The 18 Best Productivity Tools To Streamline Your Workflow

The 18 Best Productivity Tools To Streamline Your Workflow

Productivity is a function of people and processes. More specifically, productivity is about how many priority items someone can accomplish in a given period. There is, however, a third component many fail to take into account: technology. A single tool can make the difference between a project finishing in a year or a month.

In this post, we talk about tools to help you and your team: from creating a document to managing entire projects:

 

The Benefits of Productivity Software

Productivity software tends to be a catch-all, but more specifically can refer to time-tracking software, collaborative workflow software, automatic performance reports, and much more. Each one serves a unique purpose, so your team must experiment to discover which ones fit within their workflow.

Some of the apps listed will be better suited for individual workflows, such as the time-tracking tool, Toggl. The tools may help one avoid distractions or simply stay up to date on their workload. Other apps will be geared towards teams, such as the project management tool, Mavenlink. These tools can provide useful insights on time spent on-task and limit any bottlenecks that may arise from the process. Consult your team to discover what they are looking for in a productivity app.

 

The 18 Best Productivity Apps

The benefits of productivity apps range from streamlining complex tasks to be more accessible (such as quicker form filing and submitting expenses), to evaluating processes for optimization. There are also unique benefits to both mobile and desktop versions of these productivity apps, including keyboard shortcuts and push notifications.

Here are a few apps that can save you precious time and resources:

 

Todoist

Few apps can match the elegant simplicity of the to-do list. While others have tried to create alternatives to the to-do list, Todoist embraces it entirely. Users can create multiple lists, comment on tasks, and add additional information such as due dates and reminders. Of all the options on this list, Todoist stands out with its clutter-free design and gamified approach to productivity.

 

Calendar (Microsoft, Apple, Google)

Today, almost every computer, tablet, or smartphone will come with a pre-installed calendar. Yet only a handful of users take advantage of the calendar app. To-do lists are best used as a master list for outstanding tasks and projects, but using a calendar can help you schedule and plan out when you will work on those tasks. In the video below, Author and entrepreneur Amy Landino discusses how you can use calendar blocking to actually get things done.


 

CloudApp

Record your screen, create a gif, or record through your webcam with CloudApp, a unique visual sharing app. Perfect for creating video tutorials and annotated imagery, CloudApp allows you to collaborate with your team in ways that few other apps can. CloudApp even lets you select the level of access other users have, customize images with company branding, and use visual search to find images more easily.

 

Trello

We’ve mentioned Trello a few times before, but we cannot overstate its unique take on productivity. While other apps use variations of the to-do list, Trello is the only app that utilizes the Kanban system, a combination of cards, lists, and boards that help to visualize entire projects. For visual thinkers, Trello is among the top choices for productivity.

 

Slack

In the space of just seven years, Slack has completely redefined our understanding of online collaboration. A cross between an IM client, an email app, and video chat service, Slack strips away the inconveniences of digital communication, from clunky interfaces to disorganized email threads. Channels allow for a clear categorization of conversations, and the ever-growing list of integrations creates a more seamless workplace experience. It’s no wonder major companies like Airbnb, Electronic Arts, and Target uses Slack in their workplace.

 

Hootsuite

These days, it’s practically mandatory to develop and maintain a social media presence for your company. But the time involved in researching, writing, scheduling, and monitoring your posts would require a new hire or even a new department. Thankfully, apps like Hootsuite make it far more convenient to manage everything from a single place. The intuitive interface allows anyone to manage hundreds of social media messages across dozens of accounts, and then analyze engagement and conversations with ease.

 

HelloSign

The days of faxing, signing, and scanning papers are long gone. Apps like HelloSign have streamlined the process, so it’s as easy as dragging a signature box into the document. For companies that deal with forms, sheets, and contracts, HelloSign is an indispensable app. Amenify, a B2B network for contract management between multi-family properties and in-home service providers, reported closing sales 33% faster with HelloSign.

 

Zapier

For those wanting to take productivity to another level, Zapier will supercharge your workflow. While certain apps specialize in checklist management or document signing, Zapier enables the communication between these apps; this makes automation accessible, even to those who know little to nothing about programming. For example, every time you complete a task in Trello, you can send a notification in Slack, and then send an automated email to your team.

We recommend reading Growth Everywhere’s list of 15 Time-Saving Zapier Workflows.

 

Clockify

Billed as the “only truly free time tracker for teams,” Clockify simplifies the act of tracking hours across multiple projects. While other time trackers will pose as free apps, only to bombard you with ads or restrict the best features to premium users, Clockify lets you add unlimited users, view team activity, export reports without charging anything.

 

Google Drive

By now, Google’s premier cloud offering, Drive, should be recognizable to just about anyone. The service allows users to upload and store up to 15 GB of photos, documents, videos, and recordings for free. You can then access those files from your computer, smartphone, or tablet, offline, or through a web browser. Drive also simplifies sharing, allowing you to add collaborators by email address instead of downloading and attaching to an email. Whether you work solo or with a team, Drive is an excellent way to solve your storage needs.

 

Dropbox

At a high level, Dropbox and Drive seem almost identical. But digging a little deeper, it’s clear that Dropbox has a few advantages over Google’s cloud storage offering. For one, Dropbox is much faster, thanks to its block-level sync technology. Second, password-protected sharing and expiration dates allow you to add another layer of security to your documents. If you’re looking for an alternative to using a Google cloud product, Dropbox is the one to choose.

 

Evernote

Evernote has built such a strong name for itself that most people associate it with online note-taking. But beyond writing bits of text, Evernote also allows you to capture snippets of web pages, formulate to-do lists, add images and audio, and collaborate with your team. It’s a digital notebook that you can view and edit from any smartphone, computer, tablet, or web browser.

