Being productive at work can be tough.
Productivity is a highly subjective issue, and a very difficult one to measure. It’s impossible to accurately gauge how much more productive someone would be with better technology or less commuting, but it is possible to deduce that they would be more productive to a certain degree.
Below are five ways in which companies can improve workplace efficiency, and four of these tips also apply to sole traders and startup entrepreneurs. The only advice that doesn’t is point one:
- Delegation. An unattainable luxury for anyone who finds themselves singlehandedly running a business, delegation represents a crucial aspect of optimizing performance for anyone with junior colleagues or assistants. Many people are reluctant to delegate in case things aren’t done properly, which can be a damning indictment of either staff competence or managerial trust. With effective training, there is no reason why subordinates can’t accept responsibility for individual tasks or entire projects.
- Effective time management. Following on from point 1, effective diary organization and eliminating unnecessary jobs can also hugely improve efficiency. It’s a good idea to compile a list of everything that gets done in a particular week, and then consider whether every item is essential. Many executives are surprised to discover how much time they waste on marginal activities like competitor analysis or marketing meetings, rather than concentrating on the core elements of their job.
- Prioritizing. If nothing on that weekly to-do list can be delegated or deleted, the next step involves creating a to-do list in descending order of priority. Tick off urgent jobs first, rather than procrastinating or replying to emails as soon as they arrive. Get into the habit of closing any email programs for a couple of hours of interruption-free work every day – it’s amazing how much can be accomplished without the constant distraction of electronic correspondence announcing its presence every five minutes.
- Remote working. When it comes to interruption-free work, few things beat a dedicated home office with a door that can be closed to the outside world. Working from home demands a leap of faith from employers, but numerous studies have shown it can improve productivity by removing gossipy colleagues and unnecessary distractions like superfluous meetings. Not only are workers able to operate more efficiently without two energy-sapping commutes every day, they typically feel more trusted and committed – and some of that saved time can be spent doing more work…
- Communications tools. Working from home requires a degree of infrastructure investment, but the internet has given us a plethora of tools to function efficiently away from our office desks. Google Docs allow real-time group editing of documents without endless email chains, and video conferencing packages like Zoom and GoToMeeting help to eliminate travel requirements for face-to-face discussions. Push email maintains channels of communication from anywhere in the world, while project management software like Asana and Trello (not to mention Microsoft’s brand-new Planner app) helps groups of people to collaborate on projects and objectives from wherever they happen to be.