Productivity is the definition of the value of what workers produce versus how many hours they work. The more someone produces the more valuable they are to their employer – and indeed, the country. If we can increase productivity not only do companies make more profit, but we help the whole country and GDP. According to the Office of National Statistics (ONS), output per hour worked in the UK has seen a large slowdown since the recession and fell during the first three months of the year, the first notable quarterly drop since the final three months of 2015. What’s killing our workplace productivity and how can we sort it out?
Productivity Killer: Multitasking
We live in a World where there is an app for everything, a process, a workshop, reading matter – ‘content’. It’s all too easy to implement swift changes and to expect the business to get around these. The issue is multitasking. Incompatible tech systems, changing between Slack, Trello, Dropbox, your email system, digital whiteboards, Excel, Google Docs -there’s a lot of drudgery brought about by tech.
A Harvard Business Review post found that multitasking leads to as much as a 40 percent drop in productivity, increased stress, and a 10 percent drop in IQ and a study of enterprise workers suggests that they can be using an average of 935 cloud apps to get work done (Netskope).
How could you simplify the processes people have to use, to overcome those everyday complaints about tech speeds, breakages and general issues? Speak to your IT team about what questions they get over and over and over.
Productivity Killer: Mobile Phones at work
New research has shown that 84% of us use smartphones in the workplace, with 78% regularly responding to text messages during working hours and 52% using Whatsapp and Facebook. Research of 2,012 UK adults carried out by gadgets and technology etailer, LaptopsDirect.co.uk, has revealed more than three quarters 84% admit to using their smartphones during working hours.
Whilst 44% of respondents said their workplace permitted reasonable use of smartphones, 59% regularly take personal phone calls whilst working and more than a third (38%) regularly check their social media accounts while in the workplace.
14% have been told off for using smartphones at work, while just 4% have been disciplined for use of their own tech during work time.
Don’t ban phones. That’s a little like removing a limb and it looks churlish. Instead, why not allocate an items list of what is and isn’t accpetable? Perhaps you could allow message checking ‘on the hour’ for a maximum of 5 minutes, and no phones after that. Perhaps you would approve Skype and Facebook, but say a firm no to Snapchat. It’s up to you, but if it’s a real issue, be sure to have a set rule and empower your mangers to implement change.
Productivity Killer: Administration
It’s not just phones either – a recent study showed that the cost to the service industry in lost productivity due to excessive administration is more than US$2.87 trillion annually (S$6.95 trillion) across 11 countries combined. These dull admin tasks are ready to be passed off to the robots. When asked if they would trust technology – such as a digital/ virtual assistant or software application – to manage repetitive tasks, 83% said they would. Over 70% felt they would see improved productivity, and 69% felt it would improve their happiness.
Ask your employees what is killing their will to stay in the business and what jobs are just so dull it hurts. Add an incentive if you can – perhaps it could be an innovation incentive, asking for a creative way to finish the work without heartache, or make a team sport out of the job. Seek and you shall find!
Productivity Killer: Quantity targets
Incentives for hard work were borne out of the manufacturing floors, and the traditional methods were set quantity targets. This is a model that cannot stand the test of time unless you add quality as well as quantity, it’s one step forward, two steps back. Create the wrong incentives and you can actually demoralise and drive down productivity. Reward people and incentivise them for putting caps on bottles and you lose out in other areas. Quantity alone can never be King – your incentives have to be more than ‘do this – get that’ and instead have to be governed by some values – teamwork, politeness, customer care – whatever you choose.
Productivity Killer: Burnout
In Forbes, the American Psychological Association’s David Ballard, PsyD describes job burnout as “an extended period of time where someone experiences exhaustion and a lack of interest in things, resulting in a decline in their job performance.” It was originally named by Herbert Freudenberger and was used to describe the consequences when mixing severe stress with noble ideals in the “helping” professions, such as doctors and nurses. Now it could be anyone from your apprentice to your CEO. Burnout is so close to productivity it hurts, and when GDP is down, interest is low and motivation is in the toilet, it can seem like you need more, more, more. Where do you draw the line? Research has demonstrated the link between social support at work, lower rates of burnout, and greater work satisfaction and productivity – so empathy is key. As a leader, you have to encourage down time, sleep, switching off and family time. Don’t call that
It was originally named by Herbert Freudenberger and was used to describe the consequences when mixing severe stress with noble ideals in the “helping” professions, such as doctors and nurses. Now it could be anyone from your apprentice to your CEO. Burnout is so close to productivity it hurts, and when GDP is down, interest is low and motivation is in the toilet, it can seem like you need more, more, more. Where do you draw the line?
Research has demonstrated the link between social support at work, lower rates of burnout, and greater work satisfaction and productivity – so empathy is key. As a leader, you have to encourage down time, sleep, switching off and family time. Don’t call that 8am breakfast meeting, and keep an eye on how long the chatter goes on for. Today might see 30 minutes less work, but the benefits throughout the week could be far greater.