In the business world, time is money — that’s why leaders are hyper-focused on productivity. Unfortunately, many people mistake constant busyness for being productive when they are two very different things.
Being “busy” can mean responding to a hundred emails without getting any real work done. It can mean chatting with a dozen prospects without closing a single deal. On the flip side, being productive is all about efficiently completing meaningful tasks. And the best way to encourage your employees to be more productive is to eliminate notorious time-wasters.
With so many people now working from home, you can’t police your employees’ social media habits or discourage mindless scrolling. What you can do is free up their workday for meaningful tasks by helping them avoid busywork.
Here are a few innovative ways you can save your employees time:
1) Create a Corporate Wiki
Searching for an answer to a specific question can be a huge drain on employees’ time. Usually, workers must wade through employee manuals, the company website, and old emails to find the information. If they still can’t find an answer, they may have to ask several employees to learn the company’s official policy.
Creating a corporate wiki puts all this information in one place. A corporate wiki is a central database of information employees can use to share knowledge. They can update information as policies change, and then that information is available to everyone. It eliminates confusion around outdated documents and preserves the knowledge of your entire staff.
2) Change Your Email Culture
Email is one of the biggest workplace time-wasters, but it doesn’t have to be. Most productivity-related problems stem from unrealistic or mismatched expectations of what constitutes good email etiquette. Many people feel it’s appropriate to CC their fellow department members on every group email. Others think their co-workers expect answers within minutes or hours when a response by the next business day would suffice.
When workers feel they must check their email constantly, it creates dozens of interruptions each day. Workers must spend time responding to each email individually, which pulls their attention away from more important tasks.
Another big time-waster is when teams use group email chains to collaborate. Everyone has had the experience of being added to an unproductive group email. So much time is wasted going back and forth, gathering information, and reaching a consensus.
The best way you can save your workers time in their inbox is by changing your workplace email culture. Encourage employees to talk through complex projects in person or on the phone instead of relying on email. Discourage the practice of CCing people who don’t need to be included, and set clear expectations for email response times. Urgent matters that need to be addressed immediately shouldn’t be communicated via email. When your employees aren’t expected to respond instantly, they’ll spend less time checking their inbox and more time actually working.
3) Let Employees Create Their Own Schedules
If remote work taught us anything, it’s that giving employees greater autonomy and flexibility boosts productivity. When employees are free to work from home, time they would usually spend commuting is put to better use. And when employees are given some flexibility, they can schedule their work for the times they’re most productive.
As your employees return to the office, see if you can shift to a more flexible schedule. Some employees are most productive in the morning, so they may want to shift their workday earlier. Others might get more done if they’re allowed to hit the gym in the middle of the day. It’s better to judge employees based on their output rather than hours spent at their desk.
4) Avoid Recurring Meetings That Don’t Serve a Specific Purpose
You may think your weekly staff meeting is important, but have you considered the cost? Say you have 50 employees who each work 50 weeks per year. An hour-long staff meeting each week is costing your company 2,500 hours a year!
To reduce the hours in lost productivity, be judicious about the number of meetings and who’s required to attend. Consider eliminating routine meetings or holding them monthly or biweekly instead. Any meeting that involves an entire team or department should have a clear agenda.
If you can’t bring yourself to cut out the weekly meeting, set a hard time limit at 30 minutes. Much longer than that, and your team’s attention will start to drift to those piles of work on their desks. (This is especially true if you’re conducting these meetings via Zoom.) If the meeting’s purpose is just to keep your team motivated, consider a 10-minute stand-up huddle instead.
These changes may seem small, but they can be transformative. Empowering your employees to find their own answers makes the company more efficient at every level. Communicating with purpose, avoiding time-wasters, and letting employees optimize their schedules allows everyone to get more done. When your employees are free to spend their day contributing at the highest level, you’ll have a passionate, productive team.