Do you know what's hindering productivity at your company? In an eye opening TEDTalk “Why work doesn’t happen at work” software engineer Jason Fried narrows it down to two main barriers: managers and meetings. He argues that these two factors provide endless distractions to the point that people actually get their best work done outside of the office.
Whether you agree with these points or not it serves as a jumping off point to really think about the underlying factors that could be hindering productivity in your organization.
Here we gathered 5 of the most commonly cited barriers to productivity and ways to overcome them:
1. Eliminate excessive meetings
One of the biggest barriers to workplace productivity is a calendar full of meetings. We’ve all experienced that feeling when you leave a long meeting and your brain feels completely fried. The fact is that meetings, not only take away time, but also deplete your employees’ decision-making and concentration power, making it harder to jump back into their regular tasks. In fact, a survey found that 45% of senior executives believe employees would be more productive if meetings were banned once a week.
While you can’t eliminate meetings altogether, it’s important that managers learn how to run each one effectively by:
Carefully considering who should be included
Keeping them to 30-45 minutes
Keeping people on track
Sharing an agenda in advance
Creating clear action steps for follow-up
2. Reduce stress by increasing communication
More and more companies are realizing the major impact that workplace stress can have on productivity. Looming deadlines and balancing work-life conflicts can lead to a lack of sleep, low fitness levels and, ultimately, a drastic decline in engagement and productivity.
A study by Willis Towers Watson found that, out of respondents who were experiencing high stress levels, 57% claimed to be disengaged. Additionally, highly stressed employees were reported to take an average of 4.6 sick days per year as opposed to low stress employees who took only 2.6 days.
One of the most powerful solutions is to encourage more communication with managers. Every leader should be having regular 1-on-1s with each report. This is the perfect time to check in and find out if there is anything blocking them or a personal issue which could be impacting their work. Gallup found that only 15% of employees who do not meet with their manager regularly are engaged.
Employees don’t want to be treated simply as a source of revenue. This is reflected in the fact that a number of studies, including Google’s Project Oxygen, have found that the most highly rated leaders regularly express an interest in their team member’s well being and development. Regularly scheduled communication flows enable managers to identify stress or burn out ahead of time and equip them to help their team overcome barriers.
3. Share productivity hacks
Everyone has their own workplace rituals to help them organize, concentrate and get things done. The problem is this knowledge usually isn't shared.
Sharing workplace hacks that will make your employees’ lives easier, should be a key part of your learning & development strategy. Google did this by leveraging it’s intelligent and diverse workforce to create an ecosystem of peer learning in which employees are encouraged to share knowledge on different topics with each other. For example, this is how Googler Chade-Meng Tan first started teaching and sharing the benefits of mindfulness throughout the company.
Consider holding voluntary learning sessions where you share tips and new tools that will help employees organize their time efficiently, prioritize tasks, deal with stress, etc. Opening it up not only to managers but also peers is a great way to tap into your wider knowledge base. What’s more, Google found that even without teaching experience, these peer teachers were just as effective in teaching others new skills.
4. Give regular guidance and feedback
A major contributor to low productivity is a lack of guidance. In fast paced environments, it can be easy for employees to feel their manager doesn’t have the time to give them advice ad hoc. Willis Towers Watson found that 37% of respondents felt their managers didn’t have time to deal with the people aspects of their job. If employees are left in the dark about their performance they’ll simply move on to the next task and continue making the same mistakes until review time.
Sacrificing development in favor of other responsibilities is the number one mistake managers can make. Encourage your managers to be available for feedback when your employees need it most. Investing in a feedback tool allows managers to answer feedback on the go via mobile and keeps feedback requests top of mind with notifications.
5. Recognize achievements
Of course, never forget the power of positive feedback. Though recognizing an employee’s achievements seems like a simple thing, according to Gallup, only one in three workers in the US strongly agree that they’ve received recognition or praise in the past 7 days. The fact is that showing appreciation has an even deeper impact than your managers might expect. A study by Globoforce found that 82% of employees are motivated by recognition and 78% would even work harder if they were recognized and appreciated more. In fact, another study found that 83% found recognition to be even more fulfilling than rewards or gifts.
Rather than simply telling managers to give more positive feedback, the most effective way to make sure employees receive the recognition they need is by infusing it into your culture. Here at Impraise we have a ritual of setting aside time during our weekly all hands meeting to recognize rockstar team members for their great work or for taking the time to help out others.