Which would you prefer? An employee who spends 60 hours a week at the office? Or someone who can accomplish the same amount of work in just 30 hours?
You’d go with the latter, right? When people can achieve goals faster, there’s more time to brainstorm big ideas and go after loftier goals with a productive team of happy employees.
So why do American employers still reward long hours and expect 24/7 access? Despite proof that shorter workdays can lead to better service, many U.S. businesses still measure success by time spent at the office. Here’s what one productivity expert had to say about that:
“From a productivity perspective, do I think an employee can accomplish in six hours what normally gets done in eight? Yes…Especially if [they’re] working from home. Under circumstances that limit distractions, every worker can be more efficient.”
At companies where it’s possible to adjust policies and procedures, there’s a lot managers can do to encourage people to work smarter. In today’s post, I’ll show you ways to replace five common and inefficient habits with more productive workplace alternatives.
1) Desks → Remote Work
Whether they’re crammed into cubicles or situated in private offices, desks can lead to disastrous consequences when people feel chained to them. There’s usually a direct correlation between mandated work hours and diminishing productivity returns. Even the popular open office concept can increase distractions that destroy attention spans and creative thinking.
On the other hand, study after study has shown that remote employees are far more engaged and productive than their in-office counterparts. Give your trusted team members the option to work from home and coffee shops when needed, and you may be surprised at how much more they can accomplish.
Bonus: Less money on partition accessories and pencil cups means more for shiny, transportable laptops.
2) Unplanned Meetings → Agendas
The average big business will waste millions of dollars on unproductive meetings this year. Attendees will daydream, fall asleep, work on unrelated tasks and engage in mindless chatter.
All of this can be reversed with a highly effective, timeless tool: the agenda. Decide ahead of time what you need to accomplish by the meeting’s end and build out talking points to keep everyone on topic. If you can’t easily create an agenda, don’t hold a meeting. Instead, do some research and spend time turning your half-formed thought into an actionable idea that warrants group discussion.
Bonus: Using online standups to set priorities each day helps ensure meetings are devoted to the really important stuff.
3) Email → Real-Time Messaging
How much of the typical team’s communication would you guess occurs via email? Try 91%. What’s worse is that after sorting through reply-all threads, attending mindless meetings and dealing with other interruptions, the average American employee spends just 45% of time at the office doing actual work.
Enter real-time messaging. Tens of thousands of teams are turning to Slack, HipChat and Flowdock—and with good reason. These tools allow for real-time communication so team members can get questions answered quickly and keep projects from stalling.
Bonus: With fewer book-length emails to write, you could publish an actual book!
4) Status Updates → Measurable Results
One of the biggest challenges managers face is staying up-to-date on what everyone’s doing. On the one hand, it’s easy to tally up all the tasks someone’s tackling. On the other, you don’t want to micromanage.
That’s where objectives and key results (OKRs) come in. The method popularized by Intel and Google is a great way to keep teams in sync and ensure everyone’s working toward the same company objectives. It also makes it easier to measure what really matters (achieving actual goals) versus what doesn’t (busywork).
These are some of our favorite ways to help employees work smarter instead of just harder or longer. Which will you try first?