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How to Ensure Employee Productivity in a World Full of Distractions

How to Ensure Employee Productivity in a World  Full of Distractions

From Facebook to Pokemon Go, modern day employees have it pretty tough when it comes to distractions in the workplace. Although technology can also help them achieve their at-work goals more efficiently and effectively, it can also serve as a serious determent when it provides a more entertaining experience than the work they have in front of them.

If you’re an employer struggling to find the balance between offering an enjoyable work environment while also getting the best work out of your employees, you’re not alone. It can be difficult to achieve a workplace culture that fosters independent work, while also inspiring productivity and efficiency. Fortunately, there are several simple steps you can take to become more effective in your efforts to increase employee productivity without cracking down on employee fun.

Here are five ways you can ensure employee productivity, despite the many disruptions your employees face in today’s workplace.

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1. Keep your employees happy

In a recent study conducted by Warwick University, employees surveyed showed a 12 percent spike in productivity when they met criteria that considered them to be “happy” at work. The same study showed that unhappy employees showed a 10 percent decrease in productivity. Moral of the story? You need to make sure your employees enjoy their work environment if you want them to perform to the best of their ability.

A report on the study generated by Go to Meeting explained that some of the key factors involved with employee happiness include the quality of their relationships with coworkers, commute time, how well they get along with their managers, the degree of control they have over their work, and whether or not a natural work environment is accessible.

If you’re looking to increase productivity among your employees, consider each of the areas mentioned by the report, and think about what you’re currently doing to increase your employees’ satisfaction with them. Things like planning a few team building days, investing in ongoing leadership training, and offering spaces for your employees to work on benches outside of your office for part of the day, could really go a long way in keeping your employees happy.

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2. Understand where your employees excel

Few things are worse than attempting to complete a task in a timely manner when it involves skills that are outside of your own expertise. If you’re looking to have your employees work as effectively and efficiently as possible, it’s important that you take notice of their strengths and weaknesses, and assign their roles based on their abilities. Sure, you want to foster growth and encourage learning among your employees, but forcing them to work in an area where they are weaker will only leave them less happy and less productive.

If you’re at a loss when it comes to effectively managing your employees’ strengths and weaknesses, I recommend checking out this guide for a little help. It explains a little bit about how you can appropriately assign your employees’ tasks based on their strengths, while also guiding them to grow in areas where their performance could stand to improve.

3. Keep meetings light

We all get annoyed when we’re pulled away from current projects to attend meetings that seem kind of pointless. If you notice that employee productivity is lacking, a surplus of meetings could be the culprit. By scheduling and attending unnecessary meetings, your employees lose a significant amount of time from their days that could be better spent executing the projects they’ve been asked to oversee.

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Start to notice your meeting scheduling habits and consider whether or not you could stand to cut a few out of your daily routine. Once you’ve trimmed down your day a bit, ask your employees to do the same. Ask them to consider whether or not they feel that some meetings could be handled as a simple chat with a smaller group, in order to save some time and resources. You could also share this post from the Moz blog with them as well. It will surely give them a few good tips on scheduling more productive and effective meetings.

4. Consider a project queue platform

There’s something about having a to-do list that magically makes your work seem more organized and constructive. Providing a platform for your employees to create and complete their own to-do lists, will help them organize their work without making them feel like you’re imposing on their desire for autonomy.

An online platform I’ve had the best experience with is Basecamp. This platform allows you to create shared or individual projects, load up to-do lists in your queue, and collaborate with others using a shared file space. Your team could use a platform like this to either organize solo tasks, or facilitate the process of collaborating on group projects.

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5. Help them take ownership of their work

A critical component of productivity is accountability. Employees who take ownership of their work are more likely to work diligently to see it through to completion. Although many employers try to take the route of attempting to make their employees hold themselves accountable for their work, this is rarely effective. They key is to help your employees find projects that they can really call their own, and produce a finished product that they can feel accountable for.

SoapBox HQ offers up an excellent article that explains how you can help your employees take accountability for the work they produce.

Now that you’ve got the tips to get started, it’s time to analyze your current employee productivity efforts, and see how you can implement these concepts to send your employees’ performance through the roof! If you have any questions or additional tips for fellow readers, I’d love to hear them. Let me know in the comments below.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via static.pexels.com

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Last Updated on April 19, 2021

The Art of Taking a Break So You Will Be Productive Again

The Art of Taking a Break So You Will Be Productive Again

Think of yourself as a cup. Each day, you wake up full. But as you go about your day—getting tasks done and interacting with people—the amount in your cup gradually gets lower. And as such, you get less and less effective at whatever it is you’re supposed to be doing. You’re running out of steam.

The solution is obvious: if you don’t have anything left to pour out, then you need to find a way to fill yourself up again. In work terms, that means you should take a break—an essential form of revitalizing your motivation and focus.

Taking a break may get a bad rap in hustle culture, but it’s an essential, science-based way to ensure you have the capacity to live your life the way you want to live it.

In the 1980s, when scientists began researching burnout, they described this inner capacity as “resources.” We all need to replenish our resources to cope with stress, work effectively, and avoid burnout.[1]

When the goal is to get things done, it may sound counterproductive to stop what you’re doing. But if you embrace the art of taking a break, you can be more efficient and effective at work.

