Have you calculated your losses due to low productivity? You can’t ignore this problem forever. Recent Gallup polling found that $500 billion is wasted on low employee productivity.
Reduced productivity throws company operations off course. When one department is slow to produce results, it creates a domino effect throughout the company. If someone doesn’t do their job, the next person can’t do their own work.
So, how did all these productivity problems arise in the first place? Asking this question is the first of many business hacks you’ll need to reverse course on productivity.
Stress, low morale, burnout, toxic behavior and energy, poor management practices, and lack of employee appreciation are the most common reasons for low productivity. Even too many meetings can hurt production levels!
You understand the cause. Now, it’s time to address your productivity pitfalls before they get worse.
Here are seven actionable steps you can take to boost productivity at your small business.
1. Implement Employee Appreciation Programs
Let’s start with the first issue. It’s not hard to gauge when employee morale is low. Low productivity is the first glaring sign.
Other signs of low morale include the following:
- Frequently calling out sick
- Showing up late to work continuously
- Growing toxic behavior toward fellow co-workers
- No enthusiasm for sales or projects
- Taking less care of cubicles and work areas
- Disciplinary issues with management
- Frequent trips to the HR office
Nothing is cut and dry, so these behaviors could be attributed to isolated issues. However, when these behaviors become a pattern with several employees, you likely have a low morale problem on your hands.
You’ve identified the problem. Now, what? You need to ask yourself why your employees are suffering from low morale.
What the Data Says
Several reasons contribute to low morale, particularly lack of appreciation. Surveys show that 58% of employees attribute their low productivity to a lack of employee appreciation. 65% of employees report they’ve never received any form of appreciation from their employers.
The data is pretty startling. While some multinational companies may be able to eat the cost, small businesses can’t afford the luxury. Employee appreciation programs are essential to boosting morale, and thus, productivity.
Start with one employee appreciation program and see how it goes. You’ll need to test out a few to see which sticks with your employees.
Here are some ideas to start:
- Sales goals incentives
- Employee of the month club
- Team incentives
- Weekday pizza parties for sales goal winners
- Holiday bonuses
- Seasonal outings for meeting sales quotas
- Promoting from within the company
- Leadership programs that develop talent
Remember, when employees start at a company, they’re motivated to climb up the ladder. Don’t lose that momentum! It’s critical to recognize talent from within your company and groom natural leaders for management roles.
2. Change Your Approach to Meetings
Meetings are deceptive. They create the illusion of productivity without getting anything done. Your next challenge is to restructure your approach to meetings.
As if employee grumbling over the third meeting of the day wasn’t enough proof. Studies show that unproductive meetings cost businesses almost $400 billion a year collectively. That’s your cue to make a change and make it fast.
The first step to holding more productive meetings is to cut back on meetings themselves. After a while, meetings become a crutch, but you don’t need to call a department-wide meeting for every decision.
All company leaders should have good judgment and decision-making skills. Be decisive, create a plan, and request feedback. Still, that doesn’t require an hours-long meeting with department heads.
Change the Way You Communicate
Start using email and communication apps, like Slack and Google Hangouts, more effectively. Using communication tools the right way can free up hours in the day. You can also call quick 5-minute meetings without the hassle of sending out Google calendar invites and alerts.
You need to strike a balance between online communication and in-person communication. In-person meetings are still critical for productivity. However, they’re also a pain to organize.
In-person meetings require booking requests, RSVPs, fresh coffee and refreshments, and conference room time. This can take hours to plan. Plus, they must be planned in advance.
Documentation is also essential to productive meetings. Holding meetings in Slack leaves a digital paper trail of the meeting. Therefore, not everyone has to attend the meeting to know what was discussed.
Plan your meeting agenda in advance, too. “Winging it” has its advantages for brainstorming sessions, but it may not be the appropriate tactic for a budget meeting.
Get rid of any distractions you can. This is where Slack and social media meetings can cause you more trouble than its worth. Consider drafting a meeting policy that prevents distractions before they start.
3. Prevent Burnout at Work
On the one hand, morale problems lead to low productivity. On the other hand, working too much can contribute to low production. Your next issue to tackle is employee burnout.
Burnout is a problem across all business sizes. Employees who wear a lot of hats at small businesses suffer from burnout. Corporate executives at enterprise-level companies also succumb to burnout.
While you may like the hustle of these hardworking employees, their productivity is bound to plummet when they burn out. So, what’s the solution?
How to Prevent Overworking
Start by encouraging work breaks. While breaks are legally required, hardworking employees may be wired to work through them. This eventually leads to fatigue if employees aren’t getting enough nourishment on the job.
You’ll need to monitor employee breaks to make sure your staff is taking them. To help employees relax and recharge, create an inviting breakroom where employees can kickback. Provide books, healthy snacks, water, bean bag chairs, and even Netflix.
Incentives also decrease burnout. Rewarding hard work can stop employees from overworking themselves. A little appreciation can go a long way.
Be careful about increasing your employees’ workloads. If their work pile is already towering, wait until older projects are completed. If a task is pressing, hand it off to an employee with less on their plate.
Delineating tasks effectively can do wonders for burnout. If you have two employees of the same rank, but one employee has a noticeably larger workload than the other, that’s a problem.
