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Increasing Productivity

How To Create A Productive Office Space

Think about the way you and your employees work. Does the job require focus or collaboration? Most likely, it’s a mixture of both.

Laura Entis

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Focus, for most, means quiet. It’s hard to concentrate amid conversations about last night’s football game or what happened at the office Christmas party.

Collaboration, on the other hand, requires a very different environment: a space where employees can freely brainstorm, bounce ideas off one another, and go on conference calls without worrying about disturbing those around them.

This seems self-evident. So why are so many employees expected to focus in a loud room, or collaborate without the resources to do so effectively?

Unsurprisingly, they’re not as productive as they could be. Gensler, a global design and architecture firm, found that three out of four knowledge workers surveyed were struggling to effectively balance focus and collaboration in their office environment.

Tricked-out, amenity-saturated offices like Google and Facebook may get all the attention when it comes to office design, but companies with a smaller budget can easily improve productivity by keeping these central points in mind.

Balance

Janet Pogue, a principal who co-leads Gensler’s workplace practice is (unsurprisingly) not a fan of the cubicle model. “Having seated privacy is not a bad thing, but there are ways that you can do that without being boxed in from every side,” she says. “I think the Dilbert world is gone.”

She is a proponent of spaces that feel intuitive, “which enable you to seamlessly keep working.”

This doesn’t have to mean an expensive re-design, but instead, outfitting available rooms with the right tools: pens and notepads and whiteboards in conference rooms, outlets throughout the office space so people take their laptops and break free of the desk.

Fluidity is important. “That word, to me means, functionality,” she says.

Focus

Some elements of your employees’ jobs inevitably require unadulterated focus. To be truly productive, they need to maintain a level of unbroken attention.

That means every time a colleague stops by for a friendly chat, or a nearby conversation becomes a distraction, concentration is broken and valuable time and energy is lost.

That’s why Pogue recommends setting up a quiet space in your office where employees can go to avoid all distractions and disruptions. The typical cubicle, she notes, is anything but a quiet space – the cubicle design invites interruption (no doors) without blocking nearby sound.

In addition, designating a quiet focus room often means avoiding another common pitfall: an office where silence is enforced. Pogue sees this all the time. “People make the space too quiet. If you can hear a pin drop, it’s not natural,” she says. “You need to have a certain amount of buzz and energy in an office that cancels out that noise.”

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Choice

Pogue recommends empowering employees with as many options regarding where and how they do their work as possible. “Having the ability to pick up and move, or having the ability to signal to others ‘don’t interrupt me’ by putting on headphones is really important.”

Employers often think one solution will work for everyone.

“If you look at the evolution of offices, we try to make things very universal…that assumes that we all work in the same way,” Pogue says.

In reality, individuals work differently, based on personality type (introverts versus extroverts) and job title. More senior positions, for example, “typically spend more time engaging in face-to-face collaboration or virtual collaboration, while somebody more junior may be spending more time in focus mode.” Workspaces should reflect this reality, and provide different environments so each person can personalise the way they spend their day.

Interaction

One of the most important elements of designing any office space, says Pogue, is working to increase serendipitous mingling between employees who normally wouldn’t interact.

Interacting with different kinds of people simulates conversations that can often lead to new ways of approaching a task or solving a problem. “We think about that a lot,” she says. “How do we draw people together who wouldn’t normally be drawn together?”

Like Steve Jobs (who was so insistent that employees bump into one another that he placed Pixar’s single bathroom at the centre of the building), Pogue recommends motivating people to leave their normal workspaces by making life a little less convenient.

If a redesign is impossible, there are less costly ways to achieve the same effect. For example, at Gensler’s own office, the “good” espresso machine is installed in a central location, so employees from different departments naturally congregate around the caffeine.

And interaction goes beyond possible creative outcomes. “At the end of the day,” Pogue says, “we want to feel like we are a part of a bigger whole.” Studies have shown that even though most employees believe they focus better at home, most still want to come into the office every day.

“Deep down, we’re all social people,” she says. “We all intuitively know it, but some organisations let real-estate cost get in the way of instead of realising that people are the most important asset of any company.” Ultimately, every worker should be a part of his or her workspace design.

