Maximize Productivity in Your Business

December 4, 2023
Maximize Productivity in Your Business

Maximizing productivity in the workplace requires a proactive approach to workload management, and taking into consideration employees well-being. We’ll cover several different ways to enhance productivity in your business, from time management to workplace productivity apps and everything in between.

Beyond Productivity: New Approaches to Help Employees Manage Their Workload

We set the bar pretty high these days when it comes to productivity. There’s an expectation for managers to maximize efficiency and productivity to stay competitive and meet customer needs. For employees, it can be a challenge to consistently live up to these expectations.

As such, workload management becomes a crucial factor in helping to meet company goals.

Why is workload management important?

Workload management is a strategic approach to planning and tracking work within an organization. It allows you to balance the demands based on company needs and individual capabilities.

Workload management can be challenging. If you assign too much work, employees can feel overwhelmed or burned out. If you assign too little work, employees can feel unchallenged or become bored. Either way, this can lead to quality and productivity losses.

Employee engagement is key to a productive workplace and it’s been a shockingly elusive goal for many companies. Only 15% of global employees and just over 1/3 of workers in the United States are actively engaged at work, according to Gallup.

Yet, when employees are inspired, companies realize a broad variety of benefits. For example, comparing companies with high engagement levels versus those with low engagement levels, top performing companies see:

  • 81% decrease in absentee rates
  • 18% less turnover in high-turnover organizations
  • 43% less turnover in low-turnover organizations
  • 28% decrease in shrinkage (theft)
  • 64% reduction in safety incidents
  • 41% decrease in quality defects
  • 10% increase in customer loyalty
  • 18% increase in productivity
  • 23% increase in profitability

When employees are actively engaged at work, every measure of performance improves.

Workload management helps provide the right amount of work to the right group of people to help improve employee productivity.

How to help employees manage their workload and improve productivity

Managing workload effectively starts with how the workload is assigned and how managers interact with their teams. Managers trying to figure out how to increase productivity in the workplace should take the following proactive steps.

1. Spend more time planning

Take a cue from professional project managers. Before embarking on a project, they take stock of the project, determine the scope, and assess the available resources against other projects already in progress.

Then they break down tasks into segments and assign milestones, plus determine deliverables and deadlines.

Next, they look at the available resources to determine who is available, their skillset and whether they have the resources required. Only after this analysis do they determine whether timelines are feasible.

Be aware of task dependencies as well. Many projects have stages. It may not be possible to move from one stage to another until certain tasks are completed. This requires clearly defining projects, deadlines, and deliverables along with milestones as well as checking them against dependencies to arrive at an optimal workload.

Planning should also examine utilization rates to ensure your workload expectations are reasonable. Most project planners set the ideal utilization rate at 80% for even the highest performing employees to allow them room to handle other tasks.

2. Provide an equitable workload

Assign workloads equally with respect to the different skills and levels of responsibility associated with each employee. This works best when employees have the right job fit and align with company goals which starts with planning and resource management.

3. Ensure clear communication

Make sure everyone involved in a project is communicating clearly and feels comfortable in sharing how it’s going. The burden is on managers, team leads, and project managers to check in with their team regularly to assess, problem-solve, and reprioritize work if necessary.

4. Create transparent workflows

To help balance workloads and keep everything running smoothly, you also need to create a roadmap for workflow. While this can be formal or informal, team members need to know who is responsible for what and the appropriate approval chain.

5. Allow flexibility

Permit flexibility on task prioritization and deadlines whenever possible. Rather than dictating which order tasks are done, let employees choose how they want to approach the job. When possible, collaborate to establish deadlines.

6. Help set priorities

While you want employees to have a say in how they work, you need to make sure the right tasks and projects are prioritized. Make sure team members know which things take precedence.

7. Make sure team members have the tools they need

Ensure team members have the right tools to get the job done efficiently. Slow computers, poor internet connections, and lack of access to data can undermine productivity and frustrate employees.

8. Create a positive workplace culture

One of the keys to productivity is creating a positive workplace culture that enables employees to do their best work. Culture drives engagement — either positively or negatively. The best culture rewards and celebrates performance and allows workers to ask for help without being punished.

