The concepts of productivity and performance vary in context and the environment. However, based on my regular writing scope, this piece will be limited to the work environment.

The first rude shock I experienced working abroad was that I couldn’t make or accept personal calls at work. I was not specifically told not to, but because the nature of my work was such that the environment and tasks before me couldn’t allow for such interferences, I was better off with a switched-off phone or, at best, in silence mode. As I went along on the job, I realized there were systems and structures in place that prevented idleness or presenteeism. You can’t even pretend to be working; it was a no-fake zone. Thoughtfully, too, aside from my work tools and necessary resources, everything I needed for my comfort was just around the corner. A few visits to the vending machines and the bathroom helped stretch my legs and back with proximities that did not take me too far away from my desk. Lunch breaks were quite organized, too, with schedules to ensure the floor wasn’t emptied at any point, even though the cafeteria was on the ground floor.

Coming from Africa, at first, I felt the company was far too kind to provide all those amenities for its employees, but the truth is, it was simply being proactive and pragmatic to extract value in exchange for my engagement. Everything provided by the company for the employees’ convenience was to boost productivity and, ultimately, performance.

These structures and systems established by organizations in the Western world help them effectively monitor and measure employee productivity and performance. The strategy has helped their systems avoid excessive hiring, duplication of functions, and wastage to optimize resources and produce high-quality goods and services with maximized output/outcome. For example, if your working hours are 9am to 5pm, you can be rest assured that the only time you will have for yourself or anything personal will be your bathroom, tea, and lunch breaks, which are often statutory, excluding emergency, sickness, annual, or maternity/paternity leaves, which are on a need and entitlement basis. However, in our part of the world, aggregation of a daily break could be as high as four hours out of the contracted eight hours stated in the offer letter. The far-stretched gap gets compensated by working late till 8pm when employees should be at home relaxing and preparing for the next day. Even though the latter approach to work grossed 12 hours, the productivity level is surely lower than the former, with eight hours. So, based on my work experiences at home and abroad coupled with some research, here are a few ways to enhance productivity in any organization regardless of the location, background, or nature of work:

Clear expectations and mutual clarity: Establishing clear expectations for employees is one of the key factors to making them productive. Communicating management expectations of employees regarding work performance and ensuring they understand the company’s policies and procedures. Prioritizing tasks and projects based on importance and aligning them with clearly defined goals and objectives help employees stay focused on tasks.

Adequate resources and mandate: Providing enough resources and clear operation instructions enhances productivity. Making sure workers have the tools and materials they need to do their jobs with access to the required information is advised. Also, ensuring a comfortable, neat, and well-lit work environment reduces stress levels and improves productivity.

Collaborative communications: Encouraging collaborative communication between teams, units, and departments across the organization is another critical way to create a productive work environment. Open and receptive communication encourages employees to share ideas and concerns and ensures they feel comfortable while at it. Also, the boss’ availability to answer questions and address problems promptly is crucial to fostering an environment of open communication, which helps employees feel more engaged and invested in their work. Also, project management and other cooperation tools can harmonize communication.

Promote teamwork: Promoting teamwork is another key element of a productive work environment. This encourages employees to work together towards common goals by providing opportunities to collaborate on projects. More importantly, ensuring everyone understands the importance of working together towards the company’s goals is paramount. Promoting teamwork helps employees encourage bonding and goal alignment.

Recognize and reward: A positive work environment that enhances productivity can be created by recognizing achievements. This critical step that enhances productivity can be as simple as taking time to thank employees for their hard work and acknowledging their milestones or accomplishments set a tone for a great, positive work environment. Considering incentives for meeting goals or exceeding expectations is a great way to go. Recognizing achievement makes employees feel appreciated and motivated.

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Proper training and technology: Another profound way of enhancing productivity is by ensuring employees have the necessary skills and training to perform tasks efficiently. Training, learning culture, and continuous self-development are achievable through on-the-job learning and development opportunities. Also, investing in productivity tools and software can automate repetitive tasks and improve efficiency.

Streamlined processes: Identifying bottlenecks and inefficiencies in workflow and processes also enhances productivity. Streamlined processes are achievable through revised procedures and removing unnecessary steps or redundancies. Time management tools like time blocking, to-do lists, and prioritization also come in handy in managing workloads efficiently amongst employees.

Employee wellbeing and flexibility: Supporting employee well-being with work-life balance initiatives, corporate wellness programs, and mental health resources makes for healthy and well-rested employees, hence productive ones. Also, allowing for flexible work arrangements when feasible, such as remote work options or flexible hours, can improve employee satisfaction and productivity.

There are many other easy yet effective ways to enhance productivity in the workplace. Interestingly, they all work hand in hand for a great outcome. Some of the rest are delegating effectively without micromanaging and reducing distractions and interruptions like excessive meetings or unnecessary emails. Creating dedicated quiet spaces for focused work when needed, using key performance indicators (KPIs) and metrics to measure productivity and performance, monitoring progress regularly and making necessary adjustments along the way, and soliciting and acting on employees’ feedback, especially about their work processes and challenges.

Call To Action

Our call to action this week is on an intriguing office scenario where the front office department needed to know the space dedicated to each clothing line in their retail stores. Based on the request, there would be a need to move many things around to measure out the floor area coverage by the admin unit. However, a smart unit member suggested counting the ceiling tiles above each department for quick and more accurate dimensions. Hating the idea, the boss responded sarcastically, “We need the square meter of the floor, not the ceiling.”

In this case study, the subordinate has suggested a very effective and efficient way of getting the job done. However, the boss thought it better to go the unproductive way. As a subordinate, what would you do in this situation? Kindly send your input/comment to [email protected].

Opaleye, a wellbeing specialist and corporate wellness strategist, writes from Lagos