6 Productivity Pain Points of Modern Businesses — and How to Beat Them

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(Newswire.net — February 24, 2016) — You could consider this to be a golden age of productivity. High-speed Internet is widely available and affordable, as are mobile devices, communications technology, and thousands of apps designed solely to make us more productive. So why do so many of us feel like we could be doing more? Is it just rampant perfectionism, or is there something more going on?

The Productivity Problem

Most of us feel like we aren’t productive enough – as individuals, as teams, or entire companies – not because we aren’t getting enough work done, but because of all the time we waste that could be better spent on meaningful tasks. These missed opportunities often slip right past us, barely noticeable, but they can add up to major losses in both company expenditures and employee satisfaction.

There are thousands of points of lost productivity, many of which are rare or negligible, but there are six common points that permeate almost every modern business, and can be corrected to maximize overall potential:

  1. Meetings. Meetings are a strange case, because by all accounts they’re meant to increase productivity by getting everyone on the same page and establishing a clear direction. The problem is, most meetings end up being productivity killers. Meeting organizers schedule meetings for everything as a catch-all update format, even when a simple email memo or conference call could suffice. Because invites only take one click, they tend to invite more people than they need to, and end up scheduling extra time for them in case they go over. The end result is an unnecessary meeting with unnecessary participants lasting an unnecessary amount of time. Reserve meetings for when they’re truly necessary, and keep them trim to avoid overages.
  2. Mobile Devices. Mobile devices have flooded the workplace, and when used correctly, they can be godsends when it comes to productivity. However, it’s notoriously hard to get your entire team using mobile devices the right way, or consistently. How can you be sure everyone has all the apps they need? How can you make sure all your devices remain functional and connected? Are you spending too much? Is your data secure? These questions can be overwhelming, so one of your best options is working with an external partner to keep your technology in line. For example, you could use a mobile device management platform or hire an IT consultant to have on call for when something goes wrong.
  3. Traditional Office Schedules. There’s nothing inherently wrong with the standard Monday-Friday, 9-5 schedule, except that not everybody works best this way. Some hate waking up early. Some get a burst of energy at night. Some have other home responsibilities they need to juggle. Practically everyone hates traffic along the morning commute. Studies show that offering more flexible options, such as flex hours and work-from-home days can actually increase productivity (for all the reasons we just mentioned, and then some). It’s hard and nerve-wracking to break this mold; but remember, you can always go back if it doesn’t work out.
  4. Time Cost Analysis. You may feel like your organization’s work expenditures are appropriate, but try thinking about them as costs. How much does your company pay an employee to produce a report that you sell to your client for X amount of money? Do you end up turning a profit in this model? Most businesses wouldn’t be able to tell you, either because they don’t know how much time their employees are spending on projects or because they don’t know the cost of that time. Strive to increase your knowledge of both, through time-tracking software and financial analysis, to learn where your areas of weakness are and make sure you’re charging enough for your company’s time.
  5. Digital Distractions. It’s no secret that most workers split their time between actual work and digital distractions like social media and online news. This is a personal struggle for most of us, and there’s little you can do to enforce a full-fledged ban on such digital indulgences—even if you could enforce it, you might draw resentment from your workers. Instead, suggest and offer alternatives, such as “unplugged” periods with no Internet access, or soft rules that allow for personal use of computers for short periods of time.
  6. Excessive Communication. Today’s communicative technologies are a double-edge sword when it comes to productivity. On one hand, they enable us to communicate more, over longer distances, faster, and more immediately; but on the other, they can be major distractions. It’s hard to get any “real” work done when you’re just responding to emails and instant messages all day. Be careful not to abuse these systems with constant interruptions, and encourage your workers to take regular breaks—after all, breaks tend to declutter the mind and increase productivity by themselves. 

You don’t have to be a control freak or a micromanager to squeeze more productivity out of your team—instead, being more flexible and hands-off can prevent or eliminate most of these productivity pain points. There’s no “right” way to approach employee productivity, as every business and every employee is unique, but if you can find some way to address these major loss points, both you and your employees will be better for it.