Creating a positive workplace culture encourages team members to play an active role in how the job gets done, and that includes two-way feedback with the boss. If employees don’t feel comfortable discussing challenges or believe their opinions are not valued, it will be difficult to increase productivity.

9. Actively look for problems and help

Actively look for employees that are struggling. You may notice a deterioration in their performance or other warning signs of burnout. Three-quarters of employees admit they suffer from fatigue on occasion and when they do, their performance will suffer.

Signs of burnout include:

  • Lack of engagement with the team
  • Increased absenteeism
  • Higher sensitivity to feedback
  • Emotional, mental, or physical exhaustion
  • Seeming confused or overwhelmed by routine tasks

When you notice any of these warning signs, step in. Depending on the severity of the situation, you may need to reallocate workloads or help employees break down large projects into smaller tasks to help them move forward.

10. Avoid exhausting top performers

When certain team members perform at a higher level, it can be all too easy to give them the hardest tasks or layer on additional work. Not only can this exhaust your stars, but it may also prevent other employees from learning new skills and adding to your capacity.

Balance workloads, optimize performance

Failing to manage workloads well can impact morale, productivity, and output. Use these 10 tips to help employees balance workloads and optimize performance.

Setting Work Schedules For Peak Productivity

There are certain hours when many people are most productive. Use these tips to guide employees to maximize their productivity during the workday.

Here's what you need to know:

  • Peak productivity hours for many people are between 8:00 am-12:00 pm, so try to schedule your most important tasks during that time
  • If employees feel overwhelmed or need help focusing, consider choosing only tasks with a high probability of giving you the most significant results
  • Encourage workers to focus on 1 task at a time rather than multitasking
  • No one can work nonstop, so let employees take breaks away from their desks
  • People work best in comfortable environments that aren’t distracting and when they aren’t tired or hungry

The secret to employee productivity is simple: let your staff feel glad to work for you. They’ll get more work done feeling good and focused. But when people feel down or distracted, the mind wanders, and concentrating is hard.

So how do we get employees there? Peak productivity is when the body and brain work best together. For most people, that’s in the morning, so set your work schedule around those peak productivity times.

What are peak productivity work hours for most people?

Peak productivity is between 8:00 am-12:00 pm and is when most people are productive, motivated, and focused, so try to schedule your most important tasks during those times. Don’t schedule meetings during those critical hours.

Using peak productivity hours properly is essential to get the most out of your employees. You can do a few things in those peak hours that will bear the most fruit.

Follow the 80/20 rule

You may be surprised that you can get 80% of your results from just 20% of your effort. This is known as the Pareto Principle and is a fundamental principle in productivity. Try scheduling the tasks that will bear the most fruit for your business during peak productivity hours.

If employees feel overwhelmed or need help focusing, consider choosing only tasks with a high probability of giving you the most significant results. Then ask yourself if any other tasks are low-hanging fruit that can be efficiently completed without cognitive overload.

Multitasking is a myth: focus on 1 project at a time

Are you asking employees to juggle multiple projects at once? If so, you’re doing employees and your business a disservice.

When energy and motivation wane while working on projects, let employees put it aside. Allow them to focus on something else to help restore their energy. Just don’t ask them to multi-task.

Multitasking is not an effective way of working — it’s a myth that our brains can handle multiple tasks at once. Furthermore, people who multitask are less able to focus on anything new they encounter while shifting from previous tasks. Luckily, there are some simple techniques for helping employees focus on 1 project at a time.

The Pomodoro Technique

The Pomodoro Technique is a way for employees to work with the time they have as opposed to working against it. It creates a sense of urgency. Ask employees to set a timer for 25 minutes, then take a 5-minute break. Rinse and repeat 4 times.

After 4 sets of 25-minute chunks, they take a longer break of 15 to 20 minutes. However, the Pomodoro Technique may not work for someone whose day is packed with appointments, Zoom calls, or meetings.

Don’t come down too hard on employees

Measuring productivity is tricky. Countless factors can influence how employees feel at work, and no 2 people’s peak times of day are alike.

So, if employees are not feeling motivated, that’s OK! In those times of lower motivation, encourage employees to work on projects of lower urgency or importance. But try to take advantage of the times when they feel motivated by working on higher priority projects.

