The most important thing to remember about productivity, is that unless you are actively procrastinating, there is no way that you can actually do it wrong. Everyone has their own strategy for accomplishing their goals.
Ellevest founder Sallie Krawcheck swears by doing her work in the quiet of the 4:00 am hour. Lyft co-founder John Zimmer blocks out his time in three-hour uninterrupted chunks to power through his biggest deadlines.
But while you can plan as much as you like, there are actually some unexpected elements, in addition to elements like exercise and sleep, that can impact the efficacy of your work.
While it may seem like a straightforward way to get things done, it turns out that multitasking can actually make it tougher for you to be productive. Researchers from Stanford found that even if you’re highly skilled at doing many things at once, while you’re doing the process it actually makes you less adept at taking in and retaining new information and switching gears if need be.
Cracking jokes with your colleagues isn’t just a fun way to pass the time and build rapport, but according to a study from the University of Nebraska and Vrije University Amsterdam, it can actually make the group more likely to perform better as a team, leading to “positive socio-emotional communication, procedural structure, and new solutions.”
Colder temperatures having a chilling effect on focus and productivity. A study from Cornell University found that as the temperature increased from 68 degrees to 77 degrees, employee typing errors decreased by 44 percent and their output increased by 150 percent. Not only that but it affects the bottom line. By making it warmer, the study found that employers save roughly $2 more an hour per employee.
If you have a say in what colours you paint the walls of your office, stay away from beige, grey and white. Though these hues might seem clean and simple, you could very well be contributing to your employees lack of productivity. A study from the University of Texas found that green and blue lend themselves to improved focus and yellow lends itself to innovation and creativity.
If you feel your concentration waning, and you suddenly have an impulse to go watch some cat videos, a study from Japan’s University of Hiroshima suggests you’d do well to embrace that instinct. Researchers found a link between improved performance and focus after the study participants looked at pictures of cute animals. So go ahead, go down that cuteness rabbit hole and watch that puppy’s Instagram story.
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
The Surprising Ways Your Office Design Shows You Trust Your Employees
When team members feel trusted, they are more engaged in their work.
Game rooms, contemplation suites and rooftop running tracks. These may sound like modern innovations – emblematic of the workplace of 2018 – but businesses have been experimenting with their workplaces for some time.
Take the U.S. Justice Department under Robert Kennedy as an example. A gym on the roof, picnic tables in the courtyard and the staff’s dogs in the office were all some of the measures that Kennedy implemented. What was the result? A huge boost in morale, according to his biographer, Larry Tye.
In fact, almost 50 years on, Tye reports that “nearly all of his surviving band of brothers say working for Bobby was the high point of their professional lives.” Kennedy not only boosted morale, but, crucially, he captured the trust and enthusiasm of his employees and was rewarded for it with their loyalty.
Here lies the crux of the matter: It is not only the employees who regularly don their running shoes that benefit from the running track. It is not just what the running track allows employees to do, but what it represents: a trust in staff that they will spend their time at work responsibly and that they are not chained to their desks.
This really is crucial; building trust is the most effective way for employers to drive up engagement levels, according to our research, “Workplace – powered by Human Experience,” which is based on a survey over 7,300 employees across 12 countries shows. Boosting feelings of trust, according to nearly 40 percent of respondents, would have a very positive effect on their engagement level. Kindness by management (32 percent) and letting staff take initiatives without fear of being judged (31 percent) come next.
How does design demonstrate trust?
In all three areas, most employers have significant ground to be gained. So, what can they do to turn these abstract ideas into changes that are appreciated by staff? Trust comes in different ways – open-plan offices, for instance, in which all seniority levels mix together; community spaces (from attractive in-house cafés to lounges); and trusting staff enough to let them choose their working pattern, how to reconfigure their workspace and how to work flexibly.
