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Why So Serious? Being Playful Is the New Work Ethic Now

Why So Serious? Being Playful Is the New Work Ethic Now

All our lives, we’ve been asked to grow up and get serious. Beginning with our parents and teachers, and then moving on to our bosses, many of us have often heard this homily, “it’s time you got serious about your life”. But what if this very seriousness that leads to lack in playfulness in culling our creativity and productivity, and in a way holding us back? The work hard play hard concept is actually proving to be true.

The 4 Types of Playfulness in Adults

René Proyer, PhD belonging to the Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg in Germany, has spent the last decade and a little more, in studying playfulness and its benefits in adults. In a study, Proyer has identified four different kinds of playfulness in adults:[1]

  • Other-directed playfulness: Playing around with friends, family, and coworkers, which include kidding and playing pranks.
  • Light-hearted playfulness: Regarding many aspects of life as a game and living with a rather carefree attitude.
  • Intellectual playfulness: Playing with different thoughts and ideas, sort of like playacting in the head.
  • Whimsical playfulness: Interested in strange or unusual aspects of life, noticing small day-to-day occurrences like Ramanujan discovering the Hardy-Ramanujan number through a taxi he often rode in London.[2]

Why You Need Other-Directed Playfulness and Intellectual Playfulness at Work

When it comes to a work environment, the first and third of these playfulness type are most significant.

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Other-directed playfulness means that you as a person keep kidding around and making jokes at office – in a way making yourself and people laugh. This wit of yours not only reduces your stress and makes the life of the office, or even a party, but also makes the workplace a better place to be at for as they say, laughter is indeed the best medicine.[3]

The other important playfulness type at work is intellectual playfulness. These are people with vivid imaginations who can playact situations in their heads and basically make work interesting and less boring. These people turn their work into a game. And by being creative and competitive, they can basically achieve a lot more than the average Joe who simply slogs away at his desk, thinking of work as an important chore. Often outspoken, these are the people who considered being the out-of-the-box thinkers, for they can imagine different solutions to the same problem with ease, making them rather valued employees. Not to say that they aren’t hard-working, rather they follow a work hard play hard kind of lifestyle.[4]

Why Being Playful Can Boost Your Productivity

“Enlightened” companies like Linkedin or Google have dream workplaces where employees can play video games, foosball or even play beach volleyball at the company HQs.[5]. However, these companies are few and far between, though all companies should realize that the best employees are the ones who work hard play hard!

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  • Playfulness makes work happen faster: When you indulge in gamifying your work, or just make work seem more creative – it seems less boring – and work that is not boring can be completed much faster that a chore that makes you nod off.
  • Playfulness leads to creative thinking: If you can view the same problem from one or ten fresh perspectives, you are likely to reach a solution much faster.
  • Playfulness lowers stress: An office filled with laughing and smiling employees who are allowed to kid with each other and maybe even compete with each other in various games are likely to be low on stress and high on productivity.
  • Playfulness makes for a motivated work force: Employees who are allowed to work hard play hard and not chained to their desk are motivated to do more on an everyday basis for they are happy, satisfied people willing to give all they have to excel at their jobs.
  • In totality, playfulness boosts productivity: If you have a workforce that is happy, not stressed, creative thinkers and motivated – you have a super productive workforce indeed. [6]

5 Ways to Let Playfulness Boost Your Productivity

Now that we’ve extolled the virtues of being playful, let’s talk about how you can incorporate playfulness into your workplace and boost your productivity, keeping in mind that playfulness can never ever equate to hurtfulness. Making fun of others, playing rude and OTT pranks is not what playfulness is about – it’s simply a state of being where you laugh, make others laugh and unleash that creative bent of mind that was hiding in every day’s mundane appearance.

Recapture that excitement

Remember the first day of work? That excitement you felt? Try and get it back – be the same excited and enthused person you were. This will motivate you to do better at work. And excitement is infectious – it rubs of. As does happiness.

