5 Ways to Ramp Up Productivity in the Workplace

David Bishop
Plymouth Business School
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Productivity is both the bane and boon of business. Employers often point the finger at their staff when the numbers aren't moving in the right direction, blaming everyone but themselves for a lack of productivity and enthusiasm in the workplace. If this sounds familiar, better turn that finger back at yourself. Because nine times out of ten, it's the boss who is at fault...

If you need to give your employees a boost, these 5 tips will help.

1. Make Repetitive and Quantifiable Tasks Interesting

Gamification is the process of implementing rewards, leader boards, challenges, or anything that might attach a competitive element to a job role. This ups the stakes, adding an element of play to an otherwise mundane task. What's more, it can easily be deployed into almost any existing activity. For example, if your company has a marketing team, whoever acquires the most Instagram views or makes the most sales calls in a day/week/month could win a prize.

There's something about winning that just resonates with people. If you don't have the budget to buy a prize, you can still provide an incentive in a more light and entertaining way – whoever invented the “worker of the week award” should win the Nobel Prize for Economics!

2. Leverage Technology to Enhance Communication

Refusing to accept technology is a serious mistake. While implementing new hardware and software usually comes with a steep learning curve, the end results will often leave your operation more streamlined than ever. Messenger apps, such as Slack and Skype, have been a godsend for modern offices all over the world, especially for freelancers (and their clients) who rely on the gig economy to make their way.

While it's easy to get turned off using mobile applications, fearing they'll cause more distractions, just remember, we're living in a world where the “analogue” approach just doesn't quite cut the mustard anymore. Rather than force your employees to alienate themselves from digital media and technology – leaving them biting their thumbs in the process – use it to your advantage.

3. Increase Mobility and Allow Flexible Work Hours

There's nothing more distracting than having a boss constantly looking over your shoulder. Employers that keep close tabs on employees in this manner might as well just say, “Hey, I don't trust you.” If you can be a little overbearing, remind yourself why you hired *worker* in the first place. You certainly trusted him/her back then. Who cares if you've caught them checking their Facebook account every once in a while? That's no reason to keep tabs on somebody. Anyway, haven't you got a business to run?

Remote working is a scary concept to most bosses. The idea of sacrificing control and paying someone to work in their pyjamas might not appeal to you, but try not to think about the time your employees spend working, but rather, the results. If the quality of their work is better, surely that's a benefit, regardless of how many hours it took? Don't be afraid to implement flexible working hours. In fact, most employers find their workforce to be even more productive when they're allowed to work at their own pace. This is because employees won't want to lose the remote working privileges they've been awarded.

4. Help Employees Build Bridges With Each Other

Relationship building is the most understated aspect of working life. Nobody will function efficiently if they're not happy. While the office is a place of work, that doesn't mean it should be boring. There's a reason why all the trendy tech giants, like Google and Microsoft, tend to have billiards and table tennis areas scattered throughout their corporate offices. They not only allow employees to take a breather every once in a while, but serve as a catalyst for conversation, helping co-workers to build meaningful relationships.

If you haven't seen Simon Sinek's “The Problem with Millennials” video that's been making rounds on the web, then watch it. You might learn a thing or two about why you should attempt to foster relationships. Fundamentally, if everybody feels comfortable with each other, they'll work better together. And this type of friendly environment will create the perfect breeding ground for productivity!

5. Kill the Motivation Killers!

Take a leaf out of Bruce Lee's book, “It's not about the daily increase, but the daily decrease. Hack away the unessential.” Sometimes you need to reassess your operation from the ground up and discover which aspects you can refine. Rather than trying to boost motivation, find out what's killing it in the first place: toxic personalities, poor organization, lack of growth opportunities, erratic communications systems... the list could go on and on. Solve these problems (if they exist of course) and you may not have to do much at all.

Remember that your staff are human, not robots; everyone can suffer from a burnout. Being productive is great, but sometimes you might need to step in and remind your employees to slow down and take things easy (overworking is the biggest motivation killer of all). Otherwise your short-term gains will turn into long-term losses, and that's far more damaging.

David Wilkinson, editor of the Oxford Review, states that “99% of everything you are trying to do in your organization has already successfully been done before.” The solutions to all of your productivity problems are already out there if you choose to seek them. So don't be afraid to ask for help or involve your workforce in the decision-making process if your efforts don't yield results. By sitting them down and simply asking, “What would make YOU feel more motivated and productive?” You might just find all the answers...

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