Midsize business

Discover how to boost your company's productivity with these 4 hacks

There have been no shortage of articles, studies, and treatises extolling the virtues of productivity in business. This makes sense, as great companies have increased productivity to create a healthier bottom line.

In this article, we’ll review some of the most effective hacks to increase productivity that have been vetted by business owners and other C-suite executives, both for themselves and their teams. We’ll also show you how to increase your company’s productivity overall, and how your employees can streamline their workdays.

Productivity vs. efficiency

The first thing to do is to make sure that you’re working with an accurate definition of productivity. Often, efficiency and productivity are used interchangeably; however, they are very different from one another, and in the case of getting more done in the day, you definitely want to be more productive, not more efficient.

Efficiency means doing more with less—fewer resources, less time, or fewer assets. It means figuring out how to work with what you’ve got.

Productivity means doing more with the same assets, resources and time you currently have. When talking about productivity, this is the standard you should strive for. You have an 8-hour workday—what is the best, most productive use of that time?

Time management is also often used interchangeably with productivity and efficiency. In this case, time management works double duty as it can refer to increased productivity or increased efficiency.

Obviously, working toward greater efficiency and better time management has its place in any business, but for the purpose of this article, let’s focus on improving productivity overall as an organization and for individuals.

1. Mute your desktop or mobile notifications

Distractions during the day only serve to knock you off track. Other business owners have cited allotting a specific amount of time to check their email and social notifications. Of course, this means you have to be aware of the time frame and be willing to police yourself. Social media is another time-waster that can easily distract you throughout the day. Set the same types of limits on social media that you would on email.

As your company’s leader, you also set the tone for the rest of your employees. By limiting your own distractions during the day, you’re also setting an example for everyone else. And, if you find it challenging, imagine how much your employees might be struggling. Consider purchasing enterprise subscriptions to desktop or mobile apps that are expressly designed to keep your distractions to a minimum.

If you meet any resistance from your employees, look into apps like Screen Time and Rescue Time. Both of these will starkly illustrate just how much time your employees spend being distracted throughout the workday and how that prevents them from truly doing their best work.

2. Stop multitasking

Myth busted! Multitasking is not beneficial. In fact, it can cost you money. Research by the American Psychological Association (APA) suggests that multitasking actually isn’t possible. Our brains are not equipped to switch between multiple tasks simultaneously without losing comprehension or work quality.

This is a good reason to mute those notifications. The time it takes your brain to shift from one task to another and then switch back is not the mere seconds you think. A behavioral psychologist anecdotally estimates that nearly 40% of productivity is lost when a business owner or employee attempts to perform two cognitive tasks at the same time. There’s also evidence that the amount of errors goes up, while quality goes down.

Give yourself the freedom to focus on and complete a task without looking over your shoulder at the next thing on your plate. It’ll still be there when you’re done and you can give it the same attention as your current task.

There are a few ideas you can implement company-wide that will help your employees break their own task-switching habits.

  • Make sure your office space is designed to allow employees to work uninterrupted. You can also encourage and approve of remote work so that when you’re employees need dedicated time to complete a task or project, they can get it without office interruptions.
  • Talk to your employees and managers about the difference between urgent and not urgent tasks. This might seem rudimentary, but setting priorities is a challenge for everyone. Remind them that the most important tasks are the ones that will propel your business to grow.
  • Remind your employees that business priorities ebb and flow. Just because certain tasks may be taking a backseat, doesn’t mean they always will. This will help to keep motivation high as priorities change.

3. Make meetings meaningful … and short

If you find yourself attending countless meetings during the day, an easy hack is to make your meetings the standing sort, literally. Often referred to as a stand-up, these meetings are meant to be quick. Everyone stands, says what they need to and then goes about their day.

This obviously doesn’t work for all types of meetings or all types of workplaces. However, if you find yourself constantly pulled into meetings that spiral out of control, this is one way to temper expectations and keep them short and sweet.

Jason Fried, the founder of Basecamp, believes that employees are spending too much time in frequent face-to-face meetings. If the idea of meeting in person is to generate more ideas and more creativity, the question becomes, how much “new” can your business really incorporate? According to Fried, “Most work is not coming up with The Next Big Thing. Rather, it’s improving the thing you already thought of six months—or six years—ago. It’s the work of work.”

4. Keep it moving

Don’t forget to take a walk, get a fresh cup of coffee or fill up your water bottle to restore your physical energy. Also, give yourself a minute to stretch. Not only does this get the blood pumping, but it also changes the scenery which can easily change your mindset and boost productivity.

For a company-wide solution, wellness programs have grown in popularity for a reason—employers estimate that they lose $16 to $81 per employee due to absenteeism every year. And, in a study by the Health Enhancement Research Organization(HERO) indicates that CEOs believe employee health has the biggest impact on productivity; 62% felt that employee productivity was most influenced by health.

For example, IBM invested in their employees’ health by implementing four different 12-week programs that directly address key employee health concerns: diet and nutrition, children and family health, physical fitness, and vitality. For a small investment of $150 per employee who completed each of these programs, IBM saw a $190 million decrease in healthcare costs. And employee participation was 80%, demonstrating that employees find value in these programs as well.

Counterintuitively, businesses can also increase productivity simply by encouraging their employees to use all of their accrued vacation time. Not only does this cut down on unused paid time off you may need to reimburse at the end of the year, but it gives your employees the time they need to take care of themselves physically and mentally.

In fact, according to a study by the National Alliance on Mental Health, 61 million adults will suffer from some type of mental illness throughout the course of the year. Encouraging your employees to take care of their physical and mental health can lead to higher productivity year-round.

Final Thoughts

Experiment with these productivity hacks to see what works for you. For those that stick, consider introducing them to your organization to improve team productivity.

In addition to analog improvements like reducing meetings and investing in employee wellness, consider business management software solutions to automate tasks like invoicing and paying expenses. Reducing the time your employees spend on day-to-day tasks will free them up for high-level projects that contribute to growing your business and fulfilling your company’s mission.

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