Interact with your colleagues at work

You may be witty in your head and have a repartee that could leave them rolling on the floor – but for you to be truly playful, you need to go out and interact with other people. Keeping to yourself or not having the confidence can be a killer – so take a deep breath and start with simply smiling and greeting those you meet. Give them a pat on their back and give credit when its due and slowly you can unleash that comedian hiding underneath your reserved exterior. Share a joke or a riddle, an anecdote that makes you the fall guy and let those smiles and giggles escape those usually pursed lips. This makes you appear human, will usually make people see you in a positive light and make you a popular and nice person to be around, which also means that people will be willing to lend you a helping hand.

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Get to know your colleagues out of work too

We spend so much time at work, that it might as well be our second home. So colleagues often become part of our circle of friends as well. Get to know them better by inviting them over for a game, a drink or dinner, or maybe even a movie or short trip. Be fun and play a fun host – let down that proverbial hair and have a good time. Make a joke, a few wisecracks, and when the joke is on you – claim it![7]. Once you get to know your colleagues on a personal level, you will be able to connect with them better at work as well.

Look at a problem with a creative eye

When faced with a challenge, problem or obstacle at work – don’t approach it like you always do. Instead, think of it like the way you used to solve problems as a child – your approach may have been head on, or breaking the problem into small solvable bits. Don’t be adult about it, be as childish as you like – and you will end up finding a creative, if off the beaten track solution.

Give in to that imp

Sometimes a crummy day deserved a boot to the door, or a few frustrated jumps on spot and a devil of a boss deserved that stuck out tongue. Make sure the coast is clear and give in to that temptation – you’ll feel tons better in a bit. And if a colleague catches you in the act, a wink and a smile will make his day too. Smiling will increase your productivity.

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Finally, look at how kids play – no one wins or loses. So even if you invite a few friends over, keep any agendas out of it. Enjoy and be in the moment and just exist in calm, serene and hilarious waters for a while.[8]

Reference

[1] Science Direct: Proyer Study
[2] Wikipedia: 1729
[3] Help Guide: Laughter is the Best Medicine
[4] Psy Wb: The Virtuousness of Adult Playfulness
[5] Fox News: Work Hard Play Harder
[6] Reader’s Digest: Playful Productivity
[7] Psychology Today: The 7 Habits of Highly Playful People
[8] Tiny Buddha: 10 Ways To Make Your Life More Playful

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Last Updated on January 6, 2021

14 Ideas on How to Measure Productivity to Make Progress

14 Ideas on How to Measure Productivity to Make Progress

Everyone has heard the term productivity, and people talk about it in terms of how high it is and how to improve it. But fewer know how to measure productivity, or even what exactly we are talking about when using the term “productivity.”

In its simplest form, the productivity formula looks like this: Output ÷ Input = Productivity.

For example, you have two salespeople each making 10 calls to customers per week. The first one averages 2 sales per week and the second one averages 3 sales per week. By plugging in the numbers we get the following productivity levels for each sales person.

For salesperson one, the output is 2 sales and the input is 10 sales: 2 ÷ 10 = .2 or 20% productivity. For salesperson two, the output is 3 sales and the input is 10 sales: 3 ÷ 10 = .3 or 30% productivity.

Knowing how to measure and interpret productivity is an invaluable asset for any manager or business owner in today’s world. As an example, in the above scenario, salesperson #1 is clearly not doing as well as salesperson #2.

Knowing this information we can now better determine what course of action to take with salesperson #1.

Some possible outcomes might be to require more in-house training for that salesperson, or to have them accompany the more productive salesperson to learn a better technique. It might be that salesperson #1 just isn’t suited for sales and would do a better job in a different position.

How to Measure Productivity With Management Techniques

Knowing how to measure productivity allows you to fine tune your business by minimizing costs and maximizing profits:

1. Identify Long and Short-Term Goals

Having a good understanding of what you (or your company’s) goals are is key to measuring productivity.