It is no coincidence that our research also shows that while employees are ready to embrace change and contemplate an agile way of working, with 76 percent of workers globally ready for some type of change to their workplace, maintaining their personal comfort remains a priority.
Caring about the well-being of your employees is one way to demonstrate – using high-quality materials in desks, chairs and overall design, for instance; helping employees stay healthy with a nutrition plan through high-quality supplies for food in the canteen and providing access to anti-stress facilities such as quiet zones and meditation rooms. Having an effective support team on the ground, such as a facility manager, a concierge and floor ambassadors, could reinforce your execution plan.
But, it is also about fostering trust in employees to use their time effectively, providing a range of working locations and empowering people with greater flexibility over how, where and when they work.
But what can businesses actually do?
The transformational effect of trust building in the workplace does not require huge budgets. It requires human leadership teams who are ready to make employees’ working days better days to be an efficient and happy person at work.
For instance, smaller businesses could create major collaborative spaces or community spaces dedicated to team activities – music rooms, meditation spaces, scrum rooms and design thinking spaces where workers can go to brainstorm and share ideas during the working day or for longer periods of time. This not only cultivates creativity and helps employees to recharge their batteries, but also demonstrates that they are trusted to be away from their desks – ditching dated time keeping policies.
Research from the U.K. bank HSBC highlights that flexible and remote working is not only on the rise, but nine out of 10 employees claim that remote working is their No. 1 motivator to boost their productivity at work. Whether you identify a dedicated space – or simply clear corners of the office and add a sofa to provide more informal spaces – community or collaboration areas ensure that employees are able to step away from their desks to recharge and connect with their colleagues. Flexible spaces are stimulating, creative, inspirational and, perhaps most importantly, as the research demonstrates, capable of boosting productivity.
As for letting people use their initiative freely, encourage them to make suggestions (and also to make and learn from errors) on a wide range of issues, from improving productivity to new workplace systems to the design and layout of the premises. Including your staff in the process from the outset will also give them the confidence to suggest any changes to the workplace they feel the business needs. Not only does this encourage a sentiment of trust between employer and employee, but also means your people cultivate a strong sense of belonging toward their place of work. After all, more than a third of the 7,300 employees we surveyed believe that personalisation of the workplace is critical, and over 40 percent believe they would do their daily work better if they could work from different types of spaces that have been customised for a variety of needs.
If you manage to deliver on these three areas, our research suggests that you will see a rise in engagement. Staff will be keener to share their insights with others, to learn from colleagues, to grow within the company and to be as enthusiastic as if the organization belonged to them.
The message is clear: The first step is to trust in your staff and the transformation of your business is sure to follow.
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
Entrepreneurs And A Politically Neutral Workplace – Finding The Perfect Balance
While employees have the right to freedom of association, that right is not absolute and may be limited, provided that there is a rational basis that underpins this.
Unless an entrepreneur has a vested interest in a specific political party, that entrepreneur, like any employer, has a duty to create and maintain a politically neutral work environment for all employees.
This does not mean that employees are prohibited from joining political parties or participating in political activities in their private time as this goes to the heart of freedom of association. While employees have the right to freedom of association, that right is not absolute and may be limited, provided that there is a rational basis that underpins this.
“Wearing political clothing does not only have the potential to cause tension in the workplace but can also impact cohesion and constructive interaction which should take place between employees amongst themselves and the employer. An employer is therefore well within its rights to take reasonable steps to mitigate this,” explains Fiona Leppan, a Director in Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr’s Employment practice.
It is therefore important that entrepreneurs and other employers introduce a rule against employees wearing political insignias in the workplace where this is justifiable, and apply that rule consistently through all levels of management.
“This would alleviate the argument that management supports a particular political party or organisation. It will also assist to discourage claims of unfair treatment against the employer in future,” she stresses.