 

ProofHub

Project planning and management don’t have to be a pain in the neck. Apps like Proofhub demonstrate that all a project manager truly needs is efficient tools and an intuitive UI. From the home dashboard, users can access a to-do of all their tasks, a calendar, bookmarks, and other shortcuts. There are also panels for announcements and statuses on ongoing projects and their due dates. Over 85,000+ businesses worldwide use Proofhub, including Netflix, Google, NASA, Nike, and TripAdvisor.

 

LastPass

According to TraceSecurity, 81% of hacking-related breaches were the result of stolen and/or weak passwords. This can be avoided by employing stronger security measures, using robust password managers like LastPass. Each password is encrypted and decrypted at the device level, so nothing is ever stored on LastPass’s servers. To top it off, LastPass makes it convenient to sign in to any website with its handy browser extension. If your company uses dozens of accounts online, make sure your team stays protected with LastPass.

 

TeamViewer

Imagine you’re on a business trip to present to an overseas client. You’ve come prepared with a flashy presentation and your smartest suit. Except only you’ve forgotten an important file on your PC back home. If you didn’t have TeamViewer, you would be out of luck. But with it, you would be able to securely access your desktop from another country. TeamViewer is useful for any situation that involves accessing or maintaining remote computers. Use it for supporting new employees, accessing a computer at home, or helping new customers with their software.

 

Toggl

Time tracking needn’t be a complex practice. Toggl, a time tracking app, believes simple time trackers help you get more things done. With a clean, stripped-down interface, Toggl makes it easy to track not only your own time but your whole team’s as well. The in-depth reports also show you the ROI of individual projects, clients, and tasks, allowing you to plan your quarters out for maximum growth. Toggl also works on your browser, your phone, desktop, and within a web app, making sure you never forget to log your hours.

 

Mavenlink

Project management apps are hit-or-miss. Even when they have a simple design or a competitive price point, if they are missing even a single important feature, most teams will search for a better alternative. Thankfully Mavenlink has it all: project management, time tracking, resource planning, team collaborations, integrations, and even project accounting. While it has plans for individuals, Mavenlink is best used for fast-growing teams that need to track multiple initiatives and projects.

 

Freedom

Do you or your team get distracted by social media or other potentially time-wasting websites? Then you need Freedom, the aptly-titled productivity app that blocks distracting sites and apps. Download the Freedom app (available on Mac, Windows, Android, iOS, and Chrome browser), set your focus schedule daily or weekly, and Freedom will automatically prevent you from getting sidetracked by selected apps or websites. According to users of the app, Freedom saves them an average of 2.5 hours of productive time each day, amounting to a total of 10,000,000 hours in the previous year.

Productivity tools are not silver bullets— don’t expect your team’s output to skyrocket after adopting one or two of these apps. Instead, start by identifying where your leaders and team members are struggling. These tools are designed to make your business more efficient, but that is only possible when your team members are adequately trained and empowered. In other words, when you give them these tools to succeed, make sure they know how to use them effectively too.

Do you have any productivity tool suggestions that your team uses? Send us a message or comment through our social media! Follow Novel Coworking on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter for more content on productivity, collaboration, and running a business smoothly.

How to Calculate Workplace Productivity

How to Calculate Workplace Productivity

For the past few weeks, we’ve discussed productivity in the workplace—from factors that contribute to productivity to the strategies used by major companies today.
 
In this post, we want to dive into the math and principles behind workplace productivity. By the end, you should understand the various ways productivity is measured, and how you can calculate it yourself.

 

Measuring & calculating productivity

By now, you should know how to define productivity as it relates to your business. We covered this in our workplace productivity guide. If feeling a little lost, use this guide for an introduction to the topic.

You’re probably ready to implement some radical strategies that will boost your output & efficiency. But before you do, you have to facilitate the planning and coordination of your strategy.
 
First and foremost, you should know how to monitor performance, and be able to diagnose problems that arise with certain coworkers. You should also be able to calculate productivity by group and individual. For companies striving towards innovation, a firm understanding of productivity is key.

 

Popular ways to calculate productivity

Because productivity appears in many forms, there is no one ideal way to calculate or even measure it. For leaders, this presents a remarkable opportunity to assess productivity at different stages and from various angles.

The 360-Degree Feedback model is one such example. This method involves requesting feedback from an employee’s peers, colleagues, supervisors, and even the employee themselves. While each person may offer a subjective interpretation of an employee’s performance, 360-Degree Feedback creates a comprehensive view of one employee’s interactions.

360-Degree Feedback is useful for measuring and understanding a person’s social, interpersonal, and leadership skills. In some cases, a more practical approach to productivity is necessary. For example, if the employee in question is a salesperson, measuring productivity using total sales might be more appropriate. Using the productivity equation, you would take their total sales completed within a designated time period and divide it by their total labor hours worked within that same time.

Modern project management apps such as Mavenlink and Basecamp, also offer online performance tracking tools, such as hours spent on a particular project. These tools can save precious time by measuring and calculating automatically, even offering unique views for contributions per project, or contributions over time.

Consider carefully which method to use. Some employers may go as far as monitoring social media accounts of employees. They assume that more time spent on social media (especially during work hours) amounts to more distractions and inefficiencies; This may be seen as an invasion of privacy or personal space, even if those accounts are public. If you do plan on monitoring your employee’s social activity, make sure they know beforehand.

 

Understanding productivity by industry

The concept of productivity differs depending on the industry in question. Although one company may report a high labor productivity figure, it’s essential to keep in mind that a similar-sized company in a different space could report higher figures; this is why understanding industry-specific factors, such as technology, legislation, talent pool, and market trends, is so important in setting targets.

Let’s explore precisely how productivity can differ between industries. We’ll also cover what benchmarking is as it relates to productivity.

 

Productivity indices

Productivity is measured as an index or the measure of output to input. Before diving into calculating your company’s index, start by understanding the differences in how each index is calculated.

Take, for example, the industry productivity rates of the mining sector compared to the utilities sector: In 2018, the mining industry reported a 161.9 labor productivity index. In the same year, the utilities industry reported a 96.94 labor productivity index. A company’s productivity index is not as useful on its own, only when compared to its industry average can it be deemed positive or negative.