For example, if your company’s goal is to maximize market share, you’ll want to measure your team’s productivity by their ability to acquire new customers, not necessarily on actual sales made.

2. Break Down Goals Into Smaller Weekly Objectives

Your long-term goal might be to get 1,000 new customers in a year. That’s going to be 20 new customers per week. If you have 5 people on your team, then each one needs to bring in 4 new customers per week.

Now that you’ve broken it down, you can track each person’s productivity week-by-week just by plugging in the numbers:

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Productivity = number of new customers ÷ number of sales calls made

3. Create a System

Have you ever noticed that whenever you walk into a McDonald’s, the French fry machine is always to your left? 

This is because McDonald’s created a system. They have determined that the most efficient way to set up a kitchen is to always have the French fry machine on the left when you walk in.

You can do the same thing and just adapt it to your business.

Let’s say that you know that your most productive salespeople are making the most sales between the hours of 3 and 7 pm. If the other salespeople are working from 9 am to 4 pm, you can potentially increase productivity through something as simple as adjusting the workday.

Knowing how to measure productivity allows you to set up, monitor, and fine tune systems to maximize output.

4. Evaluate, Evaluate, Evaluate!

We’ve already touched on using these productivity numbers to evaluate and monitor your employees, but don’t forget to evaluate yourself using these same measurements.

If you have set up a system to track and measure employees’ performance, but you’re still not meeting goals, it may be time to look at your management style. After all, your management is a big part of the input side of our equation.

Are you more of a carrot or a stick type of manager? Maybe you can try being more of the opposite type to see if that changes productivity. Are you managing your employees as a group? Perhaps taking a more one-on-one approach would be a better way to utilize each individual’s strengths and weaknesses.

Just remember that you and your management style contribute directly to your employees’ productivity.

5. Use a Ratings Scale

Having clear and concise objectives for individual employees is a crucial part of any attempt to increase workplace productivity. Once you have set the goals or objectives, it’s important that your employees are given regular feedback regarding their progress.

Using a ratings scale is a good way to provide a standardized visual representation of progress. Using a scale of 1-5 or 1-10 is a good way to give clear and concise feedback on an individual basis.

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It’s also a good way to track long-term progress and growth in areas that need improvement.

6. Hire “Mystery Shoppers”

This is especially helpful in retail operations where customer service is critical. A mystery shopper can give feedback based on what a typical customer is likely to experience.

You can hire your own shopper, or there are firms that will provide them for you. No matter which route you choose, it’s important that the mystery shoppers have a standardized checklist for their evaluation.

You can request evaluations for your employees friendliness, how long it took to greet the shopper, employees’ knowledge of the products or services, and just about anything else that’s important to a retail operation.

7. Offer Feedback Forms

Using a feedback form is a great way to get direct input from existing customers. There are just a couple of things to keep in mind when using feedback forms.

First, keep the form short, 2-3 questions max with a space for any additional comments. Asking people to fill out a long form with lots of questions will significantly reduce the amount of information you receive.

Secondly, be aware that customers are much more likely to submit feedback forms when they are unhappy or have a complaint than when they are satisfied.

You can offset this tendency by asking everyone to take the survey at the end of their interaction. This will increase compliance and give you a broader range of customer experiences, which will help as you’re learning how to measure productivity.

8. Track Cost Effectiveness

This is a great metric to have, especially if your employees have some discretion over their budgets. You can track how much each person spends and how they spend it against their productivity.

Again, this one is easy to plug into the equation: Productivity = amount of money brought in ÷ amount of money spent.

Having this information is very useful in forecasting expenses and estimating budgets.

9. Use Self-Evaluations

Asking your staff to do self evaluations can be a win-win for everyone. Studies have shown that when employees feel that they are involved and their input is taken seriously, morale improves. And as we all know, high employee morale translates into higher productivity.

