Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by Dan Scalco – Owner and Director of Growth at Digitalux. His opinions are his own.
There isn’t a manager alive who isn’t concerned with upping their team’s productivity. Unfortunately, this can often result in a feeling of desperation that leads to misguided strategies such as overloading employees with copious amounts of work, scheduling endless series of meetings, and/or utilizing negative reinforcement.
But turning into an overbearing manager isn’t going to do anything for your team’s productive output (not to mention their morale). Rather than essentially banging your head against the wall, research suggests that a much more effective approach is to invest in cultivating a positive working environment and enabling your employees’ personal wellbeing.
We’ve outlined seven of these productivity-boosting approaches below and not a single one of them requires over-managing.
1. Provide them with the right equipment and training
No team member is going to efficiently produce a PowerPoint presentation if they’re working on a typewriter! And if that person doesn’t know how to type? Well, you’re probably not going to see that presentation any time soon. While odds are good your technology isn’t that outdated, the point still stands:
If your employees are going to be at their most productive, they need to have the proper tools and training to make it happen. Consult your team members on a regular basis to learn if they feel they’re missing any equipment or know-how that would better enable them to do their jobs, and invest in those resources whenever possible.
2. Be effusive with praise
Your employees do praise-worthy things every day—and if you disagree with that statement, it probably means you need to pay closer attention! No good comes from failing to recognize employees for their hard work, dedication, effective collaboration, or creative problem solving. But withholding recognition for these contributions can degrade employees’ morale to the point that their work performance suffers.
In fact, one study found that companies who recognize their employees for their contributions report a 32 percent increase in productivity. So provide meaningful, positive feedback on a regular basis in order to keep employees engaged.
3. Institute flexible hours
The idea that every team member performs at their best between the hours of nine and five is incredibly outdated. The reality is that different people tap into their highest levels of productivity at different times of the day. Allow team members to cater to their own work styles and preferences by instituting flexible scheduling. Take things up another notch by allowing employees to telecommute—studies have found that working from home can result in productivity increases of as much as 13 percent.
4. Up their chances of getting a good night’s sleep
Large-scale studies have found that many Americans are heading to work on far too little sleep. This has massive consequences for their work performance. Sleep deprivation can impair cognitive abilities, escalate negative affect, decrease concentration, and inhibit productivity overall.
In contrast, getting a full night’s sleep on a regular basis can improve focus, concentration, knowledge retention, creative thinking, and overall work performance. Thus, it’s important to enable your employees to get plenty of sleep by instituting reasonable working hours, encouraging employees to avoid email at night, and letting it be known that management wants team members to invest in self-care.
5. Give them opportunities for physical exercise
Study after study has found that exercise can increase productivity in a number of ways, from improving focus and concentration to providing a natural energy boost, reducing stress, improving time management, and promoting creative thinking. Regular exercise also boosts the immune system, which can help reduce productivity lost to sickness and absenteeism.
Encourage (but don’t mandate) your employees to stay fit by providing them with access to an on-site gym, giving them gym memberships to a nearby fitness center, and providing them with stipends for personal training and/or fitness tools such as dumbbells, kinesiology tape, yoga mats, exercise bands, and so on.
6. Encourage vacations
It may seem counterintuitive, but taking a break from work is an incredibly effective way for team members to accomplish more once they’ve returned. Study after study has found that taking vacation can result in a serious productivity boost. The key is to disconnect from work both physically and emotionally, so make sure you’re encouraging employees to truly unplug while they’re away.
7. Demonstrate respect for their personal lives
Nothing kills motivation faster than feeling like you’re just another replaceable cog in an inhuman machine. The antidote? Taking the time to get to know your employees as people and supporting them—not adding to their stress—when their personal lives bleed into their work.
For example, if a parent requests time off to take their child to the doctor and you make vaguely threatening comments about whether you can trust that they’re really a team player, that employee is not going to be motivated to give their all to the company’s bottom line. If, on the other hand, you tell them to take all the time they need and delegate some of their tasks so they can focus on caring for their child, that’s going to win you your team member’s respect and loyalty, which will significantly boost their productivity over the long term.
These strategies are all but guaranteed to improve employees’ morale and overall wellbeing. And that will make all the difference when it comes to their productivity.