It’s also important to consider productivity indices that do not rely on labor hours. For example, machine productivity can help measure the efficiency of machines that take a raw input and convert it into a useful product. A sewing machine’s productivity, for instance, can be calculated by taking the number of total garments produced divided by the number of stitching machines used. Software productivity is estimated differently: it is the ratio of the functional value of the software to the labor and expense of producing the software. This is a crucial distinction to replace output with value—productivity is about utility.

 

Measuring employee productivity

To calculate workplace productivity, you first need to know how to measure it. To start, create a benchmark for each goal or metric. Define what you want to measure which could be sales produced over time, new customers attained, or revenue generated. The benchmark should indicate what each employee can accomplish at their peak performance.

Next, set objectives and SMART goals to empower employees. SMART is a handy acronym to remember in setting goals. It stands for: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. These values are crucial in developing goals that create forward progress.

Be careful not to lose touch of the end-user experience in your pursuit of productivity. As a company becomes increasingly efficient in measuring productivity, they may begin to cut corners in quality control. General Motors was implicated in one of the largest personal-injury lawsuits when their 1979 Chevrolet Malibu was found to have fuel tank design flaws. The company was shown evidence that the car was unsafe but refused to change it due to cost. As a result, they were ordered to pay $4.9 billion in settlements after six people were severely burned from rear-end collisions. Remember to focus on the quality of work as much as the quantity.

 

Improving employee/individual productivity

The importance of employee productivity lies in the value the employee generates for the company. Productive, engaged employees tend to make more units, use time more efficiently, and create a more positive customer experience.

To maintain or improve employee productivity, start with opportunities for growth. Inspect any insufficient processes, from C-level executive decisions, to supply chain management, to customer-facing interactions. There may be bottlenecks that prevent your employees from achieving optimal efficiency. In a tech-based firm, bottlenecks may include slow computers and outdated servers. Even two years after Microsoft ended support for its Windows XP operating software, almost 12% of all Windows-based computers continued to use the OS, equivalent to 181 million PCs; This presented significant technological limitations for companies worldwide.

After inspecting processes, observe the team. Most importantly, managers and leaders should find worker disengagement within the team before it becomes a larger issue. Major signs of disengagement (besides decreased productivity) include social withdrawal, attendance problems, and even issues with management. Keep an eye out for troublesome, negative employees—they may drag the entire team down.

 

Productivity reporting

Reporting is just as essential to improving workplace productivity as measurement and calculation. Without useful and accurate data insights, leaders would not know what action to take next, and workers may not feel as compelled to be productive.

Luckily, modern software has taken the pain and hassle out of reporting. These days, enterprise-level tools are becoming increasingly affordable and easy to use. Many feature dashboards show different KPIs in simple yet intuitive visualizations, such as revenue, engagement, sales, and more.

Below are a few of the most popular productivity reporting tools available today:

Monday.com – Simple and elegant, Monday.com is designed to make collaboration fun for everyone. You can display the progress of a project from a granular or big-picture perspective with multiple view options.
Grammarly Business – Serving over 10,000 teams, Grammarly helps writers improve their vocabulary, tone, and style.
Trello – For companies that work best using the Kanban system, nothing beats Trello. Not only does it present your whole pipeline in a simple interface, but it also has over 100 integrations as well.

Productivity remains the top priority for so many businesses, and yet so few understand the variance and complexity that can arise from measuring, calculating, and reporting productivity. Those with patience and tenacity are rewarded with a greater understanding of how to improve and advance the business as a whole.

You do not need productivity experts or consultants, fancy productivity training classes, or a harsh and unforgiving culture. It starts by merely understanding how productivity works, how to measure it, and how to calculate it.

For more tips and guides to becoming a more productive version of yourself in 2020, remember to follow Novel Coworking’s blog today.

Strategies to Increase Productivity

Strategies to Increase Productivity

Last week, we went into depth about workplace productivity, the various definitions, factors, and effects of a productive workplace. In this post, we want to focus on the top-level decisions that influence workplace productivity. We’ll cover the main factors to watch, as well as the top strategies to implement in your own company.

 

The Top Productivity Drivers

What are the main drivers of productivity? To effectively improve workplace productivity, we first need to understand what goes into productivity. We’ve covered five of the top productivity drivers in our guide already, but we wanted to recap these concepts, as well as cover two new drivers:

 

Accountability

A 2014 Partners in Leadership study on workplace accountability found that 9 in 10 employees believe accountability to be one of the top development needs of an organization. And yet in the same study, 82% of respondents said they did not have the power to hold others accountable. Without accountability, processes are left unfinished, quality becomes a secondary priority, and companies quickly fall apart.

 

Proactivity

American author John C. Maxwell once said, “If you’re proactive, you focus on preparing. If you’re reactive, you end up focusing on repairing.” Training your team to anticipate problems before they happen is invaluable in the grand scheme of things. When your team is proactive, you waste less time fixing and explaining things, and more time delegating tasks to the right people. Proactivity is also the answer to why gainful employment is important— individuals that are given pay and benefits consistent with the challenge of their work and the breadth of their experience tend to go the extra mile.

 

Technology

Imagine how much more productive an accountant can be when they have access to high-speed Wi-Fi and a modern laptop compared to using just a pen and a notebook. With the advances in the 21st century, technology has dramatically cut back on the waste and inefficiency of the industrial revolution, from manufacturing to marketing. Ask your team if they have all the necessary tools to accomplish their work.

 

Collaboration

Despite what some may have you believe, no one made it entirely on their own. At some point, we either had to borrow from others or stand on the shoulders of those before us. Even “self-made” entrepreneurs take inspiration from their predecessors and rely on partners, contractors, and interns to build their empire. Collaboration allows us to save time and money in our pursuit of greatness. It enables us to breed creative solutions by asking the right questions. Collaborative and team-building opportunities and company outings are key to understanding motivation and setting realistic goals.

