How to boost productivity in three key areas of your business

Is your business suffering from a slump in output? Here’s how you can boost productivity in three key areas of your business.

According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), the productivity of UK workers has dropped back to pre-financial crisis levels. Hourly output fell 0.5% in the first three months of 2017, and our productivity continues to lag behind our major trading partners such as the US, France and Germany.

Analysis of productivity tends to focus on the macro level – the big picture for UK plc as a whole. However, most of us are more interested in the micro level – namely, what can we do to make our company, division or team operate more productively?

How to boost productivity in three core areas

Typically, commentators identify three core elements to productivity: people, technology, and time. Here’s how you can boost your productivity in each area.

1) People

When it comes to getting the most out of employees there is no one-size-fits-all solution. However, a few simple management rules can help to boost productivity:

  • Notice good work.
  • Never be too busy or bootstrapped to invest time and/or money in coaching, mentoring and training.
  • Cross-train. If people understand how others in the company work, they make their own processes fit better with those of other teams, boosting efficiency.
  • Make sure everyone understands the business’ goals and their own part in them.
  • Try to make work enjoyable, and the workplace sociable and supportive.
  • Give workers the flexibility to work their way. For most people, this means choosing working hours and places that fit in with needs like childcare.

Engaging employees in this way can deliver significant results. Businesses recording top levels of employee engagement have 21% higher productivity according to research by Gallup.

In fact, this case study shows how Old Navy saved 20 million a year by improving employee engagement and productivity.

2) Technology

Certainly, today’s mobile technology and cloud-based services boost productivity by enabling staff to work wherever they find themselves. Gone are the days when a business trip meant being disconnected from colleagues or data.

However, these advantages also present potential dangers. Employers must be careful not to abuse the 24/7 communication possibilities of technology, otherwise they may end up with stressed, resentful staff.

Equally, technology should not eliminate face-to-face time. Our own research reveals that 84% of UK professionals believe that remote staff should attend monthly meetings.

It is also vital that employees have a conducive place to work. Mobile technology may enable people to work from cafes or at home, but these environments can be distracting. Purpose-designed, professional workspaces enable remote workers to turn-up, plug-in and get productive.

3) Time

Recent studies have pointed to the impact of emails and meetings on productivity, with analysts suggesting that workers spend more than a quarter of each day on emails alone. Whether employees can successfully reduce this impact remains to be seen but there are other, easier wins.

One significant destroyer of employee time is the commute. On average, UK professionals spend approximately 8.1 hours per week travelling to and from work – the equivalent of an entire working day.

Of course, this is simply the time taken to physically travel from point A to point B. What the figure doesn’t reflect is the effect of commuting on levels of tiredness and stress and the knock-on effect in terms of productivity once the destination has been reached.

But why persist with the model that asks people to work fixed hours at a fixed location? Allowing people to do their jobs closer to home gives them more space for both work and leisure. Eliminating the commute is better for work-life balance, and this flexible working model is proven to enhance both staff wellbeing and productivity.

Often, this will require a change in mindset from business leaders more used to managing face-to-face. Forward-thinking businesses are approaching the issue proactively, looking at working structures and re-evaluating how and where business objectives are achieved.

With businesses facing tough competition to attract the best employees, keeping hold of good people is essential. Getting the practical details right for the people who work for you – from their working hours, to enabling them to work closer to home in convenient, professional workspace – will boost engagement and enable them to do their best work.

Attitudes are changing; no longer is the worker asked to adapt to the workplace, rather, businesses are championing working structures that better enable employees to excel. The result is a happier, more productive workforce – and a boosted bottom-line.

Richard Morris is CEO of Spaces, creative working environments with a unique entrepreneurial spirit.