Four Counterintuitive Tactics to Enhance Employee Productivity

Posted: 26th October 2017 12:58

On average, an office employee will work about five hours at their desk in an eight-hour shift. Accounting for regulated breaks, lunch break, bathroom breaks, and miscellaneous errands around the office, this is a productive day’s work. However, merely observing behavior and calculating the hours spent in front of a computer is not an accurate measure of productivity. Someone who appears to be doing all the right things may not appear to produce a high quality or quantity of work.

In actuality, assessing whether employees in your office are productive can’t really be controlled by enforcing strict policies like limiting Internet access to work-related websites or on taking punitive steps when people take unauthorized breaks. 

These traditional methods of managing employee performance only create an illusion of productivity. Over time, employees have learned to look busy, and even employees with good intentions tend to daydream, get bored, and lose all sense of purpose as the day winds down.

While evaluating how much work gets done is an accurate way of gauging productivity, micromanaging all your employees every day will create such an oppressive atmosphere that your business will experience a high-turnover.

Generally speaking, then, most overt methods to increase employee productivity are ineffective. Policies, regulations, and managerial pressure only stir up a quiet resistance. A much better way of increasing productivity in your office is to find ways to inspire creativity and increase motivation.
Here are some ways for employees to want to be more productive.

1. Allow brain breaks.
It’s easy to attribute low-productivity to laziness, indifference, milking the clock, or other cynical reasons. Often, however, these caustic judgments are far from true. One common reason why people are unproductive when sitting in front of their computers is simply fatigue. After an intense period of work, glycogen in the brain, which is essential for neuronal activity, gets depleted. As a result, lack of focus, slower working memory capacity and a decrease in mental acuity results in employees dragging out their work. It’s much more reasonable to encourage employees to get up and walk around to rest their brains for a minute. In fact, provide them with various ways to refresh themselves, like a few office water dispensers, vending machines, and even
multiplayer games in the breakroom--perhaps, ping pong, foosball, darts or billiards.

2. Decrease the number and length of meetings.
While it may be necessary to have meetings for face-to-face business discussion, many companies have too many meetings. Worse still, these are often poorly managed. The organizer may not have prepared for the meeting or the discussions tend to stray off topic; sometimes with dominant personalities hogging the conversation. By reducing the volume of meetings, insisting on organized presentations, and managing the open discussions better, employees will have more time available to get back to work.

3. Reduce the number of restrictions.
In an effort to increase productivity, managers tend to encourage the proliferation of all kinds of restrictions. However, the more restrictions in place, the more rules there are to follow, the more employees tend to resort to passive-aggressive behavior--withholding information, skipping steps in a business process, or simply working intentionally slower. It’s human nature to resist coercion, and although performance-oriented see company policies as a way to keep the workflow moving in the right direction, employees often interpret these rules as an unfair manipulation and coercion.

4. Introduce gamification.
Many times, productivity drops because the nature of the work is tedious. An employee who does the same task every day will reach a point where their skills far exceed the challenge of the work. Consequently, the work becomes repetitive and boring. While one obvious solution would be to give employees more interesting and varied work, this is not always possible. In customer service, for instance, there is little variation you can introduce. However, introducing gamification, a management strategy to add typical game playing elements into a workplace like competition with others, point scoring, and rules of play, can even make routine customer service work fun and engaging.

Although this short list of four tactics to improve engagement, productivity and efficiency in the workplace may appear to defy conventional ideas about workplace management, you will find that they will lead to happier employees and improved revenues.