 

Organization

Startups can only go so far. Eventually, they must develop process documents and organizational hierarchies to maximize their output. Take an advertising agency, for example. At the start, the agency may improvise their approach to design and development, but by the time they sign their second or third client, they should begin to develop guidelines for their creative work, streamlining the overall process and ensuring a higher bar of quality.

 

Understanding how productivity is calculated

The importance of measuring productivity cannot be ignored— measurement is necessary for understanding how to begin improving productivity. But with so many factors, input and outputs for a variety of business types, planning a calculation may not be as straightforward.

First, all you need to know is productivity is a measure of output against the input. Here’s what the equation looks like:

Productivity = Output / Input

This equation can differ depending on the nature of your business. If you produce and manufacture stuffed animals, for example, your output may be units produced, and your input could be the number of employees at your factory.

But of course, productivity isn’t always as straightforward as that, so we recommend that you use a multifactor view of productivity. So far, we have talked about productivity keeping only one input type in mind, usually labor or capital. But if you think about most businesses, there are several inputs involved. They may include capital, labor, energy (material or gas), materials, and services.

So instead of measuring output against one input, multifactor productivity measures output against multiple inputs, providing a more accurate view of productivity. The greater the multifactor productivity, the higher the efficiency, leading to better client relationships and stronger customer loyalty.

It’s also crucial not to forget who to measure. Breaking down performance management by the individual can paint a more comprehensive view of your organization. You can then determine which individuals need to become more efficient, and which should be rewarded for their contribution.

Be careful not to measure productivity using wages, however. High wages can be problematic as workers may not be producing enough to cover their rates. Instead of using dollars per hour (money to time), use labor dollars per product. Also known as labor cost per unit, this figure can assist you in pricing and managing your margins, as well as observing the variations in your direct labor costs.

Next week, we will go into more depth about calculating productivity.

 

Top strategies to increase productivity

With the fundamentals and equations in mind, how do we implement these changes within the workplace? Instead of providing just a few general tips, we want to go in-depth with the most effective strategies in use by the top companies today.

 

Build a system of accountability

Apple had a system of accountability that companies like Flipboard take inspiration from today. Entrepreneur, Dave Bailey suggests creating a system with three main components: clarification, proactive planning, and follow-up. These three components can cut down on “limbo time,” the time in between recognizing critical issues and addressing them. Other companies rely on frequent performance reports from managers or through project management software.

No matter what system you end up developing and using, ingrain it into the mindset of your team. All important tasks begin and end with accountability. Otherwise, priorities are left unchecked, and the team is left in total confusion. Make team employees accountable for every task and project they touch, and to create self-imposed deadlines.

 

Update technology for efficiency and ease of use

Remember walking into the DMV and seeing a long line of tired, annoyed faces? Don’t blame the people; in many cases, workers are making do with the environment and tools at their disposal. Processes may be dependent on dated, proprietary technology.

Don’t let your team suffer from the same challenges; listen to discover bottlenecks in existing processes, oversights in data, and brainstorm a few tech-oriented solutions. It may require outfitting the office with more modern computers or licensing a productivity tool. Consider using communication tools like Slack that help you message team members more efficiently, or project management apps like Asana that allow you to track time on tasks and provide limits to specific budgets.

Technology can also present potential implications, particularly smartphones and social networks. Each company has the right to handle these topics on their own, but an outright ban is not always the most realistic. Don’t prohibit social media; instead, encourage responsible use through friendly reminders.

 

Update the office design

Just as technology can make all the difference with productivity, so too can office space design. Observe the spaces you use today. Does it give off a professional appearance? Does it reflect your brand’s culture? Is there enough space for your team to do their work? Asking these types of questions and receiving input from the team members using it can give you a better idea of areas for improvement.

We believe the most effective spaces allow teams to work efficiently. That’s why we recommend spaces that offer flexibility and mobility, allowing your team members to collaborate on a project, or work on their own. It’s essential to maximize the natural light in your office space, especially if you live in more northern regions where winter brings extended hours of dark skies. We cover a few more useful tips on creating more ideal workspaces in our post, Workspace Design and Productivity.

 

Promote values that lead to productivity

Culture is such a crucial aspect of a company’s longevity. With the right values and vision, both existing and future hires can feel a sense of belonging and purpose. But failure to define or act upon those values, and your team will be less cohesive as a single unit.

At the same time, it’s important not to push productivity as the focus of the culture. Companies that approach business through a “results at all costs” lens can create miserable work environments.

Instead, focus on the values that make your team happy and proud to work each day. Implement a culture of self-improvement and promote wellness and mindfulness. Improve cultural fit by recruiting team members that not only exhibit these values but also add to the overall culture. Social network Bumble’s core values are “kindness, accountability, equality, respect, and growth.” Ridesharing app Lyft writes its core values as “Be yourself,” “Uplift others,” and “Make it happen.” Which of these values most resonate with your own core beliefs? How will you prepare the next batch of new hires to align with your values?

 

Improve skills with training

Training is the most effective way to instill the importance of productivity. According to go2HR, 40% of employees with inadequate training leave their jobs within the first year. And it makes sense: why struggle through confusing processes and objectives when you barely know what you’re doing in the first place?

Take a look at the roles and responsibilities of your team. Do they warrant further education and training? For example, marketing managers may need a few demos with their CRM software before they can feel comfortable using it themselves. Or new hires may need some guidance on the best practices that are already commonplace within the company.

 

Delegate, then teach others to delegate

In a restaurant, the executive chef does not do all the cooking; otherwise, orders would back up, and customers would eventually leave. Instead, he has a sous chef that helps him perform tasks while he is away, as well as a crew of line cooks and prep chefs that can carry out each task. As a result, they can take care of more orders at once, with decreased risk.

The same is true for a business. As an entrepreneur or manager, you cannot be doing everything yourself; that is why teams exist. Instead, do your best to keep everyone in check.

