Careers & Business

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Improving office productivity

Productivity is paramount to a company's success. A productive staff tends to meet or even exceed its goals, strengthening a company along the way. As a result, business owners often find themselves looking for ways to increase productivity, which could be lagging for a number of reasons.

Though lack of morale is often assumed to be the reason behind a lack of productivity among staff, such an assumption is not always accurate. Poor productivity might be a byproduct of the office environment, which could be suffering. The following are a handful of steps business owners concerned about staff productivity can take to address those concerns and get their organizations back on the right track.

* Upgrade hardware. Thanks to the prevalence of technology, men and women have grown accustomed to getting what they need and want a lot faster than the days of yore. For example, the social networking tool Twitter has revolutionized the way many people get their news. Top stories are now broken on Twitter, which has the ability to instantly share newsworthy items that once were relegated to nightly news broadcasts or morning newspapers. Many people have grown accustomed to that immediacy, so a lack of immediacy can be frustrating. Business owners should keep that in mind when examining their hardware. Older computers, for example, are considerably slower than newer models, and older machinery can compromise productivity and frustrate employees. Upgrading employee hardware can help business owners improve efficiency and productivity and make for a happier, less frustrated workforce.

* Look into lighting. Lighting can have a significant impact on employee productivity. Adequate lighting helps employees stay alert throughout the workday, while poor lighting can cause fatigue as the day progresses. If the office is dimly lit, upgrade lighting fixtures, even installing more fixtures in areas that are especially dark.

* Help employees hone their skills. Employees who feel as though they have reached a plateau and opportunities to advance their careers have all but dried up are less likely to be productive than those who feel they can continue to move up within a company. In such instances, employee morale needs to be addressed, even if there are no immediate promotions to be had. Business owners may improve that morale by helping employees hone their skills, be it paying for coursework that allows them to improve existing skills or sending them to seminars where they can learn more about their field. Such efforts are relatively inexpensive investments for employers, but they show employees that their companies are willing to invest in them. Such gestures can improve morale and productivity.

* Set targets and follow up on them. A sleepy office environment or low employee morale are not always behind lower productivity. In some instances, employees simply need to have goals set for them in order to improve their productivity. Goals should be realistic but not too simple to achieve, as poorly set goals can give employees the wrong impression. When tasked with meeting easy targets, some employees may think their employer does not have much confidence in their abilities, while others may embrace easy goals and use them as an excuse to be unproductive. So while goals should be realistic, they also should inspire employees to do their best. Once targets have been established, don't forget to follow up and ensure progress is being made. Setting targets but failing to follow up on employee progress can produce an environment in which employees feel as though their efforts are not valued.

* Encourage employee input. Determining why productivity is sagging is not always so easy. But many times employees themselves are a business' best resource with regard to identifying why things have taken a turn for the worse. Business owners can create an environment in which employees know their input is valued. If necessary, instruct department managers to conduct monthly meetings with staff to address issues such as work flow, teamwork and responsibility. During these meetings, which can be valuable during periods of low or even exceptional productivity, managers can solicit suggestions from employees about improving productivity and efficiency.