Employee productivity has been a topic of discussion for entrepreneurs and business owners for a long time. The main reason being that there is no single answer on how to maintain employees’ productivity throughout an eight-hour work day. However, there are some habits that have been proven to increase performance at work and help maintain it for longer periods. Many of these habits require knowing what to focus on, what to avoid and, most importantly, when to stop. Cultivating healthy habits in the workplace is critical to fostering employee satisfaction and meeting company goals.
Eating Healthy Snacks
Everyone knows about the 3 p.m. slump. It’s the time after lunch where employees suffer a drastic dip in productivity that only several cups of coffee can attempt to repair. Foods like coffee and sugar-filled snacks are only a temporary fix to a bigger problem. One reason many employees feel unproductive throughout their workday is their nutrition. Foods high in carbohydrates and fat are known to cause fatigue, sleepiness and lack of focus. That is why an unhealthy meal can disrupt an employee’s performance for an entire day.
Having healthy snacks available at work – think fresh fruits, nuts and protein bars – can provide the nutrients employees need to maintain a high level of focus and engagement in their work. When healthy options are readily available, it becomes easier to make better decisions. This is why many conglomerates like Google and Facebook provide fully stocked snack bars in their offices. It not only increases employees’ happiness but also leads to higher productivity.
Contrary to popular belief, multi-tasking does not work. Studies have proven that it’s impossible to give 100 percent of your attention to two things at once. The result is a split focus between several tasks and an inferior product. Although it might fly when performing small tasks such as cleaning and listening to podcasts, the stakes are higher at work.
Instead, it’s best to prioritize tasks. For many employees, the morning is the most productive time. As such, that is the best time to accomplish the most important tasks and leave the meetings for the afternoon. This method also provides a sense of accomplishment once you scratch critical tasks off your to-do list.
There are the obvious distractions to productivity, namely social media and personal cell phones. Then there are the distractions that are subtler. The top culprits are emails and meetings, as they are work-related but can still affect your efficiency in accomplishing a task. In a State of Enterprise Work Report created by Workfront, a work management platform, employees listed emails as the second highest obstacle to getting work done.
On average, employees spend 23 percent of their day checking emails and many complain that they are not the most efficient way of disseminating information. Often, communication over email leads to lengthy email threads, endless replies and never-ending information. It’s for this reason that many companies have instituted bans on emails altogether.
Software like Boomerang offers an alternative: pausing emails. This feature, which is quickly growing in popularity, allows employees to temporarily stop the influx of emails to their inbox. The goal is to promote productivity and reduce stress. Meetings can be another productivity killer. This is where the responsibility falls on leadership to determine what warrants a meeting and what may be better relayed through another medium.
Taking Regular Breaks
It’s not uncommon for employees to hit a wall while working. For many, productivity is not a constant state. Instead, it peaks, plateaus and requires regular recharge. The human body offers signs when it requires a break, exhibited by restlessness, an inability to remain focused, yawning and a series of other behaviors. However, too often, employees address it by working through it with the help of sugar and energy drinks. It all leads to the same place: hitting a slump that is difficult to come back from. Taking regular breaks is the key to maintaining productivity and avoiding those low points.
Breaks can include everything from getting up to grab a cup of water to a short walk outside. Having a temporary shift in environment helps employees recharge their bodies and minds. Stretching is another great activity to do during a break. It is proven to reduce stress, calm the mind and prevent fatigue. Moreover, stretching can help undo the damage that sitting for extended periods of time does to the body. It improves blood flow, increases flexibility and improves posture. So instead of working through it, employees should listen to their bodies and take several short breaks throughout the day.
Keeping Workspaces Clutter-Free
Another potential impediment to productivity is the workspace. The expression, “cluttered space, cluttered mind” holds true as it relates to productivity. An employee’s workspace is a reflection of his or her state of mind. Recent studies by Harvard University show that people with organized workspaces maintain a higher productivity level than those with cluttered work areas.
Visually, it can be easy to get overwhelmed and lose focus when a workspace is littered with piles of documents, foods and random items. A tidy work environment can reduce stress levels, increase focus and provide a boost of energy. So instead of waiting for spring, employees should regularly organize their workspaces.
Ultimately, the goal is to use a combination of these habits and commit to a routine that helps you perform well for longer periods of time.