How to boost workplace productivity

Mastering the downward dog is not the only way to get more from your employees

Don’t shy away from inclusivity, transparency and a flat-management structure.

Businesses are constantly searching for new and innovative ways to engage with their workforce and increase productivity and contentment in their employees. The logic is simple: if employees enjoy their work and feel valued in their role, then they will excel and deliver strong results. Yet many companies are facing a crisis in employee engagement ­– which means slower revenue growth and lower profitability. So what can be done?
There are many tried and tested methods. Salesforce.com and Bridgewater Associates have tried yoga; others have reduced the office temperature (after research revealed that office workers are less productive when the temperature rises above 25C); and competitions and incentives are now widely popular.
But instead of sporadic catch-ups or midday meditation, a shake-up of the underlying business practices could be the way forward. How can this be done?

NO ADMIN POLICY

Time is our most valuable commodity, and many of us struggle to manage our workloads effectively. But while London Business School research has found that workers spend too much time (an average of 41 per cent) on discretionary activities that offer little personal satisfaction and could be handled by others, managers should be wary of the culture of “delegate first, think second”. Rather than allowing staff to jettison administrative tasks, try ensuring that they are each accountable for all of their own actions. Doing so will make colleagues more focused on using their time effectively, which will help foster a more productive and optimistic culture.

OPEN BOARD MEETINGS

It might sound bonkers, but opening up private board meetings will increase transparency and give employees the platform they need to provide feedback and input to the entire company. Giving staff of all levels the opportunity to voice their opinions and ideas can prompt a level of collaboration and interactivity that board level employees rarely see – which in turn is vital towards building an atmosphere of trust and honesty.

FLAT MANAGEMENT STRUCTURES

The era of command-and-control structure may be coming to an end. Not only are tech startups (like GitHub) opting for flatter organisational structures, but business behemoths are also rethinking the management hierarchy. At US manufacturing company W.I.Gore, for example, all decision-making is carried out among small, self-managing teams. And it works: greater communication between management and employees creates a more engaged workforce. In many large organisations, junior employees never cross paths with chief executives or managing directors – let alone speak to them. Encouraging flatter structures can leave employees feeling a greater sense of responsibility and empowerment, bolstering their sense of involvement.

BREAKOUT AREAS

Many organisations in creative fields have moved away from the typical flouro-lit, beige-walled working spaces. Google has a slide; the IT services firm Infosys a bowling alley; and Facebook a video game room.
Unfortunately, however, such conducive workspace is a rare find in other industries. All workers need a space where they can sit comfortably (be it on a swing or bean bag) to bounce ideas off each other in a group – or can sit alone quietly and have a think.
Krish Ramakrishnan is chief executive of Blue Jeans Network.

The Postman

Free
In an era where letter and card-writing feels increasingly onerous, The Postman may be just the ticket. The app allows users to send “proper” signed letters to any business, organisation or individual by writing text into their mobile device and tapping a few buttons. Helpfully, it also offers templates for business correspondence and enables you to save letters as templates.

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