If you are a boss, you are probably breathless with anticipation by now.
Sometimes the secret to boosting employee productivity is not in switching to a new online collaboration tool. Promotions and raises are effective solutions, but you can promote a worker only so many times a year or give only so much raise a time.
What can you do to raise their productivity on a daily basis? How can you keep them motivated? How can you lessen their Monday morning blues and give them a reason to feel excited about coming to work?
Here are 7 unusual ways to boost employee productivity:
1. Browsing cute animal photos.
The Objective: Make employees relax.
The Evidence: According to a study by scientists at Hiroshima University, Japan, a group of students who were made to look at cute animal pictures performed better on a set of tasks than another group of students who were not shown these pictures. Those who looked at pictures of baby animals did better than those who were shown pictures of adult animals.
A Japanese company in Tokyo, Ferray Corporation, has adopted nine shelter cats that they allow to roam freely and play around the office. The employees of Ferray Corporation have reported a significant drop in stress levels after the cats came to the office.
What Can You Do? Of course, not every company can follow Ferray Corporation’s example. But you can announce a Bring Your Pet to Work Day.
You can put up pictures of cute, baby animals around the office or upload a few funny animal videos on a common, secure server that your employees can access. You can mail cute animal pictures to your team members or other employees sometimes. The pictures will not only melt their hearts and amp up their productivity levels but also get you known as an approachable and friendly boss.
2. Sharing a larger lunch table.
The Objective: Encourage communication and collaboration between workers.
The Evidence: According to a research and analysis firm, Sociometric Solutions, workers who eat together in big groups communicate more with one another than those who eat alone or in smaller groups. Another startup, Humanyze, has observed that software developers who eat lunch in big groups are 10 times more productive than those who do not.
What Can You Do? Get bigger tables at the cafeteria. Place coffee vending machines and water coolers in strategic locations to encourage huddles. Eating together and relaxing over a meal break ice and help build rapport amongst workers.
The Objective: Increase worker alertness.
The Evidence: Several medical studies, including one by scientists at the Harvard University, show that a 30-minute nap in the early afternoon improves worker alertness. Drowsy workers, who doze off in front of the screen, in the storage room, or inside the bathroom stall, cost billions of dollars a year in lost productivity.
The trucking and rail industries in the U.S. have put into place napping policies. In China, many companies have mandatory nap hours.
What Can You Do? Even if you can’t get the C-suite to agree to a formal napping policy, assure your employees that you won’t tick them off if they are caught napping. In fact, encourage them to take napping breaks, and take one yourself.
If you can put in place a napping policy, then make sure that you create an environment that is conducive to dozing off. For instance, dim the lights around the office or have dorms where your employees can retreat to for their shuteye.
The Objective: Make employees healthy. The fringe benefits: employees save time and money on gym memberships.
The Evidence: Several research studies conclude that “sitting is the new smoking.” According to the findings from these scientific studies, sitting for long hours increases the risks of developing obesity, cardiac ailments, metabolic diseases like Type 2 diabetes, cancer, depression, and a host of stress-related disorders. In an experiment on a group of workers at an Iowa-based company, it was found that those who worked away on pedal machines installed under their desks reported a rise in their concentration levels.
What Can You Do? According to research, the adverse effects of sitting around the whole day cannot be compensated for by an hour or two at the gym. So install standing desks, bike desks, and/or pedal machines in your office. Arrange for a certified fitness coach to come to your office and demonstrate some exercises that your employees can carry out while they are at their desks.
5. Letting go of some controls in favor of cooperation.
The Objective: Value cooperation instead of focusing on clarity, accountability, and metrics. Assure your employees that you trust them to get things done.
The Evidence: You don’t need statistics for this; just look at the way you work.
You have “clarity” about your role in office, and you are supposed to work 8 hours day. But do you switch off your computer and do not finish the sentence you have been typing as soon as those 8 hours are over? You don’t. Do you really need to fuss over “clarity” of roles and responsibilities and compliance to standards?
What would you spend your time and efforts on? To find someone to blame in case the project is not completed on time or to create a plan to succeed? A project that did not kick off or was not completed successfully is still a failure even if you find someone who can be held accountable.
As the manager, you want to complete as many projects as possible during the quarter. This is the metric you are striving for. But do you tell your team to rush through the job and do a sloppy work of it, so they can move on to the next project? You do not. Instead, you always try to exceed client expectations with the work that you deliver. Can you put a number on your client’s level of expectation? Why bother about metrics then?
What Can You Do? Create a culture of cooperation. Do not turn your meetings into blame games or to read dismal management reports that nag about the lack of clarity and non-compliance.
Look beyond numbers and notice efforts like when the whole team stayed back to troubleshoot a coding problem that was clearly the work of the developer or when a new employee learned a new tool or a coding language even though he would not be certified.
Instead of judging your employees by the numbers they have notched up on some vague scale, inspire them to work as a team.
6. Encouraging employees to take more vacations.
The Objective: Rejuvenate employees and prevent burnouts. In turn, you can retain talent in a competitive market and reduce your company’s financial liabilities when employees “cash out” their unused time-offs when they leave.
The Evidence: Companies like the H Group in Oregon and Jancoa in Cincinnati have reported increased sales and reduced attrition rates after increasing paid vacation time. Several studies, like that carried out by scientists at the University of Tel Aviv, report that taking vacations can increase productivity by up to 80 percent. For instance, in one study, workers who came back from a vacation showed an improvement in their reaction times by 40 percent. According to scientists, taking a vacation rejuvenates workers by decreasing mental stress.
What Can You Do? If you cannot increase the number of paid holidays, encourage your employees to use the vacation time they have earned. Manage your projects efficiently, so work is distributed equally amongst all the team members and no one person feels burdened by the workload. But most importantly, create an organizational culture where taking time-off is not frowned upon.
7. Not answering all emails.
The Objective: Reduce distractions.
The Evidence: The average employee receives an average of 304 business mails a week. An employee checks emails about 36 times an hour. This means your employees spend about 6 hours a day checking mails.
What Can You Do? Do not reply to mails unless you have been asked a question, and never answer mails where you have just been marked on the CC line. The “CC” means “FYI;” you are not expected to jump into the conversation. Every time you answer a mail, the others marked in the mail feel compelled to respond, even if all they have got to say is a thank you or an okay. This builds up clutter in the inbox.
Limit the number of emails you shoot throughout the day. Whenever you can, walk up to your employee’s desk for a face-to-face talk or pick up the phone. Sometimes, a quick team huddle over a hot cuppa can resolve issues quicker than exchanging mails throughout the day.
Even machines need maintenance time. Even the most focused worker is distracted when he is buried in mails. Nobody can function efficiently when he is deprived of sleep. Human beings are meant to be active.
It is amazing how we lose sight of these basics when we get caught up in the race to get ahead and earn more money. Grow your business and improve your bottom-line by doing away with these productivity-zapping attitudes, habits, and ways of working.