In a previous article, I introduced the topic of prioritization. I started with it because managing the order in which we do things and bringing the most important tasks to the forefront is related to increasing productivity.
Prioritization is a key skill for any leader. It is especially necessary for middle and high-level managers and project managers to master.
On the other hand, it goes without saying that even the best-planned things will not be able to be accomplished in an environment that does not provide opportunities to be productive.
Business owners who have not managed to undergo at least a residual digital transformation and do not provide remote work will not be pleased with the data from most studies. It turns out that:
the most efficient employees peak at 60% productivity during the workday. In addition, only when they work from home.
In the main, this is because our offices are not set up for us to work efficiently. Open space, frequent meetings, omnipresent noise, ringing phones, video conferencing, people walking behind our backs, or accosting us to ask us one quick question are just a few distractions.
It turns out that employees in offices are interrupted on average every 3 minutes and 5 seconds! When an employee is distracted, it takes an average of 23 minutes to fully focus on the task again.
This means nothing more than that:
employees complete only 3 minutes of work for every 26 minutes spent in the office.
This is downright unbelievable. No wonder, then, that in another study, we can find information that as many as:
65% of employees are more productive during the vacation season.
The reason is simple. It’s because most of the co-workers are on vacation then, and the number of distractions drastically decreases.
In addition, multitasking can reduce employee productivity by up to 40%.
Allow remote working
As of 2023, the public space is increasingly hearing that companies and organizations are planning to return to offices. I understand that someone built them, then someone invested in them, and generally, a lot of money was spent. But is this a good solution from the point of view of the organization itself?
According to Inc.com, 9 out of 10 employees who currently work remotely plan to do so for the rest of their careers.
So why are companies choosing to take their employees out of remote work? It seems to be rooted in the need to increase their efficiency through control. As I mentioned earlier, even the most productive employees have a productivity rate of 60%. Unproductive employees spend an additional:
- 1 hour and 5 minutes reading news (from the world and beyond),
- 44 minutes on social media,
- and, very interestingly, 26 minutes of looking for a new job.
Not surprisingly, companies are trying to get out of this situation. However, it seems that the problem is more complex, and strengthening controls is not a good way to go. Such a move could hurt committed and dedicated employees, who are capable of being up to eight times more productive than average workers.
The decline in engagement at work should be traced to the source of stress, which, according to the Dynamic Signal service, consists of:
- low morale (34% of employees),
- project delays/failures (44%),
- loss of sales (18%)
- and unmet performance goals (25%).
According to the American Institute of Stress – 12% of employees have taken sick leave due to stress experienced in the workplace.
The “Stress in the Workplace” report indicates that:
stress-related illnesses cost companies between $200 billion and $300 billion a year in lost productivity.
It is mainly the bad workplace that is the cause of the previously mentioned behaviors.
But coming back to remote work, productivity data clearly shows its advantage over working in an office.
- 66% of employees believe they are more productive when they work from home.
- 76% of employees want fewer distractions and unnecessary interactions with co-workers.
- 70% of respondents want to reduce the stress of commuting. As other data collected by the Auto Insurance Center shows: “Commuters spend about 100 hours a year commuting, 41 hours of which are spent standing in traffic jams.”
Employee satisfaction can translate into clear financial benefits for organizations. According to Global Workplace Analytics, a typical company can gain about $11,000 a year for every employee who works from home at least part of the time.
The best way to make the most of our offices is to make them mostly spaces for creative and collaborative work. Of course, space should also be left for those who don’t want or can’t work remotely (but we should leave that decision to them).
Provide good collaborative spaces
The number of distractions coming from other people has now made it so that, according to HubSpot, up to:
86% of employees prefer to work independently, whether they work from home or in the office.
Employees say that when they can spend less time with other people, fewer things distract them. This makes them much more efficient and able to focus on their work. It’s worth noting, however, that we can’t run complex projects alone, even when we work remotely. For this, you need whole teams of people with different competencies.
Due to different work styles, 46% of people see teamwork as extremely difficult.
In order for teams to function well and be productive, they must first and foremost:
- Be able to communicate with each other (as I wrote about in the article “Those who can talk to people achieve the most“).
According to a McKinsey report, teams that are well aligned and know how to communicate with each other see an increase in their productivity by as much as 20-25%.
- Have specific and clear goals that people in the organization can follow (see the article “7 smart goals you can set in your organization“).
79% of employees are more engaged when they have autonomy at work. In addition, they are then characterized by increased responsibility and efficiency. Autonomy further increases productivity by an average of 5.2%.
- Have clearly defined roles with responsibilities (I wrote more about areas of responsibility, role definition, and support structures in the article mentioned above)
According to Gartner, 9% of employees surveyed felt more productive with less supervision.
