Multitasking has largely fallen out of favor, subjugated by time management experts in favor of single-tasking. The work smarter, not harder maxim has been repeated so often, it elicits mostly yawns, but when you're a small-business owner, the concept of productivity never goes out of style. Especially when you consider the benefits of productivity in the workplace.
Most people know how it feels to be productive – to finish a client presentation, when at the start of the day, you felt certain you would get through only half of it.
Being productive – the rate at which a person does useful work – is sometimes related to speed and quantity. However, ask an online magazine editor how valued a writer is if he submits six articles a day and five of them must be returned because they contain multiple errors.
Being productive must contain a quality measurement, too.
Balancing quantitative and qualitative measures of productivity may be one of the greatest challenges you confront as a small-business owner. Since you want your team to be efficient and produce quality work at a fair clip, it can be motivational to see what might await you at the end of the exercise.
You should never have to explain why productivity is important for businesses, but someone may question why it landed on your radar.
You should be able to silence any doubts when you point out that greater productivity often results in:
- Greater profitability due to higher output
- Lower operating costs due to increased efficiency
- The opportunity to grow and diversify with the time gained
- A greater competitive advantage due to your cost structure and response time
- Agility to meet customer demands due to improved employee morale
You may be able to take this outcome one step further. If you've taken pains to hire positive, can-do people who want to be productive and make worthwhile contributions to your business, the benefits of increasing efficiency may also include:
- Greater interest and engagement
- Higher morale
- Less burnout and work-related stress
As you well know, productivity at your small business won't improve overnight. You can't set a timer on it, although you can set some benchmarks. Chances are, it will be a recursive process, requiring some back-and-forth as you expose and address deficiencies.
Set the process on the right track by talking with your employees, one on one, about what they need to do their jobs more effectively. Their answers may surprise you.
One employee may be trying to make do with defective equipment. Another may be itching to tell you about a new software program that would streamline the rising stack of folders on his desk. Both will be glad you took the time to ask.
After giving your employees the tools and equipment they need to do their jobs, create an environment in which productivity can flourish by:
- Providing ongoing training and encouraging attendance at industry conferences
- Conducting regular, formal employee performance reviews
- Offering generous public praise for accomplishments
- Maintaining an open-door or cracked-door policy by identifying one or two hours of the day for employees to drop by without an appointment
- Eliminating distractions, even if it means creating smartphone-free work zones
- Considering a suggestion box, which many small-business owners say can be a conduit for outstanding workplace improvements
- Setting the office thermostat to a temperature that is conducive to concentration (probably about 68 degrees). Set it any higher, and you risk making people uncomfortable and sluggish – and maybe stifling yawns that are hardly conducive to working smarter.