In a recent case (NUMSA obo Kwena Masha and PFG Building Glass), this matter came to the fore. In this case, an employee, who was also a shop steward, was disciplined and dismissed for taking a photograph at the workplace of him wearing a t-shirt of a certain political party, and thereafter posting that photograph on Facebook thereby associating the employer with his political aspirations. Upon his dismissal, the employee referred an unfair dismissal dispute to the National Bargaining Council for the Chemical Industry (NBCCI) and alleged, amongst other things, that the employer’s policy against wearing political insignia infringed his freedom of association.
“The employer argued that it had a rule against the wearing of political clothing in the workplace because it was not affiliated to any political party and did not want to create the impression that it was tolerant of any particular political party. It was common cause that the employee was aware of the policy against wearing political clothing in the workplace as this was communicated to him directly and was also placed on notice boards and was available on the employer’s intranet,” says Leppan.
In deciding whether the dismissal was substantively fair, the Commissioner found that the policy prohibiting the taking of photographs in the workplace was reasonable as it was intended to protect the employer’s trade secrets in the form of unique designs and equipment. The Commissioner found that at no time prior to being charged did the employee remove the contentious pictures on Facebook despite him being aware of the workplace rule. The photograph was in the public domain and accessible to the employer’s clients, which although indirectly, could have possible impact on the employer’s business in a form of decreased orders.
The Commissioner found that because the employee had also posted another picture on Facebook of him attending a political rally for the same political party and displaying a banner that the ruling party should fall, it was clear that this constituted participation in political activity. Such conduct could objectively have a negative impact on the employer’s reputation.
The Commissioner acknowledged that there is still a level of political intolerance in South Africa and stated that if such is not properly controlled in the workplace, it could lead to unnecessary tension. Further, the Commissioner found that given the position of influence the employee enjoyed as a shop steward, he should have known better and acted with caution. On this basis, the Commissioner found that the sanction of dismissal was appropriate also taking into account the seriousness of the misconduct.
Facebook’s Utopia, Our Nightmare: Open Offices Are Destroying Productivity
The open office was an exciting innovation in 1900, and people didn’t like it then, either.
For as long as there have been businesses in operation, leaders have been looking for ways to boost productivity in the workplace. In 1856, the British government conducted a report on office space layouts.
The report said, “For the intellectual work, separate rooms are necessary so that a person who works with his head may not be interrupted; but for the more mechanical work, the working in concert of a number of clerks in the same room under proper superintendence, is the proper mode of meeting it.”
Fast-forward to 1906 and the opening of the Larkin Administration Building. Dubbed the first modern office, the building was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and highlighted an open office plan.
The open-office concept continued throughout the 20th century, but it really took off in the 2000s, thanks to tech giants like Google, Apple and Facebook embracing the open layout.
When Facebook unveiled its new campus in 2012, Mark Zuckerberg claimed it would be “the largest open floor plan in the world.” The campus, which is actually a single room stretching 10 acres, was designed by architect Frank Gehry.
Some Facebook employees, such as product designer Tanner Christensen, believe the new campus encourages productivity, collaboration and creativity. That’s because the open design focuses on mobility, empowers individual boundaries and encourages chance encounters.
Is open plan the right move?
That may be true in some cases, but most employees don’t share the same excitement. In 2015, The Washington Post published an article that boldly stated that the open-office trend “is destroying the workplace” at places like Google because it’s too “oppressive.”
In 2017, The Wall Street Journal reported that Apple wasn’t happy with the open-office design: “Coders and programmers are concerned that their work surroundings will be too noisy and distracting.”
While neither shares Facebook’s version of an open workspace, both articles highlight the fact that companies are prioritizing design over function.
What’s more, two-thirds of the 42,764 respondents to a University of Sydney study on workplace satisfaction found “open-plan layouts showed considerably higher dissatisfaction rates than enclosed office layouts.”
In fact, researchers stated, “Between 20% and 40% of open plan office occupants expressed high levels of dissatisfaction for visual privacy and over 20% of all office occupants, regardless of office layout, registered dissatisfaction with the thermal conditions.”
