You only hire rock stars, right? People that are willing to put in hard work, long hours when necessary, and get the job done right. How can you get the most out of your employees?
10-16 hour workdays used to be the norm when factories had to be run 24/7. However, increased time working does not mean an increase in productivity. In fact, just the opposite is true.
It wasn’t until 1914 when Ford Motor Company introduced the 8-hour workday. A workforce revolution. The result? Increased productivity. However, the average worker is still only productive for about 3 hours per day.
Yes, you read that right. Human beings are typically productive for 1/8 of a 24-hour period. It’s surprising that we get as much work done as we do, given that we are so much less productive than we thought, right? Even with an 8-hour workday, most of that time is wasted.
Human beings are typically productive for 3 hours per day Click To Tweet
With technology at our fingertips, quite literally, most of us are working from a computer right now, cell phones and the Internet are top distractions for employees.
But can we really cut technology out of the work place? Realistically for most companies, no. In fact, placing more Internet restrictions hurts employee productivity because the resources available to them online are irreplaceable.
Also, you are working with adults. As long as the job is getting done, there’s no need to treat them like children and tell them when they can or can’t use their phone or takes breaks (within reason of course). If you’re hiring the right people, they will get the job done. But how can you help your employees reach their productivity potential?
1. Encourage frequent, brief breaks
Taking a five minute break every hour to stretch, take a walk, or close your eyes, increases productivity and allows employees to look at everything with a fresh mind. Fresh eyes are now reading over the email being sent to a big client, a clear mind is double-checking the monthly budget, etc. Quick breaks throughout the day are a good thing.
This is especially important in a creative environment. Writing articles or designing ads require a fresh mind for each edit. Also, if an employee is working with a large set of numbers or heavy graphs, frequent breaks can help them catch mistakes.
2. Get outside, work in a new environment
Nothing gets the juices flowing like being outside! Fresh air and the warm sun can be rejuvenating to some employees, and working in a new place can provide new perspectives or ideas. On breaks, encourage employees to take a quick walk or even eat lunch outside weather permitting.
When I’m working from home, I’ll sometimes take my computer to a coffee shop close by just to be working in a new place. It gives me a different perspective, and sometimes inspires me to come up with new ideas.
3. Provide snacks
Food is energy, and you need energy to be productive. Your brain burns 20-30% of the calories you eat, so even if you aren’t in a labor intensive job, you need food. Good food too. Processed foods will make your energy levels go all over the place because of the way your body processes salts, sugars, and fats. You’ll get jolts of energy, then feel sluggish. Healthy, non-processed foods release energy slowly over time, keeping energy levels more consistent and helping you be productive for a longer amount of time.
A few healthy snack ideas:
Fresh fruits or veggie plate
Kale chips (or other veggie chips)
Being hungry makes me less productive. I’m distracted thinking about lunch or become more irritable when I’m hungry, a recipe for disaster in productivity. Employer-provided snacks are the best (free food!), and being able to grab something quick and easy to munch on may be the pick-me-up some employees need mid-morning or mid-afternoon.
4. Cut down the work day?
A trial on six-hour work days in Sweden showed a decrease of sick days used by 4.7%, and showed that employees felt better rested, less stressed, and more satisfied with their jobs.
It’s controversial. Cut down the 8-hour workday? Well the result was increased productivity when Ford did it, so who’s to say a 6-hour workday won’t be beneficial to employees? They’ll be better rested, and feel the need to be more productive with a shorter workday.
Of course, one can make the argument that we could work a 1-hour workday and be really productive, but it still wouldn’t get the job done. There’s a balance to be found in the number of hours worked, getting maximum productivity out of employees, and getting the work done. Perhaps 8 hours is the right number, maybe it’s 6. Studies haven’t proven enough to make it clear yet, but a shorter work day may be what it takes to get the most out of employees.
5. Provide a positive work environment
Employees are more productive when they know their hard work doesn’t go unrecognized. A happy, positive work environment where new ideas are encouraged and communication among co-workers is strong makes employees want to work hard. Make employees look forward to coming to work and interacting with their colleagues and productivity is sure to increase.