Employee Productivity: Guide to Discovering Problems & Optimizing Workflow

by | September 10, 2020


Employee productivity dictates your company’s efficiency. When you make a substantial investment in recruitment, onboarding, and retention, you expect solid results. Unfortunately, even the top talent can turn out to be unproductive.

Over 50% of employees give the minimum effort required to keep their jobs and leave immediately when something better comes along.

Low productivity doesn’t just affect the company’s revenue. It leads to problems with the workspace environment, hinders your retention efforts, and makes the company less attractive to new talent.

The reasons for low employee productivity vary. If addressed timely, the effect can be diminished and reversed.

The Battle for Employee Productivity

Employee productivity depends on numerous factors, including clear communication, a healthy workplace environment, focused goals, incentive, training, and much more. It’s up to the company leader to explore productivity issues and implement timely solutions.

Many business owners expect high productivity from their top talent, especially when employees put in long hours. In reality, the efficiency of staff’s work doesn’t depend on how many hours they stay in the office.

A study in Microsoft Japan showed that by implementing a 3-day weekend, it’s possible to increase productivity by 40%. While this strategy doesn’t work for all industries, it allows business owners to rethink the linear concept of productivity. Work efficiency doesn’t directly depend on the hours spent doing it.

Besides excellent results and high revenue, productive businesses have happy and healthy employees. They are the basis of a successful organization.

With more than half of workers showing low efficiency, the battle for employee productivity is ongoing.

Common Reasons Why Employees Aren’t Productive

You are paying high salaries, offering impressive benefits, and arranging team-building events, but your employees still show low productivity levels. Don’t automatically blame your team for the problem. The company itself may be contributing to insufficient productivity and poor output.

1. Ineffective Management

Effective managers and team leaders are the keys to workplace efficiency. Even the top-notch talent can’t achieve the desired results without proper supervision and management.

Managers who lack the experience to motivate employees and keep them performing according to their capabilities contribute to the low efficiency.

Poorly qualified managers cause communication issues and tend to micromanage employees. As a result, your staff doesn’t understand company goals and tries to avoid making any decisions without approval.

2. Poor Working Environment

The perfect working environment may vary for each particular employee. However, some factors are similar for the majority of workers.

A HubSpot survey found that:

  • 61% of workers agree that loud colleagues interfere with their work.
  • 86% of workers prefer to work alone to achieve the highest productivity.
  • 27% of workers believe they’d be more productive in an open room setting (as opposed to cubicles).

Respondents also named the key productivity stoppers:

  • 50% — cell phone/texting
  • 42% — gossip
  • 39% — internet
  • 24% — noise co-workers
  • 23% — meetings

The physical office layout could be affecting your employees’ productivity. If they don’t have enough room to make important calls or speak with their team privately, the work efficiency may be dropping.

3. Lack of Engagement

Employee disengagement causes serious damage to the company’s productivity and profitability. A global Gallup study found that only 15% of employees are highly involved and enthusiastic about their work and workplace. Meanwhile, organizations with a high level of engagement report a 22% increase in productivity.

Many companies fail to make engagement part of their overall strategy. They don’t educate employees about the company’s goals and values, contributing to their lack of motivation.

4. Insufficient Recognition and Appreciation

High salaries may power up productivity but only to a certain level. Recognition and reward don’t need to be monetary. Employees tend to appreciate a simple “thank you” and “I value your efforts” just as much as monetary rewards.

If workers don’t feel recognized and appreciated by their managers and bosses, they tend to slack and consider other job opportunities. These people simply don’t have much to strive for so their productivity plummets.

5. Stress at the Workspace

Deadlines, demands, and pressure are major components of the modern workplace environment. Some employees handle this type of stress well while others get frustrated and show low productivity levels.

The stress may come from poor management or a lack of sufficient resources to complete tasks. If you don’t provide the necessary time and materials to complete the job, the productivity will take a dive.

Top Factors that Successfully Contribute to Productivity

Besides personal aspects, employee productivity is affected by the decisions their leaders make. These factors can contribute to improving productivity successfully.

  • Encouragement, motivation, rewards, appreciation
  • Incentives
  • Realistic demands
  • Up-to-date tools and equipment
  • High engagement
  • Positive workplace environment
  • Clear communication
  • Clear goals and objectives
  • Sufficient training
  • Robust onboarding

By taking advantage of these factors, you don’t just improve employee productivity but also keep turnover rates low. The high costs of employee turnover can affect the company’s bottom line as much as low productivity rates.

