Maximizing productivity has always been a chief concern for business leaders in nearly every industry, but securing consistent employee performance isn't easy. For one thing, each worker tends to have their own unique workflow and tolerance for stress, which can make it difficult to successfully implement broad engagement and management strategies. On the other hand, focusing too heavily on individual improvement plans can be time consuming and may introduce additional inefficiencies into an employee's day. So how can companies increase productivity without investing significant resources or making sweeping operational changes?
The first step to effectively managing employees' productivity is to understand when and where they complete the bulk of their work. This can help business leaders identify performance-related trends, eliminate distractions and develop new processes that will boost workflow efficiency. Of course, every company contends with different organizational challenges, so it's important to collect as much information on employee behaviors as possible.
Capitalizing on productivity trends
In late July, the staffing firm Accountemps (a subsidiary of Robert Half) released the results of its comprehensive employee productivity study, which surveyed more than 2,800 workers employed in office environments around the United States. The goal of the survey was to identify performance trends and behavioral patterns that may help companies optimize their management strategies and stimulate employee engagement.
According to Accountemps' findings, more than half of surveyed workers believe they are most productive at the beginning of the week, with Monday (29%) and Tuesday (27%) topping the list. Only 11% of respondents felt they did their best work on Fridays, suggesting high-priority projects should be scheduled at the start of an employee's work week. Additionally, the vast majority of survey respondents said their productivity peaks in the early morning (44%) or late morning (31%).
In terms of location, the survey found that workers are noticeably divided along generational lines. Older employees (ages 55 and above) have a clear preference for working in traditional office settings, with 45% believing their best work is completed in a private office with the door closed. Alternatively, workers between the ages of 18 and 34 expressed favorability toward open office settings (38%) and telecommuting (36%). These findings suggest that companies may benefit from offering employees more remote work opportunities, though preferences will likely vary between individuals.
Reducing in-office distractions
Accountemps' survey also asked respondents to identify common distractions that negatively impact their productivity throughout the workday. Addressing these disruptions is crucial to unlocking employees' full potential and keeping them focused on business-critical tasks. The study found that the top sources of in-office distraction include:
- Chatty coworkers (32%)
- Office noise (22%)
- Unnecessary calls and meetings (20%)
- Cell phone use (15%)
- Superfluous emails (11%)
While it may be difficult to completely mitigate these interruptions, employers can secure positive results by rolling out targeted workplace policies and speaking to workers about their disruptive behaviors. Considering close to 50% of full-time employees believe workplace distractions significantly impact their productivity, according to research from Udemy, it's important to develop actionable solutions that directly address the source of the problem.
"Employers can play to the unique strengths of their team by knowing when and how they're most productive," said Michael Steinitz, senior executive director of Accountemps, in a press release on Robert Half's website. "If you can provide access to their preferred workspaces or bring in temporary professionals to help staff reach peak productivity, do it. What matters most for the bottom line is the work employees get done - not where and when."
Improving employee productivity won't happen overnight, but ignoring performance trends and sources of in-office disruption will only compound the issue. Instead, companies should focus on adjusting workflows to be more flexible and enabling employees to deliver their best work.