Workplace productivity isn't about constantly pushing ourselves to do more in every single moment.
Busyness is an outdated concept that only leads to exhaustion and burnout for everyone involved. You don't want to learn how to do more things in less time but rather how to do the right things efficiently.
Genuine workplace productivity is about focusing on the right tasks, not for the sake of being busy but for the sake of purpose and focused effort. True workplace productivity allows each person to bring their creativity, skillset, unique perspectives, and energy to the tasks that truly matter.
Whether you're a team leader or an individual contributor, this guide will give you some ideas on transitioning from being busy to being efficient, productive, and impactful.
What is workplace productivity?
Workplace productivity is often typically described as the amount of work a team member can do within a certain number of hours relative to the cost of labor.
But the description above gives a distorted view of the real meaning. Without considering the value of the work achieved, it simply describes a volumetric output in relation to investment.
So if workplace productivity isn't about maximizing time, what is it about?
Ultimately workplace productivity is quite simple: you're accomplishing meaningful tasks efficiently to the benefit of both yourself as an individual and the company. It's not about accomplishing any task; for any workplace and workplace professional, it means successfully achieving your most significant goals, in other words, SMART activities.
Various factors influence workplace productivity, including physical space, output-focused environments, culture, and employees' personal habits.
Additionally, the availability of resources, technology, effective communication and collaboration, management practices, work-life balance, and employee motivation and engagement.
All of these factors play crucial roles in determining the level of productivity within a workplace. Understanding and optimizing these factors can significantly enhance productivity within any organization.
Why workplace productivity matters
A more productive workforce working on goals that matter to the business will positively correlate with company performance.
Research conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) revealed that organizations with a strong focus on productivity experienced lower employee turnover rates and higher levels of employee satisfaction.
Employees actively involved in their work and engaged in purposeful tasks are likely to be more productive. Organizations with high levels of worker engagement are four times more likely to succeed than others that don’t. The converse is also true. Employees who are more productive are likely to be more engaged and committed to their work.
What’s killing workplace productivity?
According to WorkLife, nine-to-five is a lie, with nearly half of workers saying they work 4 hours a day or less. The number one workplace distraction that kills productivity, according to Microsoft, is meetings.
And if meetings aren't killing your ability to perform, then multitasking is.
Consider how many times you've tried to perform a task while in a meeting but then read a message on Slack and half an hour later still hadn't completed the task nor listened to the meeting. There can be no doubt that context switching kills your productivity.
In his bookDeep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World, Cal Newport, renowned author and computer science professor, states that trying to clear your emails, attending pointless meetings, and group chat notifications is no way to get ahead in today’s economy.
In simple terms, deep work is a professional task that you do with complete focus and without distractions. It challenges your brain to its maximum capacity and helps you produce valuable outcomes.
Multitasking may be the norm, but it's highly inefficient. Monotasking and deep work in the face of constant distraction is the way to get ahead.
5 ways to boost workplace productivity
There are a million and one ways to boost productivity, but just five are going to make a significant difference. They are:
A focus on work-life wellbeing
Creating a positive work culture
Unsurprisingly, burnout often arises from having to spend extensive periods of time on meaningless tasks. So boosting productivity isn't just about managing the time spent on activities; it begins with spending time on the right activities.
Once the right activities have been identified, it becomes easier to implement small hacks such as time blocking to eliminate context switching to enhance efficiency.
Work-life wellbeing isn't just the antidote to burnout and disengagement. It's the fuel needed to promote holistic professional and organizational growth.
Along with Gen Z, millennials are looking for companies and jobs that support their lifestyles. Many organizations recognize that productivity is no longer confined to the boundaries of the office.
A truly productive work environment enables team members to effectively manage their work, home lives, hobbies, and family commitments. By promoting flexibility and work-life balance, organizations can create an atmosphere that nurtures overall wellbeing and allows individuals to thrive in all areas of their lives.
Work-life wellbeing improves productivity and engagement and can be supported by flexible work hours, remote working options, and telecommuting. Simple but highly valued benefits like paid time off and a hybrid approach to work can go a long way to engaging team members.
Wellbeing may begin at home with the individual in a lifestyle context, but the right culture fosters it in a greater capacity and, in doing so, fosters productivity.
2. Creating a positive work culture
Culture is both an inside-out and outside-in game.
In as much as employees need to be mindful of how they manage their time, organizations themselves play a massive role in setting up workplace productivity through culture.
Companies looking to build a more productive workplace can look to rewarding outcomes instead of activity to promote more outcomes-based work. In addition, changing the approach to work, such as in the case of an agile approach, may be beneficial in creating an engaged and productive culture.
An agile workplace empowers teams to take ownership of projects, manage their time, and work according to their strengths. Performance is judged on the quality of the work instead of time spent sitting at a desk.
The most affirmative cultures are set by having a shared purpose and a more efficient way to work. By creating a culture that focuses on purpose and meaning, and the essential goals and objectives of the organization, organizations can lay the foundation for a highly productive and efficient workplace.
Three ways to promote a positive work culture include supporting professional development and growth, maximizing diversity, and giving teams more autonomy.
Supporting professional development and growth
The connection between professional growth and productivity is significant. According to ClearCompany, 74% of employees say that a lack of professional development opportunities prevents them from reaching their full potential.
Ongoing learning and development initiatives provide employees with the tools and resources to enhance their knowledge and skill sets. This, in turn, equips them to perform their tasks more effectively, solve problems efficiently, and adapt to new technologies and work processes.
The bottom line is that well-skilled, confident employees are more likely to be engaged employees.
