Employee productivity is good for business and for employees.
For an employee, knowing that they are achieving goals, seeing tasks completed, delivering work, and feeling motivated and engaged is good for wellbeing and mental health. There’s a greater job satisfaction when employees are productive, and not feeling sluggish and unmotivated, which means that they are more engaged. Managing to tick off jobs within the workday rather than them spilling over into the evening or home life means that there is a better work life balance, which again means better productivity and employee engagement.
Lower productivity is one of the biggest results of poor workplace mental health, and is the biggest cost implication according to academic research. Deloitte’s most recent annual study says that mental health costs UK employers £56 billion a year, as a result of lost productivity, absenteeism and presenteeism.
For employers, workforce productivity means that employees are working efficiently and effectively, and thus achieving greater output and profitability. This enables more competitive pricing, better outputs for the client, and thus can support retention of customers and attract new ones. It’s a win for everyone. And so improving employee productivity should be a priority for all employees.
But what affects worker productivity, how do you measure productivity, and crucially what are the best ways of boosting employee productivity?
8 factors that can affect employee productivity
1. Workplace environment
The work environment is a key factor in an employee’s productivity. As well as comfortable seats and well designed offices, this can include things such as regularity of breaks and a focus on overall wellbeing. Those doing remote work should also be factored into planning a good workplace environment, and many companies offer stipends for buying ergonomic office furniture or second screens for example, to keep people comfortable whilst working.
2. Relationship with coworkers and team
A positive relationship with coworkers and colleagues not only affects overall productivity of the individual but a team’s productivity levels. Strong workplace relationships result in better communication, which can drive forward innovation and creativity, delivering better results in a shorter frame of time.
There is also the factor of psychological safety. An environment where people feel comfortable to share their thoughts, ideas and opinions without negative consequences is correlated with enhanced outcomes and productivity for the overall organization.
3. Conflict management
Conflict management is often something that gets ignored when planning how to support employees, but is essential for healthier work relationships. Involve the entire team in training for conflict, and help people resolve conflict in a way that is non confrontational and combative, and instead results in better overall outcomes.
4. Company structure and operations
An environment where people understand their role clearly and how it sits within the overall company can help improve productivity. If people know what they do, why they do it, and what everyone else does and their purpose, the overall goal becomes clearer, and thus it is easier to work towards it. If you want to boost productivity ask yourself how transparent your company’s aims, vision and objectives are, and make sure these are communication throughout the whole team so that the employee understands why they are there and what their role is.
5. Employee wellness
We know from the 150,000 conversations analyzed for the Employee Mental Health Report that employees are struggling. The data shows 32% employees expressed feeling low, bad, numb, depressed, and sad throughout the day and 75% employees reported low to moderate energy on average throughout the day. A third of SOS conversations were in the night – traditionally when support isn’t available. The report All Worked Up, found that in the US and UK around a third of employees are scoring on the GAD-2 and PHQ-2 symptoms of anxiety and depression – twice the reported prevalence. And all of these are having an impact on workplace productivity. An AI stepped care approach results in significant costs savings due to improving overall wellbeing – and thus productivity.
6. Employee salaries
People need to be paid fairly for their skill and work. If someone feels they are being underappreciated, it can be demotivating and cause them to not give their all to a job or task. Although many companies do not permit discussion of salaries, there is a move towards salary transparency, which will hopefully ensure people are being paid fairly and equally. Employers should look at what is standard for the industry, skill and experience level, and match or better this if it wants to retain the best people and motivate them to do the best job.
7. Professional development
The more we train and enhance the skills and capabilities of our employees, the better they will be able to do their job. Although professional development and training often takes time out of the working day, it is in fact essential to improving productivity. As well as demonstrating to employees that the company is invested in their growth and wants to retain its most valuable employees, it helps people become more knowledgeable, effective and efficient, thus more productive for the outcomes that matter.
8. Leadership and company culture
Inspiring and engaging leaders go a long way to encourage employees to do their best work. Lead from the top with a company culture that puts employee wellbeing first, encourages effective and efficient work rather than work for its own sake, and supports its employees to deliver good work.
How do you measure employee productivity?
There are a number of objective ways of measuring employee productivity. What is the overall employee output? Are employees meeting deadlines? Are reasonable workloads being achieved? Is everyone contributing towards outcomes? Using timesheets aligned to output can help you and employees understand their most productive time, and work towards maximizing that. It’s more effective to do good work in fewer hours than spend long hours doing mediocre work.