How to Spot Problems among Your Team

Once low employee productivity starts affecting your company’s revenue, fixing the problem can take time. You can spot issues before they become serious by paying close attention to the warning signs.

1. Emotional Outbursts and Frequent Sick Leaves

High-stress levels and lack of appreciation affect employees’ mental and physical health. If you notice frequent emotional behavior, negative attitude, and a rising number of sick leaves, your team isn’t being as productive as it could be.

2. High Turnover

A high turnover rate is a clear sign that something is wrong with the work environment, rewards system, engagement, and the like. When these issues arise, some workers leave while others simply reduce their productivity.

3. Missed Deadlines

Missed deadlines are a sign of the lack of clarity, improper performance expectations, and stress. Even one missed deadline should raise a red flag.

4. Complaining

When people spend a lot of time complaining about their job, they are procrastinating. Since they complain to other team members, it affects the overall morale. Frequent complaining is the sign of something going wrong.

5. Silence

In a healthy workplace environment, people interact frequently. Be it productive collaboration or water cooler chats, talking is an integral part of work in any industry. If you notice that your team is silent, it’s a sign of underlying tensions that lead to low productivity.

How to Troubleshoot Root Causes

Whether you are just noticing the first warning signs of productivity reduction or experiencing its effects, troubleshooting root causes can produce quick results.

1. Invest in Proper Tools

Review your team’s tools, from software and hardware to stationary and equipment. If your employees are working with outdated tools, it’s slowing them down.

Consider installing team collaboration apps, like Stack or Trello, to simplify both in-office and remote work processes.

2. Show Your Appreciation

Be it turning in an assignment early or a 5-year anniversary with the company, employee achievements must be rewarded. Consider implementing a rewards system to ensure employee satisfaction.

Thanking your workers publicly on forums or through apps can go a long way toward improving their productivity.

3. Add Flexibility

One study found that working from home just one day a week can increase employee productivity by 13%. Employees who struggle to find peace and quiet in the office can gain it by working from home.

If your business allows, you can also implement flexible working hours. In a recent UK survey, 89% of respondents said that flexible working hours motivate them to be more productive at work.

4. Strengthen Training and Onboarding

According to Glassdoor, organizations with a robust onboarding process improve productivity by as much as 70%. Rethink your onboarding process to help employees be as productive as possible when they start working full time.

Additionally, pay attention to regular employee training. In many industries, like IT or healthcare, the environment changes rapidly. The lack of regular training can reflect on the productivity or output.

5. Work on Engagement

Employee engagement is the key to high productivity. Make sure each employee understands the company’s values and goals. Be authentic and sincere when interacting with your team to develop a trusting work environment.

Ask employees for their opinions and suggestions about current projects or the overall direction a company is taking. When people understand that their opinion matters, the engagement levels increase and so does productivity.

6. Review Your Management

Since one of the root causes of low productivity is poor management and supervision, pay close attention to the way your managers work.

  • Do they give employees sufficient information?
  • Do they micromanage?
  • Do they clarify tasks?
  • Do they listen to feedback?
  • Do they optimize the work process?
  • Do they assign tasks according to employees’ level of knowledge?

You may need to give managers additional training or rethink their positions.

Top Fixes for Employee Productivity

The top fixes for employee productivity include:

  • Allow flexible work hours/remote work
  • Update technology and tools
  • Contribute to team building
  • Give monetary incentives
  • Show appreciation
  • Create a happy work environment
  • Reduce stress in the workplace
  • Invest in training and onboarding
  • Ask for feedback
  • Offer support
  • Set realistic goals

One of the major factors that contribute to employee productivity is your ability to view workers as valuable people with skills rather than people with valuable skills.

Alternatives to Hiring: Do Gig Hourly Workers Get More Done?

To increase productivity in the workplace, you may consider hiring hourly workers. They don’t face some of the most common productivity killers like strict office hours, inability to work from home, noisy neighbors, lack of engagement, and much more.

Gig economy employees don’t deal with the same issues and distractions as in-house workers do. In many cases, it helps them get more work done, boosting your company’s productivity levels. Additionally, when workers only get paid for the work they perform, their productivity rises considerably.

The Takeaway

Since your company’s success is directly dependent on employee productivity, it’s vital to keep levels as high as possible. Many companies overlook the warning signs and start acting too late.

By improving the workplace environment, keeping employees happy, providing the right tools, and showing your appreciation, you can increase productivity and streamline business operations.

At Zirtual, we focus on providing companies an opportunity to boost employee productivity by hiring virtual assistants. Contact us to learn more about how they can help your business succeed.