Knowledge transfer doesn't just benefit the employee, but it's the organization's greatest asset and quickest path to success. By investing in their employees' growth, organizations create a better-equipped workforce to handle challenges, seize opportunities, and drive productivity.
A diverse and inclusive workplace fosters an environment that encourages the open exchange of ideas, enabling individuals from various backgrounds to come together, learn from one another, and ultimately drive innovation and productivity.
When people with different perspectives, experiences, and expertise collaborate, they bring a wealth of unique insights that can lead to groundbreaking solutions and creative problem-solving.
By embracing diversity, companies create a space where individuals feel valued, respected, and empowered, cultivating a sense of belonging and encouraging them to contribute their best work.
Ultimately, organizations that prioritize diversity and inclusivity not only create a positive work environment but also unlock the potential for greater innovation, productivity, and financial success.
Giving teams and team members autonomy
No one likes to be told what to do when and each employee will have their style of delivery. One way to achieve an empowered workforce is by encouraging personal responsibility through well-defined organizational policies.
When individuals are empowered to make decisions and take ownership of their work, they become more invested in its success and are motivated to perform at their best.
Additionally, exploring the art of delegation and outsourcing can be beneficial. By identifying the strengths and skills of each team member, tasks can be assigned to the most suitable individuals, allowing them to excel in their areas of expertise.
This not only enhances efficiency but also frees up time for team members to focus on higher-value work that contributes to the overall productivity and success of the organization.
3. Leveraging technology for better outcomes
We get interrupted a lot at work and tend to lose half of our time on the job to unproductive distractions. Used strategically, technology can be a radical solution not just in minimizing distractions and saving time lost at work but in enhancing ways of work.
Productivity isn't just about focused work but also about efficiency and systemization. To enhance productivity through systemization, it's crucial to establish streamlined processes and efficient workflows. It begins from day one in systemizing onboarding and training and tasks that can be automated.
By automating onboarding and training, companies can improve productivity by reducing administrative tasks, ensuring consistent training across departments, and creating a more engaging and self-directed onboarding experience for new hires.
This doesn't just minimize overwhelm for the HR team but for new hires who, instead of receiving a ton of paperwork, lengthy training sessions, and inconsistent training across departments, log onto a centralized platform that offers a personalized learning experience.
Team members can move through at their own pace, allowing them to learn and assimilate information more effectively without feeling overwhelmed.
Creating standardized procedures and automating repetitive tasks whenever possible can free up valuable time and energy for more strategic and creative endeavors.
Streamlining communication and work processes is crucial for fostering a collaborative work culture and maximizing productivity.
A thousand Slack messages a day isn't conducive to a productive workforce. Instead, creating structures to allow team members to freely exchange ideas, feedback, and information leads to improved collaboration and problem-solving.
This kind of systematic but transparent and inclusive approach ensures that everyone feels heard and valued, ultimately boosting morale and engagement. And it won't take up hours spent reading and writing messages either!
Additionally, structuring meetings effectively plays a vital role in streamlining work processes. Clear agendas, defined objectives, and allocated timeframes help keep discussions focused and productive.
By minimizing unnecessary tangents and maximizing efficiency, structured meetings enable teams to make decisions faster and achieve desired outcomes more efficiently.
Implementing streamlined communication practices and establishing structured meetings enhances teamwork and creativity, accelerates project timelines, and drives overall organizational success.
5. Using data to drive personal and organizational productivity
Data is the driving force in ensuring and maintaining accountability and productivity for the benefit of employees and the organization.
Key performance indicators (KPIs) serve as a compass, illuminating the path toward enhanced productivity. By analyzing data, teams can identify areas for improvement and pinpoint bottlenecks and inefficiencies in workplace processes that hinder progress.
Moreover, data empowers leaders to inspire and motivate teams, as clear goals and expectations become tangible benchmarks for success.
With data as your ally, you can unlock the full potential of your personal and organizational productivity, propelling you towards greater achievements.
Less can be more
Implementing effective strategies to enhance workplace productivity not only benefits the organization but also contributes to employee satisfaction, engagement, and overall wellbeing.
By incorporating well-designed processes and procedures, clear communication channels, and supportive resources, the organization creates an environment that fosters productivity and empowers employees to perform their best.
When individuals feel a sense of accomplishment and see their efforts making a difference, their satisfaction and engagement levels increase, leading to higher job satisfaction and motivation.
Moreover, by prioritizing the wellbeing of employees, the organization promotes a healthy work-life balance, reducing stress and promoting overall wellbeing. Ultimately, this results in a productive and satisfied workforce that drives the success and growth of the organization, forming a positive cycle of productivity, satisfaction, and wellbeing.
By creating a work environment that promotes productivity, prioritizes value, and fosters a positive culture, your organization can achieve sustainable growth and stay competitive in today's fast-paced business landscape.
Commitment to cultivating a conducive work environment can lead to tangible benefits and help companies thrive in the market.
Workplace productivity is not up to the HR manager but to the teams, team members, and the organization. So if you're wondering how to supercharge your workplace productivity, don't try to jam more into less time.
Instead, individuals must identify whether the tasks at hand actually contribute to the organization's objectives. Teams can analyze their manner of working. Organizations should aim to create a positive work culture, enlist technology, and utilize data to connect meaning to outcomes.
Invest in employee growth, experience, and retention. Learn how to achieve greater productivity through employee success plans.
Align organizational and individual goals
Establish employee performance standards and track individual goals with performance management systems.
Lisa Steingold is a human behavior enthusiast and head of content for Whale – a knowledge-sharing and training platform. Having researched human behavior for over 2 decades, she's the author of 4 books and is obsessed with helping teams unlock the next level of growth.
Align organizational and individual goals
Establish employee performance standards and track individual goals with performance management systems.