How to increase productivity in the workplace

Creating the environment for a highly-productive workforce has always been top of the people-leader agenda, but despite this, lost-productivity is costing businesses millions each year.

By: Paul Heaton on

Through factors such as disengagement, corporate misalignment and poor wellbeing, it’s estimated that low levels of productivity are costing US companies up to $550 billion a year alone.

But what can organisations do to begin to close the productivity gap? What initiatives and areas of focus will deliver the biggest impact?

Better wellbeing

There have been multiple studies which have found a strong correlation between better wellbeing and greater worker performance, including in productivity.

Mental wellbeing, in particular, has been a key focus and area of developing understanding for businesses, with the impact of stress and anxiety brought on by in-work factors such as heavy workloads, but also outside factors such as the day-to-day happenings in employee’s lives, taking a toll on their focus and motivation.

One study by Tower Watson found that almost 60% of employees who rated themselves as very stressed at work felt they were less productive - compared to only 10% of low-stress employees. In fact, the American Psychological Association suggests that up to $500 billion is lost because of stress in the workplace.

However, whilst putting in place steps and initiatives to support employee wellbeing can absolutely improve bottom-line results for a business, organisations must also recognise that promoting the better physical and mental wellness of their staff is simply the right thing to do as well.

Increasing engagement

Poor engagement in the workplace is often cited as the primary factor causing low productivity, and the research absolutely backs that up.

Further research from Gallup has found that teams that are highly engaged are over 20% more productive than those which are not, whilst across organisations as a whole, those with low employee engagement scores experienced 18% lower productivity - as well as 16% lower profits.

Increasing engagement is complex and involves numerous factors, however, studies have found that the biggest impact on increasing how engaged employees feel in their work is through creating a culture of recognition and appreciation and ensuring that employees know that you as an employer value their daily contributions - as well as their end-goal output.

Learn more about ways to create a culture of recognition in your business here.

Shared values

Organisations that are aligned with a common goal, mission, purpose and working values have been found to be more productive and, as a result, more successful too, with studies showing that employees who understand how their contributions connect to the overall goals of the business are more focused in their day-to-day efforts.

A values-based peer-to-peer recognition model is a particularly effective way of promoting the right behaviours and helping employees to realise, understand and practice company values every day. And once a culture based on shared-values begins to develop, organisations can expect to see a happier, more positive and more productive workforce unfold.

The right tools

Ensuring employees have the right tools to effectively carry out their best work is one of the fundamentals of creating a productive workforce, which can range from having fast computers, connectivity apps and the right software to cutting-edge manufacturing equipment and procedures.

But this also extends to the right tools for management to effectively show gratitude for their team’s efforts as an initiative to boost long-term engagement - key for productivity too. In many organisations, line-managers are often expected to be the standard-bearers of showing gratitude to employees, but balanced with their own workloads and often not having a dedicated platform to quickly and easily show thanks to employees, recognising great work and endeavour can often slip down the to-do list.

Healthy work-life balance

One of the consequences of increasing workloads for employees is that productivity falls, despite employees taking their own personal steps including working through lunch breaks and bouts of sickness to try and keep up.

A Ginger Research study found that British workers are staying at work for longer, with 34% of staff regularly ploughing through lunch breaks to meet deadlines. But a study by Cornerstone has found that this overworking really harms overall productivity and 68% of employees say they don’t have enough hours in the day to complete their tasks.

Read more: A lack of appreciation is the reason two in three employees are considering quitting their jobs

This culture of staying late and over-working can cause serious strain on work-life balance and lead to poor wellbeing and ultimately, disengagement too.