How do you cater for your staff’s individual working styles? Let us know in the comment section below…

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Increasing Productivity

How To Build Organisational Wealth Through Increased Efficiency

Using the right business systems can allow your staff to become more efficient through best-practices and better process flows.

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As your business grows, the demands of running and managing all its parts increase. Fortunately, technology can help you standardise, streamline and adapt your operations in order to meet these increased demands. Let’s have a look at some of the ways in which you can increase efficiency to build your organisational wealth.

Integrated business units

It can be difficult to get a holistic view of what is going on in your business if information is floating between different departments and/or locations. Manually pulling data together can be very time consuming, causing delays and leaving greater room for human error.

Related: How To Improve Your Business Productivity And Efficiency With Help From Tech

By implementing an integrated business management solution, you can significantly increase efficiency among all your business units, allowing departments to easily share and access information. This real-time, inter-departmental integration allows you to get a birds-eye view of the performance of your business at the click of a button.

Business process automation

You can significantly save time by automating key business processes with an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system. Accounting, for example, is much easier when details of all transactions are quickly and automatically shared between departments (no need to manually upload or download information).

Automation will enable your teams to respond to customer enquiries with alacrity and maintain optimal stock levels. Through automatic alerts and responses, relevant managers will be notified when stock reaches predetermined minimum levels. When these levels are reached, purchase orders for replenishment stock are automatically generated.

Automation also enforces consistency in your business’s day to day operations by following local and industry best-practices built into the system.

Synchronised customer data

The success of any small to medium sized business depends on getting new customers and providing excellent products and services to existing customers. Collating and sharing customer data across all departments is essential for effective customer service. SAP Business One, for example, provides the tools to track and manage the entire sales process, from initial contact and invoicing through to project management and after sales support – playing a pivotal role in customer retention management.

This complete view of past, present and prospective customers, along with historic purchases will help you to better understand your customers’ needs, behaviours and preferences. This will enable you to respond to clients effectively in order to boost satisfaction levels, increase sales, maximise profits and ultimately promote client retention. In addition, your marketing team can better plan campaigns based on insights from accurate data about prospective and current customers.

Related: 101 Efficiency Hacks For Busy Entrepreneurs

Instant access to information

You have to be able to plan properly to stay ahead of your competitors. Having access to up to date, relevant and accurate business data removes the guesswork and empowers employees to make informed business decisions. With an integrated business management system, you will be able to better manage your cash flow and stock holding with a real-time overview of current stock levels, orders in process and outstanding payments. This, in turn, will save time and allow you to better manage your procurement process and help build organisational wealth.

Who doesn’t like it when a plan comes together and things are working well? Working smarter and better – not harder – is what increased efficiency is about. Your teams will share the benefits of increased efficiency as you grow your organisational wealth together.

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Increasing Productivity

Mi Casa Es Su Casa: Achieving Positive Corporate Culture

How to achieve positive corporate culture in a group company.

Greg Morris

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According to management consultant Peter Drucker: ‘Culture eats strategy for breakfast’. And there’s a good chance of this being true, especially since studies have shown a direct correlation between a strong, positive organisational culture and a business’s financial success.

The importance of culture

Prof JL Heskett writes in his 2011 book, The Culture Cycle, that a positive culture can make as much as a 20-30% difference in company performance, when compared with “culturally unremarkable” opponents.

Culture is also a form of protection – strong competitors may be able to copy a strategy, but can’t duplicate a culture. Indeed, when things go wrong in the economy, public opinion, or even the strategy itself, a company’s culture can serve as a safeguard against these, because employees are faithful to it.

But… while culture is a remarkable thing, it’s difficult to define and attain.

Related: A Culture Of Discipline Critical For SMMEs To Thrive

The definition of culture

Company culture is traditionally interpreted from a corporate perspective, to include the principles, opinions, basic assumptions, and mindsets that are shared by a group. But these don’t hold any value if they aren’t entrenched in a company’s processes. This is why culture is also about action.

