It's not rocket science that you can increase employee output by giving staff more flexibility and freedom. However, a new report commissioned by Red Letter Days for Business, entitled “What’s killing UK productivity?”, has produced some unusual findings. Surveying 2,000 employees, it revealed that those with the highest output are likely to be late for work, do personal tasks during working hours such as online shopping, and work from home.
On the other hand, the report shows that staff with the lowest output are also those who face tougher restrictions around when and where they can work. They’re far more likely to arrive at work on time, not be allowed to work at home, and are less likely to perform personal tasks during working hours.
FREEDOM TO BROWSE
Allowing your staff to check their social media accounts, shop online, and book their next holiday during working hours can actually improve their performance. The report shows that nearly half of highly engaged employees check their social media accounts at work every day. A third of this group confessed to spending up to two hours a day on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. Such habits may sound unconducive to hard work, but reviewing your employees’ online access rights may, in fact, pay off. Half of those surveyed said taking regular breaks was beneficial, helping them to focus when they do sit down to work.
Another study, by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, backs this up. Published in the journal Cognition, it found that even brief diversions can drastically improve your ability to focus on a task for prolonged periods of time.
TIMING IS EVERYTHING
It is impossible for any employee to be at the top of their game day in, day out. Out of the employees surveyed in the report, one in four said they’re most productive on a Monday, but only 10 per cent said they produce their best work on a Thursday. One in ten also said they use the weekend to get their work done, as they feel this is their most productive time.
Unsurprisingly the period from 8.30am to 10.30am was when employees said they were most effective. However, just 10 per cent claimed to do their best work over lunch (between midday and 2pm).
Perhaps it’s time to say goodbye to conventional working hours. Allow your employees to recognise the time and day of the week when they’re most productive and let them dedicate that time to their work. More flexibility could make a marked difference to your team’s efficiency.
WORKING FROM HOME
Many employers still believe that “working from home” is just another term for slacking. This is reflected in our report’s findings, which show that nearly half of staff are not permitted to work from home. It revealed that employees with lower output are less trusted to work productively at home, with only one third given this privilege compared with two thirds of highly engaged staff. Thirty nine per cent of respondents who work at home said they do more than in the office, while only 15 per cent admitted to being less productive.
But the case for letting less productive employees work from home is very strong. More than two fifths said that they get more done at home compared with being in the office, while only four per cent said they get distracted by things around the house.
Managers should trust their less engaged staff to work wherever suits them best. This might be in coffee shops, where the level of ambient noise can keep workers engaged, or at home to free up time wasted on their daily commute.