Smart Ways to Improve Productivity in the Office
With margins getting slimmer due to competition, employers and managers may feel the need to squeeze every bit of productive output from their staff to reduce expenses. There seems to be so much time wasted and too few things done.
There are countless ways you can improve productivity in the office. For each company, there are areas that must be prioritized. Here are some of the ideas that worked great for other companies:
• Proper air-conditioning. A lack of temperature control may result in health and productivity issues. Studies have also shown that different temperatures are ideal depending on the work being done and on the office uniform. You must also consider the location of the employee. Sometimes those who are near the air-conditioning are already freezing while those at the back may be sweating buckets. Often times too, poorly maintained air-conditioners operate noisily and distract personnel. Too low or too high humidity level also affects health.
• Reduce noise levels. Too much noise may cause miscommunication, stress, and affect health. There are basically two approaches to reduce this. You can either try to eliminate or minimize the noise generated, or you can try ways to improve the room’s acoustics—that is to have the noise lessened by sound absorbing surfaces and other sound-proofing techniques.
• Arrange seat locations. If two co-workers do not get along well, it may improve the productivity of both to put them apart. This technique may also be used if two co-workers spend too much time talking to each other. Sometimes it is not the physical proximity but the work flow that causes the friction. In this case, you may change the workflow to prevent interaction between hostile parties.
• Have inexpensive essential office equipment for each personnel. Having to go to another table to borrow a puncher is a terrible waste of time. The small investment in minor equipment will not only save time, it will also make accountability easier to track.
• Develop written procedures and checklists for tasks. The problem with many offices is that work is often too unstructured. Although office work is far from a production facility where work is physical and can be measured accurately, there are still many benefits in trying to get as organized as possible. After all, there are things that must be done on or before a particular time. The manner, too, of how tasks are done, who will do it, and when to do it should be specified in writing to ensure correctness and consistency. There are some commercial systems for achieving this in the office but you can always start this on your own.
• Implement 5S system in your office. 5S is the Japanese workplace organization system which is based on sorting, straightening, systematic cleaning, standardizing, and sustaining. This is a major undertaking in terms of effort but the results will be outstanding. A few of the changes will be a time saved in locating items and documents faster, and the cleaner and uncluttered workplace will be more conducive to working.
• Purchase a high quality coffee maker. Investing in an excellent coffee maker has many productivity boosting effects. The caffeine will stimulate thinking and reduce sleepiness. This also encourages employees to just get their coffee in the office instead of buying it outside, which save a few more minutes for working at the office. Even the smell of freshly brewed coffee can perk up the ambiance.
• Train your people to use more of the capabilities of their current spread sheet software. The MS Excel spread sheet has thousands of functions, and while most of them are not relevant to your company’s needs, there are many that can be used to speed up tasks. This is especially true in small- and medium-sized companies that do not have the budget for more specialized software.
• Cross-train your staff. Contrary to the idea that specialization will always bring more productivity, there are many cases when this rule does not apply. Training your staff to be able to do their co-worker’s tasks has benefits. The most important is that you are not paralyzed in case the designated worker is absent. Besides this, being able to do other tasks helps lessen boredom. While there are situations that legally mandate specialized qualifications, these are in the minority.
• Have motivated personnel. At the end of the day, the success of any productivity scheme boils down to the willingness of employees to support the initiative. While I put this idea last, in actual practice it must not only be addressed first, but it must also be sustained so that true productivity will last.
Improving productivity is a never-ending task for the manager. For most companies, a single change may not matter much; but the accumulated effect of continuous improvement efforts will be strongly felt not only by the customers but also in the company’s bottom line.
*Originally published by the Manila Bulletin. Written by Ruben Anlacan, Jr. (President, BusinessCoach, Inc.) All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or copied without express written permission of the copyright holders.