If you or your employees struggle with procrastination or motivation issues during certain parts of the day, don’t come down too hard. Instead of forcing productivity during those times when it just doesn’t happen naturally, recognize them as opportunities to rest or recharge energy that can be used more effectively later in the day (or week).

Encourage workers to step away from the chair and desk

Whether working at home or at the office, workers often sit for long periods of time. This can have negative effects on health and productivity.

To stay healthy and productive, it’s important to get up and move around frequently. Encourage employees to stand up and stop sitting every hour or so by going for a quick walk or doing some stretches at their workstations.

Let your team take a break, even for a few minutes. No one can work nonstop. It’s essential to take some time away from the desk and get refocused. Here are examples of some productivity hacks:

  • Taking the stairs up instead of the elevator
  • Looking out the window for 5 minutes
  • Going for a walk outside (preferably somewhere quiet)
  • Walking around the office while talking on the phone
  • Standing while working on an important project, like writing an email or report (if possible)
  • Stretching in between tasks

Taking breaks every few hours can make a huge difference in workplace efficiency. Staying focused for long periods is hard as we all need a break at some point. Your team productivity will thank you later.

If you let employees recharge during the day by letting them take short breaks every hour or 2 instead of trudging through the entire day without stopping, they’ll be grateful.

If there is little time for breaks, at least let your employees step away from their workstations.

Understanding procrastination can help you beat it

Procrastination is a form of self-sabotage that can be difficult to overcome. We often procrastinate when we don’t want to do something or feel like we’re not good at it. Procrastination can also be a way to avoid doing something stressful or unpleasant.

Understanding employee tendencies and motivations (especially of remote workers) will help determine what’s holding them back from achieving your company goals or finishing projects before deadlines.

Cut down on screen time

Things outside your control affect your employees’ ability to produce at peak levels. While many factors contribute to workplace stress and distraction, one of them stands above all others: technology.

Cutting down on screen time is a simple way to reduce the number of distractions in life. By reducing employee screen time, you’re also reducing eye strain, headaches, and poor sleep — all of which are symptoms of being overstimulated by technology.

It may seem counterintuitive for employers to encourage employees to cut back on their distractions during workdays. After all, these distractions aren’t just a waste of time — they’re also what prevent boredom and falling into complacency.

But from a productivity perspective, the benefits are clear. Less mindless browsing means more focus on tasks at hand and better results overall.

Productivity is about being focused and feeling good

When your team is tired or hungry, their brains don’t work as well. So before they start working, tell them to eat. Furthermore, employees who eat healthy are more productive.

Also, ensure the space they use for working is comfortable and relaxing (not distracting). Have you overloaded your employees? If they have too much on their plate, consider delegating tasks to other employees so that they can focus on other projects.

Find the time that works best for your employees

Creating a work schedule that caters to employees’ personal productivity peak times can be the difference between a job well done and a job barely done. By experimenting with different times of the day and days of the week, you can find the formula that works best for your team.

While 8:00 am-12:00 pm might work best for some of your employees, others may find that their peak hours are later in the day. Try to accommodate your team and make a schedule and project load that works to their strengths.

By setting work schedules for peak productivity, you can ensure that employees are working to their fullest potential. Why not increase productivity and let employees have more free time outside of work? Promote a productive and happier life both in and outside the office.

Productivity Hacks: The Secret Is Harnessing Your Energy

Forget time hacks. Want to really power up your productivity? Use these energy hacks to keep you focused and productive.

Time is finite. There are only so many hours a day, which is no doubt why so much effort has been focused on improving employee efficiency. If we can just get people to work more productively, we can increase our overall output.

A lot has been focused on time and productivity hacks to make us all more efficient, but these tricks can only go so far.

Want to learn how to increase productivity? Forget the popular time hacks and focus on energy hacks instead. When teams are more energized, productivity improves.

Why focusing on energy is more powerful than focusing on time

For years, people have been focused on how to squeeze more tasks into an already busy day. While the mantra of “work smarter, not harder” sounds like a good idea, what happened to most people is that they may have worked a bit smarter, but they also ended up working harder, too.

Rapid-fire tasks that require focus are draining no more how efficient you are. The more you cram into a workday, the more exhausting it is. People are working longer hours, too. The average professional added nearly 80 minutes to their day last year.