Not sure how to delegate responsibly? Look into the 70 percent rule. As Inc explains, “if the person the CEO would like to perform the task is able to do it at least 70 percent as well as he can, he should delegate it.” Of course, it may not be as perfect as the CEO would like, but the resources gained are time and efficiency. Focus on concise communication, and you’ll be able to convey your thoughts more clearly and efficiently.

 

Decrease the time and number of meetings

Meetings can be useful for initial conversations, check-ins, and reports. But meetings are not always a productive use of time. Many of them can last up to 3 hours long, and with several people in the room, it can result in countless labor hours wasted.

Fortunately, there are a few alternatives to time-consuming meetings. FAQ sheets and videos can help cut down on common questions and concerns. Email threads, phone calls, or just direct conversation can cut an hour-long discussion into a quick conversation. Try remote working meetings too, where people can dial in or video call instead of being stuck in a single room.

No business can ever truly avoid meetings, but if you must have them, make sure you keep them brief and focused. Check out The New York Times’s guide on How to Run a More Effective Meeting.

 

Start with the people

With all this talk of results and productivity, it’s very easy to lose sight of the most valuable asset: the people in your team. You start to look at numbers and rates and forget about the humans doing the work, with their struggles and aspirations. The knee jerk reaction may be to fire and find a better replacement.

But if you invest in your team, if you genuinely listen to their pain points, then you may find yourself in a position to help them too. Perhaps they may have had a recent death in the family, and as a result, their work has been suffering and may need time off. Or maybe they have a family that has lost a home in a recent calamity. No matter the reason, your company can choose to react humanly or as a cold corporation. You can always increase morale by encouraging self-care or offering a more flexible work schedule, whereas letting go of someone is the closing of a door.

Read our previous posts, such as What is Burnout Syndrome? and How to Encourage Healthy Habits in the Workplace.

These strategies all share a common thread: engagement.

By engaging your employees and making them feel valued and important, productivity can become a natural process in the workplace. It doesn’t take expensive campaigns or a comprehensive benefits package. Empower and engage your team. Try any of these strategies, and you may start to see a subtle shift in how your team performs.

What strategies do you use to ensure your team stays productive? Let us know on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram, and we’ll share the best responses.

The Ultimate Workplace Productivity Guide

The Ultimate Workplace Productivity Guide

Few topics are as important and relevant to a business as the productivity of its workforce. When employees are engaged, they become more productive. The more productive your employees, the more your company can expand. But even though high productivity is a goal for every business, it’s difficult for most to achieve it.
 
Why do some companies tend to perform more efficiently than others? What are the factors that contribute to high productivity? Most importantly, how can you ensure your team operates at their best in the workplace? In this post, we’ll cover everything you need to know about workplace productivity.

 

What is workplace productivity?

Let’s begin with a shared understanding of productivity. Put simply, productivity is a measure of output per unit of input. The input may involve labor hours, dollars invested, or any other resource. The output may include sales completed, units developed, or any other supply.

In economics, productivity is an aggregate metric. It refers to the measure of a nation’s GDP to its hours worked. But in terms of business, productivity measures a company’s efficiency in its production process. Typically, the number of units produced is weighed against employee labor hours. It can also be a measure of net sales to employee labor hours or set up based on the company’s process and offerings.

 

The value of a productive workplace

The answer may be obvious, but have you ever thought about why workplace productivity is important? For one, productivity isn’t just a measure of efficiency, it’s a measure of engagement. In other words, you’re not only measuring how much work your team can complete. You also measure how involved they are in their work and how much they care. High productivity usually means high engagement.
 
Additionally, productivity leads to growth. The more productive your team is, the fewer the resources required, and the higher the output; This is crucial to achieving economies of scale. It makes expansion to other markets or locations possible. It also helps your company maintain competitiveness against new entrants.
 
Most importantly, workplace productivity is something you can manage and optimize. You don’t need a specialized degree or training certificates. You simply need to possess a willingness to do your research and implement new practices.

 

How to calculate workplace productivity

Talking about productivity goals is all well and good. But measuring your team’s own productivity is the first step to improving it. So exactly how is productivity calculated?
 
First, it’s important to understand which type of productivity we’re talking about. We briefly alluded to two definitions of productivity. But there are officially four types:
  1. Labor productivity – A measure of a single worker’s labor. This might, for example, be a measure of the effort required by a single engineer to write and implement software code. It would be calculated by dividing their total output (in dollar value) by the labor hours worked. If the program sold for $50,000 and the engineer spent 2,000 hours building it, then their labor productivity equals 25.
  2. Capital productivity – A measure of output to the input of physical capital. While it does not always hold true, the more capital investment, the greater the output. After all, more money leads to higher quality materials and more skilled labor.
  3. Material productivity – A measure of output to the input of materials or natural resources. This may not apply to technology companies since most of the materials are digital. But it plays a substantial role in manufacturing or industrial companies.
  4. Total Factory Productivity (TFP) – A measure of everything not considered labor, capital or material productivity. This may include the organization’s knowledge, management techniques, and other returns of scale.
In short, productivity can be measured by taking the output value and dividing it by the input. Output is typically measured in sales (dollars) while the input is measured in cost (dollars), hours, or materials.
 
When calculating productivity, consider the key differences between the productivity of the entire team vs. an individual. The productivity of the individual may not be significant. But when compared to the average or aggregate, you can develop a more definite sense of the value of their performance.

 

Tips for measuring employee productivity

Here are 5 actionable steps you can take to begin measuring employee productivity today.

