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How can you get the most from your employees? Oliver Hurcum from Inspiring Interns lays out some tried-and-tested methods for boosting staff productivity.

Productive employees are essential for a company to thrive - low productivity means a slower service, reduced profits, and missed targets. Evidence also shows that a fall in productivity can’t be compensated with an increase in working hours – in fact, too many working hours may well be a cause of the problem.

But how to ensure your employees are working at their best? While there are steps your employees can take themselves to improve their efficiency at work, there’s plenty you can do as an employer or manager.

Try these five ways to boost employee productivity:

  1. 1. Avoid Micromanaging
Robby Slaughter, productivity expert and owner of the consulting firm Accelawork, argues that “the best way to encourage productivity is to encourage individuals to take ownership over how they manage their own time and resources.”

If employees feel that they have control over their own time, they will be motivated to use that time effectively. This conclusion is reiterated by professors Maryléne Gagné and Devasheesh Bhave in Human Autonomy in Cross-Cultural Context: Perspectives on the Psychology of Agency, Freedom, and Well-Being. As Gagné notes, “Autonomy is important in every culture… [and] is especially likely to lead to better productivity when the work is complex or requires more creativity.”

The urge to micromanage is a natural one, but the evidence suggests you’re better off taking a step back and just letting your staff get on with it.

  1. 2. Encourage Remote Working
Research has shown that remote workers log more hours, take less sick leave, perform better, and in general are more engaged at work.

It is not totally surprising that more gets done when free from the distractions of an office environment, spared the busy morning commute, and left happy in the comfort of one’s own home or local café.

Indeed, analysts are predicting that flexible work arrangements are the future. In the US, for example, the number of remote-workers among the non- self-employed population grew by 115% between 2005 and 2015. Insisting on seeing your employees every day in the office risks leaving you behind with the times.

  1. 3. Recognise Performance
When your employees do well, celebrate their achievements. This might involve anything from taking them all out to dinner after the successful completion of a long and difficult project, to a simple shout-out in the office and a round-of-applause for a problem spotted and solved.

On the other hand, if your employees are not performing as well as you’d expect, take the time to ask them why. There are lots of reasons for a drop in productivity or quality of work. If they feel like you have been patient with them and listened to their concerns, they are much more likely to do their best for you when they get back on their feet.

  1. 4. Create a Career Pathway
Maria Kraimer, business professor at the University of Iowa, argues that it’s not enough just to provide training for employees in order to improve their productivity. She found that "providing developmental support, such as training opportunities and career mentoring, to employees who do not believe there are attractive career opportunities for them within the company led to such employees leaving the organization.”

Training only improves productivity for your company if employees stay in your company, and they are much more likely to stay if they feel there is a position within the company for them to aim for.

  1. 5. Introduce Greenery
People feel better about themselves, their jobs, and the work they perform when they feel a connection to nature around them. Introduce some live green plants, let in as much natural light as possible, and provide plenty of opportunity to get some exercise and fresh air.

While mental health problems such as depression unfortunately aren’t solved by taking a walk in the park, spending time in a green space outdoors has been shown to significantly lift people’s mood .

Happy workers are productive workers, and so make sure your employees have the opportunity to leave the building now and then.

For more advice on how to improve employees productivity, specifically your new employees’ productivity, take a look at this article from Inc.

Oliver Hurcum is a graduate jobs writer for Inspiring Interns.