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Increasing Productivity

Can Creative Breaks Boost Your Employees’ Productivity?

Yes! Stepping away from the cubicle improves focus and well-being and boosts energy.

Anna Johansson

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Are you looking for a way to enhance productivity among your employees without adding more to their daily to-do lists? Well, you may be able to accomplish both by introducing creative breaks into your organisation’s regular routine.

According to a study referenced here by Park West Gallery, “A total of 61 percent of surveyed employees viewed time off as improving physical health, while 55 percent said it improves mental health.”

Related: How to Build Skills, Loyalty and Profits With Staff Training

Much like how time away from work can have a positive impact on an employee’s health and well-being, daily or hourly breaks on the job are linked to improving the productivity of the average worker.

John Trougakos, associate professor of management at the University of Toronto, says, job-related stress is a productivity-killer. His solution: “Disconnecting from work can do wonders for people’s energy and mindset.”

To further prove his point, he references a study in which 59 percent of people surveyed claimed more breaks would actually improve their work happiness (43 percent went as far as to say it would improve their personal happiness, too).

While the way in which you manage employee breaks is likely determined by your corporate culture, existing workflow patterns and demand, the following three break strategies are good ways to help employees disconnect, recharge and subsequently enhance future productivity.

  • 25/5 split. A very popular work-break strategy is the Pomodoro Technique. This strategy asks employees to work in 25-minute intervals, followed by five-minute breaks. After four of these 25-minute sections – or Pomodors – employees take a longer 15 to 20 minute break. This strategy is designed to maximise each person’s attention span.
  • 50 on/10 off. Quite similar to the Pomodoro Technique is the 50 minutes on/10 minutes off strategy. The concept is the same as the other technique, but it’s good for people who have slightly longer attention spans or need to invest more consecutive time into their work.
  • 52-17 strategy. One of the more unconventional yet successful strategies calls for 52 minutes of intense work followed by 17 minutes of being completely removed from work. The key here is to work 100 percent during the 52 minutes and break 100 percent during the 17 minutes. By fully focusing on work or relaxation, employees are able to make the most of their time. According to this report, the top 10 percent of productive workers take this route.

Related: Want to Lead Your Staff? Serve Your People

Ideally, you should encourage employees to use their breaks in creative ways. Instead of wasting time playing mind-numbing smartphone games or eating fatty foods from the vending machine, doing something creative can help people relax and obtain a fresh new outlook on problems and issues upon returning to work.

  • Listen to music. Allowing employees to listen to/play music is one of the best ways to enhance creativity. Music touches everyone in a different way and has long been proven to be a productivity-booster.
  • Write poetry or in a journal. Giving each of your employees a notebook and encouraging them to write poetry or keep a journal is a simple way to ask them to unwind and expose thoughts. They don’t have to share these with anyone. Just the activity alone can provide a creative boost.
  • Draw or paint. Much like writing, drawing and painting are therapeutic and can help employees take their mind off work for a few minutes at a time. Setting up a community canvas in the break room and allowing everyone to work on a project over the course of a few weeks can also help promote unity in the office.
  • Guided meditation. Believe it or not, mediation may help improve productivity in the workplace by progressively relaxing the mind, reducing stress and lowering blood pressure. Try setting aside a “quiet room” that’s especially designed for short breaks.
  • Solve problems. Just because it’s a break doesn’t mean your employees can’t think. Putting critical thinking problems and brainteasers in the break room is a great way to encourage workers to think in new ways.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

Anna is a freelance writer who specialises in social media and business development.

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Barbara Helmek-Smith

    Jun 23, 2015 at 23:51

    The Pomodoro technique sounds very promising.

    And it is so true that when you manage to do 20% it somehow ‘miraculously’ creates the remaining 80%. But one the one condition – we have to choose our 20% wisely. So we should definitely focus on the most important things and try to reduce routine stuff to an minimum. I myself try to prioritize goals and boost my motivation with a help of Kanban (you can read more about it for example here: http://kanbantool.com/kanban-library/introduction/what-is-kanban-why-should-you-be-interested-intro#.VYnXpPmqqko). It is really a great way to become more organized. I’ve recently even tried out an online Kanban board and a Kanban app, so I can have my board always on me.
    In conclusion, I would also say, that there is nothing more relaxing, motivating and refreshing than a 15-minutes break after a 90 minutes of strenuous intellectual work!

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Increasing Productivity

The Surprising Ways Your Office Design Shows You Trust Your Employees

When team members feel trusted, they are more engaged in their work.

Marie Puybaraud

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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.

Related: 4 Things Your Start-Up Needs When It Opens An Office

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.

Related: Are You in the Right Office? Ask Yourself These 4 Key Questions

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.

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Increasing Productivity

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.

Fiona Leppan

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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.

Related: Gender Equality In The Workplace – SA Is Getting It Right

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.

Related: Tips For Preventing Harassment In The Workplace

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.

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Increasing Productivity

5 Surprising Elements That Boost Your Productivity (One of Them Is Colour)

Even the most subtle things can make an impact.

Nina Zipkin

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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.

Multitasking

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.

Related: 14 Of The Best Morning Routine Hacks Proven To Boost Productivity

Humour

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.”

Temperature

thermostat-and-airconColder 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.

Colours

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.

Related: Leadership – Lead Your Team To Dizzying Heights Of Productivity And Business Success

Cuteness

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.

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