  1. Define the input and output you will measureIs it units made? Dollar value? To measure employee productivity, you need to understand what values to track. Make sure the metric you choose is relevant to the task your employees are assigned. This may be customers served, sales calls made, or some other parameter entirely.
  2. Set SMART goals for productivityIf you want your employees to realize goals consistently, develop SMART goals. This mnemonic device stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. Each quality helps to ensure that work is accomplished on schedule.
  3. Prioritize quality over quantitySome workers have the mentality that efficiency should be valued over everything. But you should never neglect to inspect for quality. In addition to defining quantity goals, you should set goals that maintain quality. Your employees should be given guidelines for producing polished products or exceptional service.
  4. Survey your end-usersWhether it’s a customer or client, you’ll want to ask the end-user directly for feedback. Critique is a hard pill to swallow. But it gives the insight that can be used to improve your product or service. It could be a starting point in figuring out which steps are essential to the end product. 
  5. Revisit your company cultureCulture defines most of an organization’s values. Included is how your company approaches workplace productivity. Productivity challenges that span across your entire team may reflect a need to tweak culture. Consider developing new training sessions and company literature that refocuses your team’s dedication to quality and efficiency. Learn more about the value of company culture in our previous post.

 

Measuring individual productivity

Most of these tips apply to workplace productivity. But as we discussed, measuring individual productivity requires a different lens with which to observe. The productivity metrics for teamwork are not always suitable for personal productivity.
 
For example, setting a dollar value is not ideal for output measurement if the worker’s function is to focus on handling customer complaints. Instead, cases resolved or positive reviews may be a more appropriate target goal.
 
Companies should strive to improve workplace productivity as well as individual productivity. The benefits of increasing individual productivity include boosted employee morale and lower overhead.

 

Strategies to increase productivity

Now that we’ve covered some of the lower-level tactics in improving productivity, it’s time to discuss the broader strategies that govern these principles. These are the top productivity strategies to implement within your organization:

 

Uncover the drivers of productivity

Instill the habits and practices that lead to higher productivity. When it comes to productivity, among the main drivers include:

  1. Accountability – Companies like Flipboard have begun taking after Apple’s example and using the DRI system. It assigns a “directly responsible individual” for every significant project or task. Tools like this are useful in project management. They can ensure teams stay efficient and accountable for all the moving pieces.
  2. Proactivity – The more that workers are encouraged to contribute to the company’s overall mission directly, the more that gets done. Encourage your team to solve problems on their own, and managers won’t have to worry themselves with putting out each fire.
  3. Technology – Humans are only as efficient as their tools and technology allow them to be. Old computers and stuttering connections can severely impede the progress made by your team. Equip them with more advanced tools so that technology becomes an aid, not an obstacle.
  4. Collaboration – When people work together, amazing things can happen. Specialization and effective management can produce high-quality products at a fraction of the time and cost. Creative solutions can arise from the healthy exchange of opposite minds.
  5. Environment – The office space your team uses can have a significant impact on their overall productivity. If it’s cluttered or disorganized, their work can suffer as a result. Learn more about how to design your space to encourage productivity.

These are just a few of the top drivers of productivity, and they will likely vary depending on the business and the nature of the team. Observe your processes to find what pushes people to efficiency.

 

Cultivate with a culture of engagement

Productivity is the result of dedicated individuals pursuing a single vision. When that vision is obscure, or values aren’t put into practice, the culture becomes a set of words on a wall rather than a guiding force.

In recent years, employee engagement has increased, according to Gallup. Gallup also reported that more opportunities for workers to develop their skills and pursue their passions can impact a company’s bottom line, worker health, earnings-per-share growth, retention, and profitability.

 

Understanding the motivation of each employee

An advantage that startups and smaller businesses have is a sense of closeness. There’s far more opportunity to get to know team members on a personal level, to truly understand their motivations and desires.
 
Over time, it becomes clear that everyone has a unique motivation; this may range from money and recognition to flexible schedules and healthcare coverage. The companies that realize these motivations and actively work to empower their workers tend to form a much deeper professional bond with their employees.

Ask yourself what your company can do to help realize some of the personal goals and ambitions of your workers. These seemingly small gestures can go a long way in building employee engagement.

 

How to establish a culture of employee engagement

So far, we’ve discussed the benefits of improving employee engagement. This has ranged from increased profits to a more positive workplace overall. Now, we’ll review the various employee engagement strategies that address the common pitfalls that can arise with these programs.

 

Schedule regular discussions with your team

Emphasize your team’s career development by discussing their aspirations with them frequently. Investing in their future while showing a clear path to progression can result in more excellent retention and engagement. The more valued they feel, the more loyal they’re likely to become to the company’s mission.

 

Recognize exceptional work by employees

According to Galluptwo in three employees believe their work goes unappreciated. This is unfortunate, as even the smallest praise can go a long way. Of course, monetary compensation is valuable, but there’s nothing like having your peers compliment you on a job well done. It doesn’t take much effort to highlight one’s accomplishment. But the empowering effect can reverberate throughout the organization.

 

Invite feedback and criticism

Engagement means developing a sense of control. For employees to feel empowered to suggest improvements to processes, they need to believe their voice matters. Create platforms that collect employee feedback and criticism, while ensuring you follow up with their concerns as you would a customer complaint. 

Check out OnPoint Consulting’s post on other successful strategies for building employee engagement.

 

Top software tools for productivity

We didn’t want to close out our guide without offering a few productivity app suggestions to help you with boosting productivity and employee engagement.

 

Asana

Asana has quickly become one of the most popular project management apps in use today, largely because of its sleek and intuitive interface. You can view projects in the list view or timeline, develop reports on project progress, and comment on the work of teammates. Today, Givenchy, G2, Sony Music, Stride, and many other brands rely on Asana to keep their teams and tasks organized.

 

Adobe Creative Cloud

If your business deals with photography or video in any capacity, then Adobe Creative Cloud is a quintessential enterprise productivity software. For a set price each month (which depends on the apps you intend to use), you can have access to Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, Premiere Pro, and much more. These applications are among the best you can find in the image and video editing category.

 

Slack

Get your communications in check with Slack, a messaging app (and employee engagement platform) that combines the immediacy of instant messaging apps and the detail and support of a full email client. Channel customization can allow your teams to organize their discussions based on project or discipline. Slack is a must for companies with overseas or remote workers, as it streamlines conversations and integrates with third-party apps in ways not many other messaging apps can do.

