By Bruce Clarke, J.D.
Jan. 19, 2012
It is easy for employers to fall into the trap of believing that pressuring employees to work harder and faster creates the most effective results when it comes to efficiency and productivity, but that may not be the case. Employees are often more effective when they do not have to operate under high stress and hectic work/life schedules.
Consider Fortune magazine’s list of “100 Best Companies To Work For” and you will see that a common thread spanning the majority of top organizations is the repetitive mention of high productivity and satisfied employees. How do you achieve the ideal of optimal employee efficiency, productivity and satisfaction in your own company? Shifting the workplace environment may be easier than you think.
When setting out to improve the situation in your own company, keep the following high-level principles in mind. There are endless strategies and approaches you can use to implement these principles, but this article offers some suggestions for each:
1. Make It Easy For Employees To Communicate With Each Other.
Regardless of which office tool you use to track the whereabouts and activities of employees, make certain all employees use it to notify the rest of the team when they are traveling, at a client site, working from home or on vacation. Build an infrastructure that allows server and email access no matter where an individual’s location-whether home, office conference room, training room, airport or taxi.
Encourage employees to share their cell phone numbers with co-workers, so they can be contacted when out of the office. Make sure all employees respect the privacy of their co-workers and keep all shared cell numbers confidential. Finally, train employees in technology that allows and encourages remote sharing of information so they can work in virtual mode whenever it is most efficient. Employees may surprise you with the additional work they can complete outside the regular 8 to 5 routine when the proper systems are put in place for continuous access.
For your infrastructure to function properly, it is just as important that employees have access to managers when outside the office as to their fellow employees. An “open door” policy is most effective when the manager can be reached via email, phone, text messaging or other means, especially when that manager typically makes critical decisions throughout the workday. In many companies, managers must be willing to make themselves available during off-hours or weekends.
2. Provide Employees With a Good Working Environment.
Establish methods for employees to indicate their unavailability for meetings, contact or interruptions during times when concentration is paramount. This can be something as simple as a closed door or phone on “do not disturb,” or the use of scheduling tools to carve out a block of time as “busy” or “unavailable.” Set aside specific meeting spaces that must be “reserved” for use, and communicate to employees how and when to reserve them. Also, if available, designate a smaller room/area for “on demand” meetings that do not need to be reserved.
Discuss with employees what they need to be more effective in their job, as their ideas may vary from what you believe is best suited. Employee needs can be as simple as a file folder for better organization or as complex as dual monitors for completing assignments, but hear them out and consider the benefits.
Design and implement an efficient electronic filing system to eliminate duplication of information and the administrative time required for manual filing. Centralize printing facilities in strategic locations on the floor to mitigate excessive printing and minimize noise in the open workspace.
3. Create a Company Culture of ‘Community’
Provide opportunities where individuals can share their personal experiences or skills. Reserve time in meetings where the agenda allows for personal communication, rather than completely focusing on business.
The ways in which people collaborate-or fail to collaborate-are all dependent on your company culture, which consists of your employees’ daily interactions, habits, language, manner of dress, decision-making practices and attitudes. Take the time to help employees build a great culture, because a poor company culture spells disaster. Performance issues, abuse of time off, interpersonal conflicts, time wasting, repeated instructions, petty complaints and so on are all productivity drainers.
Bruce Clarke, J.D. is president and CEO of CAI Inc., a human resource management firm with locations in Raleigh and Greensboro, N.C., that helps organizations maximize employee engagement while minimizing employer liability. For more information, visit www.capital.org.