Here are five ways on how you can take a break and boost your productivity.

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1. Break for the Right Amount of Time, at the Right Time

When I started my first job out of college, I was bent on pleasing my boss as most entry-level employees do. So, every day, I punched in at 9 AM on the dot, took a 60-minute lunch break at noon, and left no earlier than 5 PM.

As I’ve logged more hours in my career, I’ve realized the average, eight-hour workday with an hour lunch break simply isn’t realistic—especially if your goal is to put your best foot forward at work.

That’s why popular productivity techniques like the Pomodoro advocate for the “sprint” principle. Basically, you work for a short burst, then stop for a short, five-minute break. While the Pomodoro technique is a step forward, more recent research shows a shorter burst of working followed by a longer pause from work might actually be a more effective way to get the most out of stepping away from your desk.

The team at DeskTime analyzed more than 5 million records of how workers used their computers on the job. They found that the most productive people worked an average of 52 minutes, then took a 17-minute break afterward.[2]

What’s so special about those numbers? Leave it to neuroscience. According to researchers, the human brain naturally works in spurts of activity that last an hour. Then, it toggles to “low-activity mode.”[3]

Even so, keep in mind that whatever motivates you is the most effective method. It’s more about the premise—when you know you have a “finish line” approaching, you can stay focused on the task or project at hand.

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There are many applications and tools that can help you block distracting websites and apps (such as social media) for specific periods of the day. Similarly, you can also use some mailing apps like Mailbrew to receive all the social media content or newsletters you don’t want to miss in your inbox at a time you decide.

So, no matter how long you work, take a break when you sense you’re losing steam or getting bored with the task. Generally, a 10-15 minute break should reinvigorate you for whatever’s coming next.

2. Get a Change of Scenery—Ideally, Outdoors

When it comes to increasing a person’s overall mental health, there’s no better balm than nature. Research has found that simply being outside can restore a person’s mind from mental fatigue related to work or studying, ultimately contributing to improved work performance (and even improved work satisfaction).[4]

No lush forest around? Urban nature can be just as effective to get the most out of your break-taking. Scientists Stephen R. Kellert and Edward O. Wilson, in their book The Biophilia Hypothesis, claimed that even parks, outdoor paths, and building designs that embrace “urban nature” can lend a sense of calm and inspiration, encouraging learning and alertness for workers.

3. Move Your Body

A change of scenery can do wonders for your attention span and ability to focus, but it’s even more beneficial if you pair it with physical movement to pump up that adrenaline of yours. Simply put, your body wasn’t designed to be seated the entire day. In fact, scientists now believe that extended periods of sitting are just as dangerous to health as smoking.[5]

It’s not always feasible to enjoy the benefits of a 30-minute brisk walk during your workday, especially since you’ll most likely have less energy during workdays. But the good news is, for productivity purposes, you don’t have to. Researchers found that just 10 minutes of exercise can boost your memory and attention span throughout the entire day.[6]

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So, instead of using your break to sit and read the news or scroll your social media account, get out of your chair and move your body. Take a quick walk around the block. Do some jumping jacks in your home office. Whatever you choose, you’ll likely find yourself with a sharper focus—and more drive to get things done.

4. Connect With Another Person

Social connection is one of the most important factors for resilience. When we’re in a relationship with other people, it’s easier to cope with stress—and in my experience, getting social can also help to improve focus after a work break.

One of my favorite ways to break after a 30-or-so minute sprint is to hang out with my family. And once a week, I carve out time to Skype my relatives back in Turkey. It’s amazing how a bit of levity and emotional connection can rev me up for the next work sprint.

Now that most of us are working from home, getting some face-to-face time with a loved one isn’t as hard as it once was. So, take the time to chat with your partner. Take your kids outside to run around the backyard. If you live alone, call a friend or relative. Either way, coming up for air to chat with someone who knows and cares about you will leave you feeling invigorated and inspired.

5. Use Your Imagination

When you’re working with your head down, your brain has an ongoing agenda: get things done, and do it well. That can be an effective method for productivity, but it only lasts so long—especially because checking things off your to-do list isn’t the only ingredient to success at work. You also need innovation.

That’s why I prioritize a “brain break” every day. When I feel my “cup” getting empty, I usually choose another creative activity to exercise my brain, like a Crossword puzzle, Sudoku, or an unrelated, creative project in my house.

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And when I’m really struggling to focus, I don’t do anything at all. Instead, I let my brain roam free for a bit, following my thoughts down whatever trail they lead me. As it turns out, there’s a scientific benefit to daydreaming. It reinforces creativity and helps you feel more engaged with the world, which will only benefit you in your work.[7]

Whether you help your kids with their distance learning homework, read an inspiring book, or just sit quietly to enjoy some fresh air, your brain will benefit from an opportunity to think and feel without an agenda. And, if you’re anything like me, you might just come up with your next great idea when you aren’t even trying.

Final Thoughts

Most of us have to work hard for our families and ourselves. And the current world we live in demands the highest level of productivity that we can offer. However, we also have to take a break once in a while. We are humans, after all.

Learning the art of properly taking a break will not only give you the rest you need but also increase your productivity in the long run.

More on the Importance of Taking a Break

Featured photo credit: Helena Lopes via unsplash.com

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