 

Trello

For more visually-oriented project managers, Trello remains unmatched. Using a Kanban-inspired system with cards, Trello can be used in any way you see fit, from a project pipeline to an organizational hierarchy. Trello also plays well with other third-party apps, which comes in handy since the app can feel underpowered compared to its alternatives.

 

G Suite

G Suite is a collection of Google’s most useful work apps: Gmail (email client), Docs (word processing), Drive (cloud storage), Calendar, and Meet (video calls). Each one is free for use, has a variety of features offered by paid alternatives, and it works symbiotically with other Google products. For example, store your Google Docs on Drive. Schedule a Meet through Calendar, then send a client a Gmail invite. In terms of value and functionality, G Suite is unmatched.

 

Grammarly

If you write or edit, Grammarly is a must-have tool. Despite your attention to detail and writing experience, Grammarly, a free writing assistant app, can catch mistakes that you otherwise might miss. These range from simple typos in spelling and grammar to more suitable stylistic writing decisions. Grammarly has dozens of premium features that study how you write in different situations to give you the best suggestions.

 

Dropbox

Although Drive has already been mentioned, Dropbox is so good it’s worthy of receiving a mention of its own. The cloud storage app has been around for years, and it’s because of its greater reliability and sleeker interface compared to its Google counterpart. Best of all, you can continue to get free Dropbox storage for accomplishing simple tasks, like referring other users. With Dropbox, your team will never have to spend hours searching for a single file.

 

Sprout Social

Social media is one of the most important outreach and engagement platforms for your brand. But it can also be one of the most time-consuming endeavors. Fortunately, apps like Sprout Social have made it easier than ever to manage multiple social accounts under a single roof. Find out what your competitors and customers are talking about, schedule your posts, and discover how your audience interacts with your content. Their blogs are also among the top productivity sites to follow, with tips and guides on developing an effective social media strategy.

We’ve covered how to measure and calculate productivity, the strategies involved in improving productivity, and finally, the tools and technology to promote productive habits. Even then, these steps are merely starting points for much larger productivity initiatives. In the following years, we may yet find new drivers of productivity, new ways of accomplishing our tasks.

Until then, it falls upon business leaders and entrepreneurs to properly care for and understand their teams. The smallest of gestures, such as developing two-way communication, can influence how generations of workers in the company approach their work. If you want your business to succeed, start by engaging individuals on your team.

What is Activity-Based Working?

What is Activity-Based Working?

For decades, the American work routine has been modeled after the industrial revolution. The 9-5 schedule and commuting to work in the city are just a few of the remnants from that era.

But the world today is far different. Wi-Fi and 4G have connected us to the Internet 24/7. Messages travel across the globe instantly. And libraries full of data can be stored on the cloud, accessible from anywhere. All these changes combined have fundamentally transformed the nature of business. One such example can be found in the trend of activity-based working.

 

What is activity-based working?

Activity-based working (ABW) is an office design philosophy and strategy. It encourages workers to choose a work setting according to their work activity. The goal is to provide individuals with greater freedom and control within the workplace.

While a dedicated desk is ideal for writing a report or analyzing a data set, a conference room may be more appropriate for group meetings. As well, a phone booth would be better suited for private phone calls.

 

The personal benefits of activity-based working

Listed below are just a few of the ways activity-based working can improve your work habits.

 

Increase in productivity

According to a survey by Dutch researchers Susan Smulders and Denise Clarijs, 70% of participants believed that ABW environments increased their productivity. Two-thirds also stated that their work felt more stimulating. This should not come as too big of a surprise as we have long described the influence of one’s environment on the ability to concentrate. Thus, it makes sense that employees feel more productive when they have the tools they need to get work done.

 

Greater sense of engagement

Workers given the freedom to choose where they work also have greater control over factors such as noise, technology, and ambiance. This sense of agency may not be an option in more corporate settings, but keep in mind that it can influence employee mood and feeling of purpose within an organization.

 

Healthier mental and social well-being

Humans were not made to sit in a single spot for an extended period. It’s the same reason why we hate waiting in line or getting stuck in a meeting. Being able to get up, walk across the room, and continue working in a new space can do wonders for our mindset. Sometimes you need other people to talk to, other times you’ll want complete solitude to concentrate on your work. ABW (activity-based working) environments offer you the ability to choose between the two modes.

 

Organizational benefits of activity-based working

 

Talent attraction and retention

Today, people care more about an organization’s values and culture. In a 2016 LinkedIn survey of 26,000 users, 74% stated that they want a job where they feel like their work has purpose (and many of them were baby boomers). Companies that work in a coworking or activity-based workplace tend to look more appealing to new hires; they are often perceived as more flexible, social, and purpose-focused.

 

Change in scenery

Who doesn’t want something different to look at throughout the day? Having a range of unique locations to work from throughout the day can bring some much-needed energy at work. It helps to have access to both quiet places and creative areas as your work requires.

 

Lower overhead

On top of everything, activity-based working can help companies operate with greater economic efficiency. National Grid, a British utilities company, was able to reduce its operating costs by £8-10M per year (roughly $13M). They reduced their overall space but offered more environments to choose from. As a result, they also benefit from higher worker productivity.

 

Disadvantages of activity-based working

 

Busy environments

Since ABW environments are public, they may often feature many people in a single setting. Take a coworking space, for example. On busier days (such as Mondays or Wednesdays), these spaces can bustle with noise and activity. You may want to outfit your office with some acoustic soundproofing panels, if necessary. In situations that require more privacy, you can book a conference room or grab a phone booth to avoid any distractions.

 

First come, first served

With such a high demand for certain spaces and amenities, space is not always guaranteed. Coworking tables, for example, do not require any reservations but may be all taken up by lunchtime. You can get around this in some cases by using a booking system. Use the one in place for Novel’s conference rooms (done through our mobile app).