Besides employees being dissatisfied with open office plans, they’re detrimental to productivity. That spells bad news for Facebook going forward.
Harder to focus, with more distractions
This should be obvious.
Everyone has that one teammate who’s so loud (and perhaps so obnoxious) that he distracts the entire office. Instead of being able to close a door to enjoy uninterrupted work, colleagues are pulled to engage in conversations. Research has even found that hearing one side of a phone conversation is more distracting than listening to both sides of an in-person conversation.
Professors Anne-Laure Fayard and John Weeks note in their article “Who Moved My Cube” that “some studies show that employees in open-plan spaces, knowing that they may be overheard or interrupted, have shorter and more-superficial discussions than they otherwise would.”
Even more, as pointed out in The New Yorker, “Psychologist Nick Perham, who studies the effect of sound on how we think, has found that office commotion impairs workers’ ability to recall information, and even to do basic arithmetic.” Overall, employees claim they’re losing 86 minutes a day to distractions.
Stressed or sick? Probably both
A study conducted by Dr. Vinesh Oommen at the Queensland University of Technology’s Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation found that working in environments without offices “caus[es] high levels of stress, conflict, high blood pressure and a high staff turnover.”
Another study of 10,000 workers, funded by Steelcase, reported that “95% said working privately was important to them, but only 41% said they could do so, and 31% had to leave the office to get work completed.”
Of course, when more people get sick, there are more absences. The New Yorker states that companies with an open-office design can anticipate employees to take 62 percent more sick leave.
But that’s not the only way office mates in the open concept affect each other’s actions: Research from the Auckland University of Technology also shows that open offices often can lead to antisocial behaviors.
Researchers have found that in shared working spaces, there are increases in “employee social liabilities.” This includes “distractions, uncooperativeness, distrust and negative relationships. More surprisingly, both co-worker friendships and perceptions of supervisor support actually worsened.”
That’s because employees don’t feel as if they have supportive supervision. Additionally, between the lack of support and the noise, employees in open offices eventually “become more irritated, suspicious and withdrawn.”
Busyness as a proxy for productivity
As defined by Cal Newport in his book “Deep Work,” “In the absence of clear indicators of what it means to be productive and valuable in their jobs, many knowledge workers turn back toward an industrial indicator of productivity: doing lots of stuff in a visible manner.”
Newport goes on to explain: “If you send and answer emails at all hours, if you schedule and attend meetings constantly, if you weigh in on instant message systems… all of these behaviors make you seem busy in a public manner.
If you’re using busyness as a proxy for productivity, then these behaviors can seem crucial for convincing yourself and others that you’re doing your job well.”
This is what happens in an open office: Managers tend to evaluate their team members on how busy they appear. That’s because they look out on the floor and see people on their computers, but they could be playing a game or updating their social media accounts instead of working.
Ending the nightmare
If you’re designing a new workspace for your startup or business, you can consider some alternatives to an open layout.
Hub and Spoke is actually a hybrid of an open office and a closed office. While there are central spaces and hallways that are open, there are still individual offices. M.I.T.’s Building 20 is an excellent example of the Hub and Spoke approach.
Eudamonia Machine comes from Newport himself; in this concept, offices are divided into five spaces: the Gallery, Salon, Library, Office and Chamber. You must pass through each room to get to the next. However, each room encourages more concentrated and focused work.
Writer’s Cabin doesn’t have to literally be a cabin. It’s actually any location where you can get serious, uninterrupted work done. It could be your local coffee shop, the library or even a tiny house in your backyard.
Open offices may have sounded like a utopian dream to many entrepreneurs in the last decade, but seeing how they’ve played out in recent years proves they’re a nightmare for productivity.
Leaders looking to keep their teams sane — and working — would do well to explore other options. Design over function is a fun way to run a business, but it’s not a very smart one.
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
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