings that any team member has in a certain day or week needs to be carefully balanced. Too many meetings stifle productivity, as workers scramble to fit work in around meeting after meeting. Conversely, too few meetings (or catch-up calls) can lead to them feeling isolated which, in turn, can contribute to low morale and lower productivity. The best way to achieve an ideal balance here is to experiment to discover what works (and what doesn’t) and ask your team members how they feel about the number of meetings.
Where workers operate in different time zones, it’s also important to consider that your meetings might infringe on their personal schedule. Keeping meetings short and productive helps to minimize the impact they might have on an employee’s personal life.
Tip 5: Encourage Downtime.
One of the most dangerous myths about productivity is that you have to constantly be working to achieve it. The hustle culture spurs this myth, glamorizing all-nighters, 60+ hour work weeks, and side hustles. The reality is that there are biological limits to the number of productive hours we are each capable of. Exceeding these limits will tend to result in burnout (which also decreases productivity).
Downtime is essential for productive workers. Employers should find ways to encourage downtime, instead of striving to find ways to have employees work for longer.
To achieve this, we:
- Reward asking for help, particularly when our team members have too much work.
- Encourage our team members to say no to projects they don’t have the capacity to take on.
- Adjusted our billable hour targets to reflect the 3 weeks’ vacation time each of our employees is entitled to.
Feel free to share your tips to increase workplace productivity humanely in the comments on the social media post sharing this blog post. Otherwise, if you have any topics you’d like us to cover, reach out! You can email us at email@example.com. We’d love to hear from you.
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