- Skillfully manage work and deadlines according to priorities and share and delegate tasks. I wrote about this in a previous article.
85% of people admit that they do not know how to prioritize.
Stanford Research Institute International, in its research, proved that human competence is responsible for 75% of success, compared to 25% when it comes to technical skills.
- What’s important is to have a friendly environment for collaboration.
The last point is of particular importance because the environment our organizations offer directly affects employees’ engagement in the activities they perform.
Engaged employees are 21% more productive.
With high employee engagement, teams additionally gain:
- 41% reduction in absenteeism,
- and 59% less turnover.
Reduce the number of meetings to a minimum
Research published in the Harvard Business Review shows that:
70% of meetings keep employees from doing productive work.
Since 2020, thanks to remote work, the average length of meetings in companies has dropped by 20%, but the number of meetings attended by an employee has increased by an average of 13.5%. In addition, new managers hold almost a third more meetings than their experienced colleagues.
Other studies do not leave a dry eye on company meetings. They include that there are too many of them:
- 91% of employees do not focus on the meetings but rather luxuriate in them,
- 39% of employees admitted that they fell asleep during a meeting,
- 96% have missed at least one “mandatory” meeting,
- 73% of people work on their tasks during meetings instead of actively participating in them,
- 50% of employees consider meetings a waste of time,
- 89% of employees complain about “ineffective or poorly organized meetings.”
Drastically cutting the number of meetings can not only reduce our reluctance to work with other team members but also directly affect productivity.
Reducing meetings by 40% increases employee productivity by 71%.
So you might want to consider introducing the idea of a day (or even days) without meetings into your organization.
MIT Sloan found that when two days without meetings per week were scheduled, employee productivity increased by 71%. This was because they felt more empowered to deal with items that were on their to-do lists. This allowed them to focus on prioritizing them and the things that were really important.
Another noteworthy step is to focus on asynchronous work. Although the name sounds very technical, what lies behind it is much simpler than it sounds, and we do it every day. Asynchronous communication is any communication between people that does not require them to be in the same physical space and/or communicate at exactly the same time.
Examples of asynchronous communication include corporate instant messaging or email. When engaging in a dialogue with a co-worker, we don’t expect him to respond immediately after we ask him a question. Instead, he will respond as soon as he is able.
With this approach, we will focus on our main tasks. In addition, we will have enough time to focus, and we will answer other people when we find the right space to do so.
Additionally, according to a survey conducted by GitHub:
Only 3% of respondents prefer verbal communication to written communication. Only 12% believe they have had trouble getting others’ attention through asynchronous communication.
In another survey, employees themselves were asked what they thought about their productivity. The results were very surprising.
Only 7% of employees feel productive in the workplace. Their unproductivity stems from the fact that they spend most of their workday distracted.
Diving into other data and research, we can find even more advantages of such work.
- 61% of employees say that asynchronous communication provides a better work-life balance,
- and 35% of employees believe that asynchronous work provides more meaningful and less distracting communication.
Unfortunately, not all companies enjoy the benefits of this form of collaboration.
58% say their company does not have the tools to support asynchronous work.
If our organizations continue to focus on getting most of our tasks done in a standard way, we will not increase productivity. If we think that hooking someone up to ask questions is better than asynchronous work, let’s pay attention to the previously cited data on the cost of distracting such a person. In addition, it is worth bearing in mind that only 6% of employees state that it takes them more time to prepare for asynchronous communication than it does to plan/conduct a meeting.
Reading all these tips, one can’t help thinking that an organization may become less human by implementing them. However, this is completely missing the point. Changing the functioning of our organizations is, first and foremost, to benefit the human being and put him first. It is to increase comfort at work, reduce stress, increase engagement, or improve the quality of combining work and personal life.
Although, as humans, we should work with maximum focus, but we should not forget the great need to build relationships with other people. Therefore, let’s find a special, dedicated place, space, and time for this so that in full concentration, we can give the right amount of attention to the other person who deserves it.
Sources and supplementary materials
https://hbr.org/2022/03/dear-manager-youre-holding-too-many-meetings https://www.getclockwise.com/blog/implement-a-no-meeting-day https://www.berkshireeagle.com/business/allen-harris-its-not-a-no-meeting-day-iis-a-get-stuff-done-day/article_08e9ab9c-d3cb-11ed-8d33-ffd21e4e3a76.html https://www.apollotechnical.com/employee-productivity-statistics/ https://www.flexjobs.com/employer-blog/asynchronous-vs-synchronous-communication-remote-work-teams/ https://about.gitlab.com/company/culture/all-remote/asynchronous/ https://www.zippia.com/advice/productivity-statistics/ https://quixy.com/blog/employee-productivity-statistics/ https://financesonline.com/productivity-statistics/ https://www.formstack.com/blog/workplace-productivity-statistics