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Using self-evaluations is also a good way to make sure that the employees and employers goals are in alignment.

10. Monitor Time Management

This is the number one killer of productivity in the workplace. Time spent browsing the internet, playing games, checking email, and making personal calls all contribute to lower productivity[1].

Time Management Tips to Improve Productivity

    The trick is to limit these activities without becoming overbearing and affecting morale. Studies have shown that most people will adhere to rules that they feel are fair and applied to everyone equally.

    While ideally, we may think that none of these activities should be done on company time, employees will almost certainly have a different opinion. From a productivity standpoint, it is best to have policies and rules that are seen as fair to both sides as you’re learning how to measure productivity.

    11. Analyze New Customer Acquisition

    We’ve all heard the phrase that “It’s more expensive to get a new customer than it is to keep an existing one.” And while that is very true, in order for your business to keep growing, you will need to continually add new customers.

    Knowing how to measure productivity via new customer acquisition will make sure that your marketing dollars are being spent in the most efficient way possible. This is another metric that’s easy to plug into the formula: Productivity = number of new customers ÷ amount of money spent to acquire those customers.

    For example, if you run any kind of advertising campaign, you can compare results and base your future spending accordingly.

    Let’s say that your total advertising budget is $3,000. You put $2,000 into television ads, $700 into radio ads, and $300 into print ads. When you track the results, you find that your television ad produced 50 new customers, your radio ad produced 15 new customers, and your print ad produced 9 new customers.

    Let’s plug those numbers into our equation. Television produced 50 new customers at a cost of $2,000 (50 ÷ 2000 = .025, or a productivity rate of 2.5%). The radio ads produced 15 new customers and cost $700 (15 ÷ 700 = .022, or a 2.2% productivity rate). Print ads brought in 9 new customers and cost $300 (9 ÷ 300 = .03, or a 3% return on productivity).

    From this analysis, it is clear that you would be getting the biggest bang for your advertising dollar using print ads.

    12. Utilize Peer Feedback

    This is especially useful when people who work in teams or groups. While self-assessments can be very useful, the average person is notoriously bad at assessing their own abilities.

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    Just ask a room full of people how many consider themselves to be an above average driver and you’ll see 70% of the hands go up[2]! Now we clearly know that in reality about 25% of drivers are below average, 25% are above average, and 50% are average.

    Are all these people lying? No, they just don’t have an accurate assessment of their own abilities.

    It’s the same in the workplace. Using peer feedback will often provide a more accurate assessment of a person’s ability than a self-assessment would.

    13. Encourage Innovation and Don’t Penalize Failure

    When it comes to productivity, encouraging employee input and adopting their ideas can be a great way to boost productivity. Just make sure that any changes you adopt translate into higher productivity.

    Let’s say that someone comes to you requesting an entertainment budget so that they can take potential customers golfing or out to dinner. By utilizing simple productivity metrics, you can easily produce a cost benefit analysis and either expand the program to the rest of the sales team, or terminate it completely.

    Either way, you have gained valuable knowledge and boosted morale by including employees in the decision-making process.

    14. Use an External Evaluator

    Using an external evaluator is the pinnacle of objective evaluations. Firms that provide professional evaluations use highly trained personnel that even specialize in specific industries.

    They will design a complete analysis of your business’ productivity level. In their final report, they will offer suggestions and recommendations on how to improve productivity.

    While the benefits of a professional evaluation are many, their costs make them prohibitive for most businesses.

    Final Thoughts

    These are just a few of the things you can do when learning how to measure productivity. Some may work for your particular situation, and some may not.

    The most important thing to remember when deciding how to track productivity is to choose a method consistent with your goals. Once you’ve decided on that, it’s just a matter of continuously monitoring your progress, making minor adjustments, and analyzing the results of those adjustments.

    The business world is changing fast, and having the right tools to track and monitor your productivity can give you the edge over your competition.

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    Featured photo credit: William Iven via unsplash.com

    Reference

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