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10 Signs of a Productive Office

10 Signs of a Productive Office

Finding a new job is undeniably stressful. Polishing your resume, applying for jobs, interviewing, interviewing again – you really invest a lot in finding a new place to work. For this reason, I’ve compiled a list of 10 signs you should look for in a productive office. These signs will tip you off as to whether or not you will grow as a professional in your office environment. They might be small, but they are emblematic of the larger culture.

1. Work Space Layout

The actual physical layout of cubicles and other types of work space is a vital indicator of how much the company is willing to invest in its employees. As you walk through the office for your interview, you should be able to catch a glimpse of the physical work space assigned to employees of your level.

Take note, as this is an important sign of a productive office. If people are working at what seems like random set-ups, with desks strewn wherever they fit, then the company is likely not all that productive. If they invest in high quality cubicles or office space, that means the position you are interviewing for was definitively planned-for and will likely be empowering.

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2. Good Lighting

This is a surprising tip to recognize a productive office. As you go in for your interview, try to note the details of the lighting and the layout of the fixtures. If there are any dimly-lit areas, or if the ceiling is a hodgepodge of random lighting fixtures, then the management has not made it a priority to ensure that everyone can see their work. I have experienced this first-hand. Some of the most productive offices I have worked in have been the brightest, while the worst have simply been poorly-lit.

3. The Office is Colorful

Average or entirely unproductive offices will be bathed in taupes and egg-shell whites, as productive office environments, while not necessarily painted with rainbow murals, will be accented in some way by bright blues, yellows, reds, and other colors. Even better, if you are able to notice that areas seem to be color coordinated to work-styles – for example, IT works in areas with reds, creative teams work in yellow – then you are in a highly productive forward-thinking office.

4. The Office Allows for Ergonomic Comfort

Write this one down: if you notice anyone with a standing desk, you are in a highly productive office environment. If employees are allowed their own level of ergonomic comfort as they work, then the upper management has seriously taken into consideration its employees – a company doesn’t invest in the health of its employees in such a way unless it seriously cares about them and their work output.

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5. The Office is Full of Plants and Artwork.

The best office I ever worked was a non-profit organization that lined its walls with high-quality, professional photographs of our volunteers executing the mission of the organization. These photos provide much motivation for executing my work. Further, around each corner was a beautiful orchid, or some other type of plant life. As you walk around, you should feel inspired because of the things you see, and productive offices will spend money to make that so.

6. They Avoid Micromanagement

Once you get hired, you will be able to tell a lot about the office productivity quickly. When executing a task, take into account how closely your manager, or any manager, looks over shoulder, so to speak. Managers in productive offices walk a very fine line between being too hands-off and too domineering.

But if a manager is consistently taking a project out of your hands, reanalyzing it, and taking it in a different direction that you intended, spending much time on every detail, you have a micro-manager. This is the most unproductive of any management style, and productive workplaces don’t tolerate it.

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7. Teamwork yields serious results

In many office situations, when groups get together to work on projects, less is accomplished than if each person worked on the project individually. The hallmark of a productive office is valuable, results-oriented teamwork. If you consistently find that team-based solutions are much more effective than anything each individual could execute on their own, then you have landed in a great office environment.

8. People Telework

Good offices have embraced flexible work situations and gotten on-board with people telecommuting. If you hear of people who are able to flexibly work at home or from a remote location, then you are in a great office environment. I once worked in an office in Washington, DC, and my supervisor telecommuted from Seattle, Washington – it was the most productive work set-up I’ve had, and that was because of the flexibility my supervisor was afforded.

9. Music Is Allowed or Encouraged

Offices should allow people to listen to music in order to concentrate. If listening to music while working is discouraged or frowned upon, then the office most likely does not have your own creativity as its central mission. Of course, workers should wear headphones or take other measures to keep from bothering coworkers, but if you find that your musically-induced concentration is disliked by co-workers, then your office will likely be unproductive in other ways.

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10. You Receive an Agenda Before a Meeting

Some offices have three-hour marathon meetings that produce nothing, and this is likely because they lack an agenda. Once you are higher, keep track how often you get an agenda for a meeting. If you don’t consistently get one, then the meeting has likely been scheduled because of a manager’s need to make it only appear they are leading. If you consistently receive agendas, then you are knee-deep in a productive office environment.

Photo Credit: mjlacroix24 via Compfight cc

Featured photo credit: Rear view of businessman reading document in home office via shutterstock.com

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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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