A company can’t create an intelligible culture without people who a) agree with its core values or b) are prepared to commit the time needed to.

Further, those employees who succeed in a company are generally those who most closely associate with the culture. If the principles and ideals of an organisation are shared, a strong culture can even support recruitment through self-selection.

As a result, leaders should spend as much time determining, collaborating on, and communicating culture as they do on strategy.

Culture in a group company

With different and broad-ranging companies working together, the goal of building and sustaining culture in a holding company can be trickier than in other organisations.

In cases like this, it’s critical for every company in the group to hold onto its own distinct culture, in ways that fit the greater business.

Simultaneously, the parent company should create a culture for all of the holding companies to attach to. Because, without a uniting mechanism, real integration can be difficult to accomplish.

The problem is: which culture is the priority? The composition of a group company evolves as it acquires and sells different companies, so a root culture is necessary; one that current and new subsidiary cultures can buy into.

Related: The 7 Culture Pillars That Will Skyrocket Your Start-up To Success

Where to start

  1. Develop a set of principles, behaviours, and motivators for culture, and define what these mean practically.
  2. Write a positioning statement to share what the organisation stands for, both externally and internally. For example, Google’s is “organising the world’s information and making it universally accessible and useful”.
  3. Generate a motto that summarises your culture. Google’s is: “Don’t be evil.” In other words: do positive things for the world, even if it means letting go of some short-term wins.
  4. Communicate these messages widely and repeat them continuously. (As obvious as this sounds, many group companies make the mistake of not communicating values to subsidiaries.)
  5. Invest time and resources into smoothing out the cultural differences every time a new company is acquired. This is important because an implosion of combined cultures can cost valuable talent, customers, or worse.
  6. Teach the culture. Not just through induction programmes for new employees, but through ongoing events, reminders, collaborations, and other ways that remind people what the culture looks and feels like.
  7. Share and ingrain the group’s root culture, as an element of unity.

The heart of the matter?

Peter Drucker highlights a potent triad in organisational transformation: Strategy, capabilities, and culture. He says that all three must be created together, aligned, and designed to be supportive of one another. This is more complex in group companies but, with strong communication and high levels of collaboration, a clear and productive culture is possible.

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Increasing Productivity

Why Deadlines Aren’t As Great As You’d Think For Creative Work

Be careful about how much time pressure you put on yourself.

Nina Zipkin

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Do you ever find yourself staring down at a deadline and just freeze? There is something to be said for setting a schedule for yourself and following through, especially when you are first starting a business, but recent research from Harvard finds that when you are dealing with creative pursuits, you need to give yourself enough time to breathe, otherwise you’ll just be doing busy work instead of actually building something that is truly innovative.

In an interview with Harvard Business Review’s Working Knowledge podcast, Professor Teresa Amabile said that during a hectic day, it’s possible to get a mistaken sense of creative energy powered by adrenaline simply because things were being crossed off a checklist.

“People who are under a lot of time pressure on a given day, actually feel very productive, they tend to feel very creative,” she said.

“But, here’s the interesting thing; they were actually significantly less likely to come up with creative ideas, or solve problems creatively on those days. They got a lot of stuff done, but they weren’t necessarily creative.”

Related: Follow These 8 Steps To Stay Focused And Reach Your Goals

She noted that in her research, people came up with the most creative solutions when they were working under low to moderate time pressure. So the next time you think about imposing an arbitrary deadline on developing new ideas, you might want to go easier on yourself.

Because feeling like you’re on a treadmill doesn’t only make your thinking more fractured, Amabile says that it also makes it tougher to find meaning in your work. So what can managers do to make sure that their employees always have time to innovate? Start with providing spaces where they can be quiet, focused and away from distractions.

“Let them understand the importance of what they’re doing, their own individual actions, and how that translates into something that will contribute to a customer need, to a societal need, to something that the company really needs to move forward,” Amabile said.

“Try to give people enough time for projects so that they can explore, so they can do that background research to get the information they need, and then so they can play with it somewhat. That doesn’t mean indefinite time frames, but it probably means longer time frames than people are usually given in most companies for most projects.”

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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