You may also have to address issues of coworkers not pulling their weight. When this happens, someone has to pick up the slack, which leads to burnout inevitably. This type of behavior kills productivity and drives good employees away.
4. Identify and Address Toxic Behavior
No one likes getting bullied at school. Why would they want to get bullied on the job? Workplace bullying is one of the most egregious forms of toxic behavior and must be addressed head-on.
Workplace bullying causes depression in good employees, which directly impacts productivity. Bullying on the job is exacerbated by “mob mentality” that eggs on bullies. Common forms of bullying include silent treatment by coworkers, sabotaging an employee’s work, making false accusations, violating privacy, and physical threats.
How to Stop Workplace Bullying
Don’t let your managers off the hook. It’s their responsibility to prevent workplace bullying before it starts. What kind of example are they setting for new employees?
Managers might bully employees by switching their work schedules without notifying, giving then unfair workloads, gossip with other employees, or force other employees to bully the targeted employee. These situations put significant pressure on HR departments and cost businesses more money than they realize.
If you want to stop workplace bullying from affecting productivity, you must take a stand. Draft a zero-tolerance policy for bullying and remove all sources of toxic behavior, including employees and managers.
Not only will a zero-tolerance policy increase productivity, but you’ll save yourself a public relations nightmare on social media. Bullying is no longer tolerated, especially in the online world.
Bullying is just one form of toxic behavior you need to worry about. You must also address such toxic behavior as theft, sexual harassment, badmouthing the company publicly, and deterring new employees from doing their best.
5. Invest in Employee Wellness
Remember that new breakroom you’re going to put into your company building? Add an entire wellness center while you’re at it. Statistics show that wellness is delivering significant results for productivity.
Any business can invest in employee wellness.
On a smaller scale, small businesses on tight budgets can provide fresh fruit in the breakroom. They can also encourage walking on breaks or biking to work. Practicing good ergonomics is another simple way that small businesses can promote wellness at work.
Small businesses should invest in high-quality desk chairs for office employees and fatigue mats for sales staff. Relaxing music can also put employees at ease during stressful work situations, like holiday rushes.
Wellness Ideas for Large Companies
Mid-level businesses, tech startups, and enterprise-level companies have more capital to invest in corporate wellness programs. Company gyms and healthy cafeterias can do wonders here. Large companies should also invest in walking paths and courtyards to encourage more outdoor activity.
Some companies are even hiring on-site counselors and coaches to maintain wellness in the workplace. Consider bringing in a yoga teacher twice a week to help employees. Switch it up and introduce new fitness coaches each week.
Encourage employees to stay home when they’re sick. Again, you may appreciate the hustle, but you don’t want to pay the costs of sick staff. Let employees know it’s okay to call out sick when they’re ill.
6. Design for Productivity
Is your company building draining the life from your employees? How your office looks plays a role in productivity. Unfortunately, it’s one of the most overlooked business hacks for improving output.
Start with your lighting. Harsh fluorescent lighting is not inspiring. In fact, it can increase the risk of migraines and anxiety.
Install adjustable lighting that lets you set the right “work mood” for each room and department. Natural lighting is technically the best lighting for productivity, so try to leverage it as much as possible. Install large windows that flood workspaces with pleasant natural light.
Consider an open plan office and glass panels in between cubicles. This will cut down on your use of LED lights and allow natural light to flow through the building.
Color Theory and Productivity
Your next challenge is color. Colors have a profound impact on productivity. Colors can make employees feel everything from hunger to anticipation.
Apply the principles of color theory to enhance the productivity of your space. Blue is considered the best color for productivity. Use this shade if you want to improve focus on your employees.
Red can benefit high-energy companies. However, red can feel a little manic for some employees. Try a high-energy blue shade if you can.
Yellow encourages optimism, which is essential for higher productivity. It’s a “happy” color that encourages creativity and innovation.
Green is more calm and tranquil. This is the color you want for your new breakroom. It’s also an excellent shade for employees who have to work long hours on projects.
Like green, purple is another calm color to consider for your breakroom. Since it promotes contemplation, it’s more suited for individual study rooms and co-working spaces.
You should also encourage your employees to use their vacation time. Time-off is essential for recharging. Traveling can improve morale, so employees can return to work with renewed enthusiasm for their job.
7. Business Hacks for Self-Employed Individuals
If you work for yourself, you understand the importance of productivity. Time is money in your world. Every wasted second is money out of your pocket.
Self-discipline is essential for self-employment. Along with maintaining a strict work schedule, you also need tools to make your life easier.
One issue that contributes to low self-employment productivity is expenses. You don’t have an accounting department to handle that for you. Diligence is vital in your world.
Keep track of all your invoices, receipts, and major business purchases. Create pay stubs, so you can prove your income at a moment’s notice. Switch to paperless reporting so you can focus on your work.
Boost Productivity Right Away
This quarter, make a change for the better. Stop wasting money on practices that kill productivity. Implement these business hacks to boost output and profits at your company.
These tips are just the start of your new business venture. Remember these hacks, and visit the blog to discover more resources for expanding your vision.
- The Enthusiastic Employee: 16 Myths on Employee and Performance Management
- No AssHole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn’t
- How to Hire and Retain Good Employees
- 4 Ways to Avoid Burnout as an Entrepreneur
- Are YOU Headed for Burnout?