What separates productive employees from their colleagues? Chances are, there are multiple reasons why your top performers deliver more work in the same amount of time. Although building a productive workplace begins with hiring the right people, your company’s culture, office environment, leadership and vision also dictate how motivated your employees feel when tackling their workloads.
For company stakeholders, employee productivity is essential for the longevity and continued success of an organization. In fact, a Gallup study showed that businesses who have the highest levels of engagement in their workforces are over 20% more profitable than their disengaged counterparts. But productivity yields benefits far beyond its monetary value; it’s also an indicator of how engaged and invested employees are in their jobs.
But how, exactly, can you achieve a more productive work culture in your office? Perhaps the easiest way is by looking at the obstacles that are currently in your way and eliminating them. To get started, consider these common stumbling blocks that many organizations face, as well as some solutions to mitigate them.
Obstacle 1: Poor Communication
There’s an intrinsic relationship between communication and a team’s ability to work productively. Whether you’re interviewing a prospective new employee or planning for a company-wide presentation, communication is fundamental to aligning team objectives, bolstering collaboration and building interpersonal relationships.
In today’s workplace, however, communication can become an inhibitor to productivity if you’re not careful. The Harvard Business Review reports in the past two decades communication at work has increased by at least 50% as employees spend time following up on emails, dialing into video conferences and attending meeting after meeting. According to RescueTime, a time management tool, people have only 1 hour and 12 minutes of their workday when they aren’t being distracted by communication tools.
This means that productive conversations require you to not only convey your message clearly, but to also do so as succinctly as possible. To overcome this first obstacle, you should consider conducting a communications audit. Compile a list of all your communication strategies—email, texting, phone calls, video and in-person meetings, etc.—to discover how your company uses each tool as well as to identify any functional overlap or gap.
The results may surprise you—perhaps you discover that each of your departments is using a different chat platform. Or you might find your mandatory company-wide assemblies aren’t yielding the results you’d anticipated.
Obstacle 2: Outdated Tools
No update to your office is complete without revisiting your current technology and finding new solutions to improve it. Although you might avoid some initial expenses by delaying a tech update, there’s a good chance that those savings will be devoured quickly by other costs. In a ZenBusiness poll from last year, which surveyed nearly 1000 office workers, over half said that outdated technology affected their ability to be productive—be it slow-performing computers, faulty printers or unintelligible phone lines.
In fact, the modern workplace has become so reliant on technology that it is nearly impossible to operate without it. Customers want to conduct business with companies that are digitally proficient and available on the web, whether that is through eCommerce shopping, social media engagement or communication through their website’s chat.
Similarly, employees enjoy working for “technologically literate” companies for a number of reasons. Technology unlocks benefits like remote and work-from-home arrangements, as your team members can access the tools they use at work through just their laptops. For businesses who rely on freelancers, full-time remote workers or multiple offices, technology is sometimes the only way to connect your teams and keep productivity on track. A SHRM article noted more than 95% of remote workers rely on technology at some level to collaborate with their coworkers.
One of best examples of a technology that helps businesses replace their outdated tools is a technology called VoIP, or Voice over IP, according to 8×8, a cloud-based communications solution. VoIP is able to transmit communication information through an internet connection, meaning that its users can collaborate from a number of different devices. It’s a great example of a technology that organizations can implement to replace analog equipment, such as phone systems and fax machines, with digital software alternatives. By updating your hardwired systems with digitized ones, you can ensure that your tools are more widely accessible, shareable and easier to update in the future.
Obstacle 3: Reactive Work Cultures
Closely tied to your overall work environment, the final productivity obstacle that many businesses encounter has to do with their approach to solving problems as they arise. The difference is a proactive perspective versus a reactive one. As defined by Bizfluent, a proactive company is one that develops strategies around the future of their business, including the potential opportunities or difficulties that may arise. Reactionary companies, therefore, are the opposite and can only respond to situations as they face them in the present moment.
When it comes to obstructing your workforce’s productivity, reactive work cultures pose a number of challenges. If you’re attempting to remedy an issue only when you’ve started to notice it, you’re already too late to avoid the damage that the situation will cause. The same is true during hiring—if you only begin to seek additional help when your current team is saddled with a mounting workload, you haven’t considered the time and resources you’ll need to find, acquire and train that new talent. Proactivity helps avoid the repercussions of these situations by addressing them before they have the chance to affect day-to-day work.
Fortunately, the key to making the switch from reacting to proacting is simple. Although it may be impossible to 100% accurately forecast the future of your business, listening to and valuing the experiences of your current employees—along with your candidates and customers—is an essential first step according to Inc. After all, these are the people who truly have their fingers on your company’s pulse. If you remain attentive to their suggestions, concerns and predictions, you’ll have a much better sense of the direction you should take to continue driving productivity and growth.
On the author:
Georgia McLachlan is an expert in all things business. As an online content professional for business communities, her interests include helping SMBs develop smarter, data-driven work environments, as well as tracking the trajectories of the business technology landscape.
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