 

How Coworking Fits with Activity-Based Working

If activity-based working were a class, then coworking areas are the classrooms. They allow people to better learn the ABW philosophy and put it into practice within the spaces. For one, there’s never a shortage of rooms, alcoves, and spaces to work in. From private office spaces and dedicated desks to meeting rooms and phone booths, there’s something for every kind of entrepreneur.

For example, Ted is an entrepreneur and owner of a small business within a coworking building. His day may begin by checking emails and taking calls in a private office. At noon, he may have a project check-in with his employees in the conference room. He may end the day by chatting with a client in the coworking space.

Now consider what may happen if Ted worked from home. It would be more challenging to represent himself professionally. He might also struggle to carry out work with the same level of efficiency. Coworking allows him to operate with the freedom and flexibility of a much larger company.

While coworking and ABW are still in their infancy (at least, compared to the traditional work routine), they represent a new frontier in the workplace industry. But on this trajectory, we will no longer need to use cubicles or rely on a 9 to 5 schedule. Soon, small-business entrepreneurs and their team members will have the same power over their work lives as those in major corporations, if not more.

Active Listening in the Workplace

Active Listening in the Workplace

The American psychiatrist and author, M. Scott Peck once said, “You cannot truly listen to anyone and do anything else at the same time.” The quote holds today. With the headsets and headphones becoming commonplace at work, it may seem like we can listen to someone while working on something else at the same time. But in reality, many of our modern habits, such as multitasking, can severely hamper our focus and attention.

In this article, we’ll explore the role and importance of active listening within the workplace.

 

Types of Listening

The two main types of listening techniques are passive and active:

Passive Listening – A passive listener is someone that hears the words of a speaker but does not comprehend, interpret, or analyze as the message is delivered. They are not fully present and do not fully understand the contents of the speaker’s language.

Active Listening – An active listener is someone who listens to each word uttered by a speaker. They understand the meaning, intent, and nonverbal cues of the speaker.

 

The Dos and Don’ts of Active Listening

 

Do:

  1. Remove distractions. Concentration is the differentiating factor between active and passive listening. By removing common distractions like televisions, music players, and social media, you can pay close attention to what your colleague is saying.
  2. Ask questions. By engaging with questions, you’ll better understand the main points and intentions behind a person’s words. The benefit of this practice is two-fold: first, it demonstrates a genuine interest in the subject, and second, it helps you fill any gaps in understanding.
  3. Remove emotions and bias. Enter any conversation with an open mind. When you show up without bias, you’ll be able to grasp or remember the details that are outside of your usual mode of thinking.
  4. Give nonverbal cues. You don’t have to say anything to communicate your thoughts. Being mindful of your body language and facial expressions can have a high impact on the conversations you have at work.
  5. Wait until the speaker is done. As the author of the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey, once said, “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” Avoid offering a premature answer or opinion as it will convey that you have not been fully listening.

 

Don’t:

  1. Interrupt. Always let the other person finish their train of thought. Nothing is as disrespectful as cutting in before someone is finished speaking. If you interject, be sure to apologize.
  2. Write down everything. For more extended conversations, it may be helpful to keep notes of the key points and facts. Of course, you must be careful using this approach— you want to ask the speaker’s permission and also ensure you’re not just writing things down for the sake of it.
  3. Multitask. The more you do at once, the less you can concentrate on each task. Focus on one thing. If it’s listening to someone else, make sure you give your full, undivided attention. Then you can truly hear what your coworker is saying.

 

Benefits of Active Listening

 

Increased Productivity

Focusing on one task at a time will always improve your work productivity. The same is true with listening to someone. A client may have a lengthy ask, including numerous deliverables and deadlines. Active listening ensures that you capture the key points, which can save you time when you have action items to carry out.

 

Positive Work Atmosphere

Which environment would you prefer to work in: one in which your leaders and coworkers listen to you, or one in which you feel ignored? Work becomes less stressful and isolating in cultures that encourage empathy and listening to one another. A community that promotes active listening is bound to create a more positive and collaborative atmosphere.

 

Self-Empowerment

Active listening isn’t just about the other person; it’s an act that empowers you to improve your sense of self as well. Listening is a humbling experience that requires setting aside problems and concerns for that of another person’s. By connecting with another person through active listening, you can better explore shared experiences and struggles.

 

Better Relationships

Any relationship, whether platonic or romantic, benefits from clear and unburdened communication. In a 2003 study conducted by Faye Doell, couples that listen to understand (as opposed to looking to respond) end up having more pleasant and satisfying relationships overall. When people are free to express their thoughts, people come to solutions faster and in more creative ways. It also forms a more inviting work experience— when the people around you can be honest without feeling judged.

 

Fewer Misunderstandings

Almost every argument or conflict stems from misunderstanding one’s point of view. Almost every misunderstanding comes from missing someone’s main points or misinterpreting their words. Creating time and space for focused communication can help to avoid the friction that sometimes arises in the workplace.

 

Examples of Active Listening

There are a few ways in which one can practice actively listening to someone else. The first involves asking questions. When people are genuinely curious about someone’s story, they tend to ask about the setting, how another person felt during the event, or other essential details to the story. At work, asking questions about an assignment or project shows you care and want to produce quality results.

On a similar note, there may be moments when you want to repeat or paraphrase the main problem back to the speaker. When timed correctly, this can signify that you are following along their narrative. It also serves a secondary purpose of helping you give form and structure to your understanding.

Active listening is not solely about listening, but about seeing the other person too. How many times have you tried to talk to someone, only for them to be more captivated by their phone’s screen or television? Authentic listening requires making eye contact, as well.

Finally, when the other person is finished speaking, you may want to follow up in some way. In some situations, offering support, whether emotional or physical, can make a world of difference and goes beyond the simple act of listening.

The next time you’re around your coworkers or client, try using one of the methods listed above to engage in more thoughtful, active listening. You may not notice instant results, but over time, you’ll start to see a maturation in your relationships and yourself. We are social creatures, after all, and the first step to any social interaction is to listen.