Easy Ways to Encourage Employee Productivity

Making the most out of what you have is one of the best things a business owner can learn to do – and, unsurprisingly, increasing the productivity of current employees falls under these words of wisdom.

However, unlike inventory levels and marketing budgets, employees are people – they have goals of their own, they have lives and they have emotions.  Being a good boss is about more than just managing your employees – it’s about helping them to be the best they can be, encouraging productivity and rewarding successes while finessing interpersonal relationships so that nobody feels left out or singled out.

When you take all of these factors into consideration, it’s obvious that you don’t have to have expensive reward plans in place in order to boost overall workloads.  In fact, there are several easy ways to encourage employee productivity that will cost you little-to-nothing and generate a huge ROI.

Limit internet access

It’s no secret that we, as a people, spend far too much time on the Internet.  But the last thing you want is your employees frittering away their lives on company time!

A recent investigation by Denver ABC news affiliate CALL7 found that even government employees aren’t immune to the siren call of the Internet.  After securing access to Internet logs, the television news station revealed that employees spent alarming amounts of time on non-work related websites, including:

  • 453,000 visits to Facebook
  • 242,000 Tweets or timeline checks
  • 151,000 YouTube visits (the duration of these visits wasn’t disclosed)
  • 109,000 hits on various sports websites
  • 3,000 attempts to access Victoria’s Secret
  • And 2,000+ hits to gossip websites like Perez Hilton

While department reps said that there was no way to tell how much time those employees were actually spending on those sites or if they were actually accessing them on company time (versus break/lunch time), they were quick to note that they were looking into curbing certain questionable behaviors.

Small business owners can learn a lot from this.  There are tons of free or low cost software options out there that allow you to strictly regulate where your employees can surf online.  You can choose server-based software such as PacketFence (which is open source) or web-based options like the Open DNS.  Just make sure that you have a clear Internet usage policy in place first in order to manage any mishaps that occur.

Create task-specific workspaces

Whether your work environment encompasses a number of cubicles or an entire restaurant, creating task-specific workspaces can help to streamline the work process and make it easier for employees to get more done, in less time.  That’s why this tip is one of Forbes magazine’s top five suggestions for workplace productivity.

By keeping everything neat and tidy, and by putting everything required to complete a specific job in one spot, you’ll decrease the amount of time it takes employees to find the things they need.  Whether that means physically moving items (for example, by putting the photocopier next to the fax machine) or simply bundling software and apps together in convenient folders, a little organization can go a long way.

Don’t micromanage

You might be tempted to waste time peering over employees’ shoulders as a small business owner, but do your best to avoid this bad habit!

To see why, consider a study conducted by the College of Business and Administration at Southern Illinois University, which discovered that micromanaging can lead to lower employee morale, high employee turnover and reduced productivity(except in the short term).  It’s such a powerful demoralizer that it’s actually the #3 reason people leave their jobs!

Instead, focus on hiring people who are capable of doing the work you need them to do – and then trust in them to do it.  Failing that, you can always train your best employees so that they can get the job done – which leads us to…

Promote from within

A study from the Families and Work Institute (an affiliate of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce) revealed that encouraging learning and career advancement is actually an excellent way to keep quality employees engaged.  These are the types of folks who are already hard workers and who may go out of their way to get more done in order to advance within the company.

If you don’t offer training or promote from outside, these diamonds in the rough will become disgruntled and will likely search elsewhere for personal fulfillment – leading to diminished productivity in the form of higher turnover rates.

Coincidentally, the same study also discovered that workers who are given more responsibility tend to be more productive.  This includes allowing workers to perform certain activities which are traditionally viewed as “managerial.”  A few of the factors that led to greater productivity include scheduling daily activities, supervising other employees, being responsible for new initiatives and projects and reporting directly to the boss (rather than to a middle-manager).

Offer more autonomy

Similarly, offering employees more autonomy often increases productivity as a side effect.  For example, allowing employees to alter their work schedules, to work from home or from non-work environments and to grant leeway in how projects are completed – as long as goals are met – were all factors that were tied to higher productivity and higher job satisfaction.

Really, this isn’t surprising.  By granting employees more autonomy, they feel more valued, trusted and competent – exactly the opposite of being micromanaged.  Of course, it’s important to monitor these autonomous employees to ensure they’re actually accomplishing the goals you set for them.  Not all employees can handle this level of autonomy, but giving increased freedom to those who are suited to the practice allows them to flourish while working within your company.

Offer nap breaks

It may sound silly, but big companies like Google and Nike offer their employees relaxation time in order to help recharge their batteries.  To support this initiative, Google and Nike both have dedicated relaxation rooms, with the former company even going so far as to install Zen-like massage parlors on many of its campuses.  However, even smaller companies like Pizza Hut have altered their employee manuals to encourage individuals to nap during their rest periods.

Several studies have backed up the claim that naps do, in fact, increase productivity.  Napping decreases blood pressure and the risk for heart disease, increases memory function and can even spur creativity – making it a great, low-budget option for companies that are open to looking at unique solutions to their productivity problems.

Obviously, not every productivity strategy represents a good fit for every company.  If you have other techniques that have proven effective in terms of increasing workload capacity within your own organization, please share your recommendations in the comments section below!

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