Productivity: it’s a much-sought-after quality for business leaders, and it’s also the subject of a huge proportion of what some would call “inspirational” quotes – ranging from Walt Disney’s “quit talking and begin doing” to Bruce Lee’s “if you spend too much time thinking about a thing, you’ll never get it done.”
Tearing ourselves away from these sage words from theme park magnates and martial arts actors, we’ve found it might be more helpful to focus on the practical steps any organisation can take to bolster productivity in their workplaces – and, in the spirit of refusing to procrastinate, let’s dive straight in.
Take the ‘place’ out of ‘workplace’
This might seem like a counter-intuitive place to begin, but arguably the single most effective way to increase workplace productivity is to get rid of the workplace altogether.
Workers whose commutes have left them with lighter wallets and heavier hearts aren’t exactly the benchmark for productivity – especially in a distracting and potentially uncomfortable environment full of noise and distractions.
In a post-pandemic world which has demonstrated the legitimacy of remote working on an unprecedented scale, there’s no excuse not to consider allowing employees to work in an environment of their choosing – and, according to Stanford University, the productivity benefits of this approach can be measured to the tune of 13 per cent.
Motivation: carrot, not stick
Of course, some industries just can’t support remote working – but the principle of putting employee comfort and wellbeing at the top of your agenda is still essential to any master of the productive arts.
Just a glance at studies like The Carrot Principle is enough to illustrate this point. Though originally published in 2007, there’s a timeless quality attached to the idea that providing employees with praise and recognition is the bedrock of employee productivity – and that’s exactly what this study of 200,000 people uncovered.
After all, no matter what new technologies or working practices may have reared their heads in the meantime, a carrot is still very much a carrot.
Maximise Productivity through automation
The subject of technology does, however, bring us on to another substantial opportunity for productivity increases: automation.
A happy and well-motivated workforce is essential – but no amount of praise can spur on a single person to triage a thousand customer service questions simultaneously or guide a hundred new employees through the onboarding process in a single gesture.
By embracing automation, however, through whatever means is appropriate to your business – whether that be workflow management software or a cheerful digital assistant that never sleeps or demands a raise – you’re sure to get a lot more done in a lot less time.
Automation needn’t involve getting rid of your human staff – in fact, by freeing them from the tedium of automatable tasks, you’re providing your workers with the time and energy to tackle the complex tasks that would ordinarily get lost amidst the maelstrom of everyday concerns.
Putting people first
Whether you’re giving workers a better work-life balance, inundating them with much-needed praise, or providing robotic colleagues to take the edge off their work, it’s clear that productivity begins by approaching your workers with respect.
And, possibly, a carrot.