Improving productivity isn't about becoming a slave driver who squeezes every last kilo-joule of energy from your employees. It's about helping the people that work for you get things done more quickly and simply - making their lives less stressful and freeing their time up as a result.
This is about creating a culture where there are fewer late nights in the office, and where more projects get completed more quickly, in one awesome swoop. Here's how you pull it off.
This is a double-header of a tip to fight off the endless scourge that is the over-crammed inbox.
First, try banning internal email (unless you're sending files to each other). It'll be hard, and it's probably not sustainable, but it'll make you all realise how much you over-use it - and how much time it takes up. You'll then all have the discipline to cut down afterwards.
Secondly, get everyone to set an out of office that says they will only be checking email at two times every day in the interests of being more productive (and to call if it's urgent). Turning off email for the majority of the day stops people getting constantly distracted every time a new email pings up. Smarta founder Shaa uses this technique, and she's one of the most productive people we know, so her practices are worth copy-catting!
Implement flexible working
Freeing staff up to work flexibly - i.e. to work from anywhere at any time - means they can work while they're on the move and work at the hours that they feel most productive. That freedom improves their work/life balance, and lets them use up previously dead time in their working day.
Flexible working has been shown to make staff's lives considerably easier, too - 2012 research from the Kenexa High Performance Institute found that the number of workers reporting unreasonable levels of stress is more than three times higher if working hours are not flexible.
So how do you go about adopting flexible working? Handily, O2 Business offers a flexible working consultation - call free on 0800 028 0202 or submit your details for a callback.
Assess performance in the right way
There's little less motivating for employees than feeling that their hard work is not being recognised. If you aren't measuring their output in the right way (or at all) and aren't giving them decent feedback on how to develop, they'll simply stop trying so hard. So regular performance reviews - every six months at least - are critical to improving motivation, which directly correlates with productivity.
Setting targets is also a great motivator, and focuses staff on being productive in the ways that are most beneficial to the wider plans of the company. Our feature on how to set business targets is a good ally here.
The smartest businesses are also realising that measuring productivity is far more beneficial to both staff and the company than measuring hours. This ties in with the thinking behind flexible working too: results are more important than presentee-ism. Set out what you expect staff to achieve, then try not to fuss over how many hours they put in at the office or elsewhere to get the work done. If staff achieve what you need them to, that's all you need - it shouldn't matter where they do the work from or when (unless of course they need to be face to face with customers or on the phone with them at set times!).
Have sprint meetings
We all know how meetings can run on interminably, eating into the day - and how often have you got to the end feeling like nothing has really been achieved? Create an agenda that allows people two-minute speaking slots, then time them and cut them off to stop them, before going into a more open discussion. Keep meetings to 30 minutes - or 20, if you can. The new rhythm will take a bit of settling in to, but it's a great rambling-habit-breaker.
Create a culture of ownership
It makes perfect sense that the most productive employees tend to be those who are keenest to achieve. But how do you foster that drive? Let employees own projects they work on, or aspects of the business. Assign project leaders to key business tasks and functions, and make it clear that the project has the final call on any decisions, and that any staff members working on that project - whether they are more senior or more junior - report in to the project leader for this bit of work.
Most people live up to responsibilities they are given. Feeling like they own that piece of work or project makes an employee want to make it succeed. That sense of ownership is much more motivating than feeling like they are only coming in each day to work for someone else. Ownership appeals to an employee's inner entrepreneur - and we all know how motivating those entrepreneurial inklings can be.
This article is in association with O2 Business