HR professionals can boil their role down to three main elements: the welfare, productivity, and all-round excellence of their workforce.
But with so many people talking about the middle one, productivity, these days, it’s easy to spread misinformation about what the best productivity tips really are. In tandem with out-and-out bad habits such as procrastination or hiding under the desk, following counter-productive productivity advice can seriously reduce the quantity and quality of work your team produces.
So when you advise your staff on how to be the best they can, take care to warn them of the things they should avoid doing – and not just the tips and tricks that they should be doing to be more productive.
For example, just look at multitasking. It is thought to be the grand skill of our age (excluding, perhaps, coding and self-branding!). With so many demands on our attention, and more and more workers expected to complete diverse tasks that push their job descriptions to the limit, it seems natural to try to do more than one thing at once. The younger generations even claim to have evolved to do this, since they grew up with the inherently multitasking-led environment of the internet.
Unfortunately, the truth is that the younger generations, like the rest of us, maybe capable of doing many things at once – but not doing them well.
“Our brain can’t do two things at once. It turns out multitaskers are terrible at every aspect of multitasking.”
So says renowned Stanford University professor of communication Clifford Nass.
“They’re terrible at ignoring irrelevant information; they’re terrible at keeping information in their head nicely and neatly organized, and they’re terrible at switching from one task to another.”
According to Nass, multitaskers are like file cabinets that have been filled to bursting point. They may hold everything, but you can’t find anything – and the paperwork is getting crumpled! Nass firmly encourages workers to concentrate on one thing at a time to be more efficient and productive.
Encourage your team to shut out distractions. To close down the email and switch off non-urgent notifications when possible. To clearly allot periods of their schedule to single tasks. To keep a ‘ticky’ list so they can cross off jobs as they get them done instead of starting a new one while still putting the finishing touches on the previous one. If this is a shock to the system – especially for those ‘born with 12 tabs open’ – encourage meditation to help employees train to focus, extend their attention span, and get their mind working more effectively.
Let’s look at things another way. As employers, what are the bad habits that you should cut down on to make your team more productive?
Well, for one thing, stop blasting them with aircon (or, if you’re a Dickensian kind of employer, make sure to switch the heating on before it gets cold!). A Cornell University study showed that increasing the office temperature from 68 to 77 degrees Fahrenheit can reduce typos by 44 percent and boost typing output by 150 percent. Quelle surprise: when you invest in your workforce, it pays off in spirit and in revenue!
Anything else? Yep, about those coffee breaks: don’t just allow them. Enforce them. Workers should get a 15-minute break every 50 minutes. And they should move away from their computer when they do so. Countless studies have shown that taking breaks is good for productivity. They may differ on the precise schedule your crew should follow, but they’re united on the principles that exercise, a change of scene, and no screens, are the ingredients for a productivity-boosting break.
The well-rested but terribly productive folks over at Quid Corner have produced an excellent new infographic guiding you through 13 things your team should not be doing if you want them to be more productive. How many of these do you need to fix in your workplace?
About the author: John Cole writes on behalf of NeoMam Studios. A digital nomad specializing in leadership, digital media, and personal growth topics, his passions include world cinema and biscuits. A native Englishman, he is always on the move, but can most commonly be spotted in the UK, Norway, and the Balkans.