One good way of being able to predict employee productivity is to understand wellbeing. We’ve created a completely anonymous, company-wide digital screening tool: The Employee Mental Health Barometer. This anonymous survey will give employers insights into current levels of anxiety and depression within the organization, allowing them to understand the current situation and develop strategies for improving it.
7 ways to improve employee productivity
1. Prioritize employee wellbeing
Our Employee Mental Health Report showed that every year, unaddressed depression and anxiety cost $580 per employee in absenteeism, lost productivity and turnover, which equates to $30 million a year for an employer with 50,000 people. Employees who are mentally and physically healthy will be more productive at work. You might include activities such as lunch time yoga, meditation mornings, and educational webinars, such as those offered by Wysa. Providing time away from the desk is essential and will result in higher productivity. Create a working environment that feels comfortable and supportive for all employees, and aligned to their personal sense of wellbeing. And don’t forget those who work remotely, with wellness activities for remote employees as well as those on site. As an employee assistance program with conversational AI, structured self care and professional input, Wysa is shown to have much greater take up and engagement than others, and results in longer term outcomes.
2. Set clear expectations for a task or project
When employees know their ‘why’ it becomes easier to do the ‘what’ and this can increase employee productivity. Map out deliverables and objectives, and align individual actions against people in a way that maximizes their overall experience and expertise. Don’t set unrealistic deadlines and workloads that lead to overwhelm and burnout but instead work with people to create plans to manage projects, goals and tasks aligned to the overall business goals that they can work towards.
3. Improve workplace conditions
Research shows that happiness is correlated by high productivity – increasing it by up to 12% – and that the workplace environment influences productivity. Some ways to improve physical space include natural lighting, plants, a communal area for breaks, and chillout space. But it is the way the company operates that really matters. Ask people what works best for them. Some are highly productive at a standing desk whereas others see greater productivity in a relaxing environment. Finding ways to make people happy in the environment they are in is one way of increasing productivity. But workplace conditions aren’t just the physical space but include culture, and workplace culture significantly affects employee performance, so ensure that this focus on helping teams work well isn’t just about decor and office space, but is echoed in overall ethos.
4. Allow flexible schedules
Everyone is different and will work well under different circumstances. By encouraging employees to work in the way that best suits them and allowing flexible schedules to accommodate this you can both improve employee engagement and increase productivity.One of the most effective time management techniques is the Pomodoro technique – a burst of highly focused time for a specific period interspersed with a short break, repeated. Breaks are an essential part of a schedule, so normalize taking lunch breaks and finishing on time – and you will likely increase employee productivity. Hybrid working can also improve employee productivity. 43% of respondents in the Gartner 2021 Digital Worker Experience Survey, said that flexibility in working hours helped them achieve greater productivity, and a third (30%) cited a lack of commuting contributing to more productivity.
5. Optimize meetings and emails
Most employees recognise the meme that a meeting should have been an email. Minimize wasting time in meetings by setting a meeting agenda with clear talking points and crafting time for open communication so employees can share their viewpoint. Make sure that you have good project management tools in place so that those doing remote work also feel included and are able to contribute fully to the team’s goals. But emails can also be a drain on employee productivity. Some ways to combat this is to have dedicated time at the start and end of the day to monitor emails. At Wysa we use Slack and allow for instant communication – but that doesn’t always mean an individual employee has to respond immediately if it does not work for their schedule.
6. Employee recognition and rewards
Working hard for no recognition isn’t very motivating and employees work well when there are both intrinsic and extrinsic rewards. Intrinsic are the internal and psychological factors such as a feeling of achievement and accomplishment, but extrinsic factors determine motivation too. These might include monetary bonuses, a meal out or perks such as a spa day or theater tickets. Ask all employees what it is that makes them feel engaged and what rewards they would like to see, and try to align your incentive scheme to that.
7. Provide effective training
Effective training is essential for employee productivity as it means that skills are developed and enhanced, resulting in better work. Make sure that new employees get an effective onboarding and remote workers are also given the chance to engage in professional and personal development through online courses and workshops.
This mix of factors affect employee productivity in different ways in different organizations, and it’s important that individual companies not only measure employee productivity based on their own objectives and needs, but also listen to their workers about the best ways to support them to be productive employees.
Wysa for employers can help improve overall workplace wellbeing for your organisation. Get in touch for your free Employee Barometer report.