It’s no wonder we often find ourselves running on fumes at times. If we want to improve productivity, efficiency, and employee engagement, we’ve got to power up those energy meters first.

Productivity hacks: How to increase your productivity by increasing your energy

Four types of energy play a significant role in employee efficiency and productivity:

  1. Physical energy
  2. Emotional energy
  3. Mental energy
  4. Spiritual energy

To perform at peak levels, you need to manage each of these four types.

  • Physical energy has to do with your health. Get a good night’s sleep, eat healthy, and exercise.
  • Emotional energy affects your sense of security. When you’re feeling stressed, overwhelmed, or exhausted, it can be paralyzing.
  • Mental energy is about your ability to maintain focus. If you can’t focus well, you won’t be productive.
  • Spiritual energy provides significance to your work and goes right to motivation. Do you feel your work is important and providing something valuable? You need a sense of purpose.

When you address all four areas, you can improve your productivity. Here are some of the key ways to increase your energy.

Get a good night’s sleep

Sleep not only conserves energy, but it also helps to restore it. You may know that instinctively, but scientists have proven it. There’s a chemical called glycogen that helps store energy in the brain. Your glycogen levels decrease the longer you are awake but are restored during sleep.

How much sleep do you need to optimize your energy level? Experts say you need 7 to 9 hours of solid sleep each night.

Take care of yourself

You know the list already, so we won’t belabor this point. But an essential part of maintaining energy levels is taking care of yourself. For example:

  • Eat healthy foods
  • Limit your alcohol and caffeine consumption
  • Drink lots of water
  • Exercise

If you’re not healthy, it will be difficult to maintain your energy level.

Learn to recognize when your energy levels are low

When your focus starts to drift or you’ve having trouble concentrating, it’s a sign that your tank is headed towards empty. You might be feeling undue stress, a sense of being overwhelmed by the work you’re doing, or any variety of things that impact your productivity.

When you experience these things, your brain is sending you a signal that it’s time to take a time out and refresh.

Take breaks and recharge

When you are focused on work, the prefrontal cortex in your brain helps keep you focused. For every minute you spend on a task, however, your concentration level wanes. You need to regularly recharge the parts of your brain that aid employee efficiency.

Sometimes, all you need is a change of pace to restore your energy levels, such as:

  • Get away from your work area and take a walk
  • Meditate or exercise
  • Talk to your coworkers
  • Read a book

There are plenty of things you can do to take a break. The key is to put aside what you’re working on and focus on something completely different for a few minutes. Avoid things like responding to email, looking at social media, or anything that takes active decision-making. This just puts your prefrontal cortex to work on different things.

Switch tasks, but avoid multi-tasking

When you feel your energy or motivation start to fade when you’re working on a task, putting it aside for a while and focusing on something else can also help restore your energy. Just don’t try to multi-task.

Despite what you may think, you can’t really multi-task. What you’re doing when you’re trying to juggle multiple tasks at once is forcing your brain to switch rapidly between tasks. All this does is sap your energy.

Avoid distractions

Many remote teams found a sense of freedom working at home, but they also found new distractions that can quickly drain their vitality. When you see stacks of dishes in the sink, notice laundry starting to pile up, and endure interruptions from kids or pets, it can feel overwhelming.

Avoiding distractions means setting aside time to deal with non-work or non-task-related items so you can focus on the task at hand. For example, checking your email at scheduled intervals rather than whenever a new one pops up.

It also helps to avoid other things that can drain your energy, like negativity and gossip in the workplace.

Use productivity tools

The right productivity tools can help by making you more efficient, but they won’t do the job if you don’t keep your energy levels up. Be careful when considering productivity tools. Many tools will help you do your job more quickly or efficiently, but they won’t necessarily help you maintain high energy.

The best tools will help you quickly get through mundane or monotonous tasks that can wear you down. This can help get the dull stuff out of the way so you can focus more on things you enjoy doing more. For many people, there’s value in creating lists and then checking things off. It can make you feel productive and enhance your mood. If you can check off the routine things you have to do every day, it can feed your energy meter.

Recharge your batteries and improve productivity

Time may be finite, but energy is a renewable resource.

By paying attention to the things that drain your power meter and the things that fire it up, you can recharge your batteries and be more productive.

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