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Increasing Productivity

Why You Should Encourage Your Team to Take Even Decaf Coffee Breaks

Breaks, with or without coffee, help employees relax, share information and build camaraderie.

John Boitnott

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Coffee breaks have gone out of fashion in some offices. Many employers, obsessed with productivity, don’t see the benefits of letting employees spend time not working during the day. In fact, the coffee break is vitally important for many employees. The benefits in morale, productivity and communication far outweigh the 15 minutes of work lost.

Reducing stress

Stress in the workplace is an epidemic. Nearly half of all workers suffer from some degree of stress, and it’s estimated to cost employers up to billions of Rand in lost productivity, health costs, errors and interpersonal conflicts.

Stressed out employees are never going to deliver the same quality of work as those who work in a more relaxed, comfortable environment.

Short coffee breaks make a big difference when it comes to dealing with stress. Even just the difference between taking a break at your desk and getting up to take a coffee break is significant, as the latter disconnects you from your tasks. Stepping away, even just for 15 minutes, helps your brain to relax and reduce stress.

Related: (Slideshow) Believe It or Not, Starbucks is Not Just About the Coffee

Waking up

It’s no secret that coffee helps you wake up in the morning. Caffeine blocks the inhibitory neurotransmitter adenosine, allowing for more norepinephrine and dopamine in the brain. Increasing the levels of these key hormones can improve mood, energy level, and overall cognitive performance.

Too much consumption of caffeine can have harmful long-term health effects, but a cup or two a day can be very beneficial for work performance. This is especially true in mid-morning, which is often the most productive time of day.

If you’ve had your fill of coffee for the day, there are a huge number of alternatives, from tea to coconut water or probiotic drinks. What really matters is giving employees time to recharge so they can be more focused overall.

Creating conversations

Organisations thrive on communication. Unfortunately, many companies can develop a rigid chain of command, where employees only communicate with their direct supervisors while neglecting to share information with coworkers in other divisions or on other projects. The break room is a great place to facilitate these informal conversations.

Many people underestimate the importance of these casual conversations, but many of the most successful businessmen of the modern era have recognised their value.

Pixar-Atrium

Steve Jobs specifically designed the Pixar Atrium to encourage conversation among employees.

Steve Jobs intentionally designed the headquarters of Pixar to include a massive central atrium where employees from different departments would run into each other and have unplanned interactions.

Designs like this have heavily influenced the co-working and open-office plans that have become more popular in recent years. When people with different perspectives and viewpoints engage in unstructured conversations the possibility of collaborative efforts and developing improved processes increases.

Building community

Even if conversations in the break room have nothing to do with work and don’t lead to any tangible collaboration, they can be extremely beneficial. There’s a huge amount of value in just letting people get to know each other better.

Coffee breaks can help employees connect with one another and develop a community of trust and friendship.

When employees trust each other, everything works smoother. Less time may be wasted on red tape or unnecessary supervision, as everyone may be more likely to trust that their coworkers will do their jobs well.

Related: Wiesenhof Coffees: The Cream On Top

People also may begin to think outside their own narrow roles and understand how their work affects the rest of the company, which typically makes them more focused and less error prone.

Reducing health risk

Sitting all day is bad for your health. Even if you exercise, extended periods of sitting can lead to an increase of diabetes, poor circulation and bad joints. Staring at a screen can also be harmful, as it damages the brain and increases the risk of depression or anxiety.

Taking short breaks throughout the day to stand up, walk around and get away from the computer can have big health benefits.

That’s good for employees and it’s good for the company, which usually ends up sharing health care costs. Healthier employers are cheaper, more effective employees.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

John Boitnott is a longtime digital media consultant and journalist living in San Francisco. He's written for Venturebeat, USA Today and FastCompany.

Increasing Productivity

Employees, Not Consultants Or Executives, Are Your Best Innovators

Hungry for the fresh ideas that come from a collaborative, team-driven approach to innovation? You’re ready for an EDIT.

Tania Fiero

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The insurance industry gets a bad rap as outdated and inefficient. But one insurance firm, CSAA Insurance Group, is bucking the stereotype with a strikingly modern approach to innovation.

This American Automobile Association-affiliated insurer caught the attention of the Harvard Business Review last August due to its all-hands-on-deck innovation strategy. As the article described, CSAA had harnessed the brainpower of its 4,000-person employee base to encourage systematic improvement at all company levels.

The results were astounding: Underwriters analysed the company’s call data to improve voice prompts and reduce misplaced calls… by 40 percent. Other employees jumped in to streamline online claims, improve the issuance of insurance cards – and more.

But CSAA’s approach wasn’t innovative just for the insurance industry. Top-down innovation has been tried over and over, and it just can’t hold a candle to the alternative: employee-driven innovation teams being used by companies like CSAA and my own human resources solutions company.  We like to call these teams EDITs.

Why an EDIT philosophy works

Industry insight and creativity aren’t exclusive to the C-suite, nor are they best purchased from industry consultants. In fact, they can be found in every employee, from the part-time package handler right on up the corporate ladder.

Related: Your Employees Are Your Greatest Asset – Manage Them Well

Sarah Miller Caldicott, author of Midnight Lunch (and great-grandniece of Thomas Edison), has been trying to tell this to the business world for years. So when I heard her speak at a conference a few years ago, I couldn’t help but try an EDIT at my own company.

All EDITs begin with a call from a leadership team sponsor who brings a business problem to the table. That person then invites volunteers to form teams of around eight employees each. Teams choose their own leaders, who then hold the rest of the team members accountable and ultimately deliver proposals to the executive team.

EDIT does more than make us a better company. Team members develop cross-departmental friendships; help boost everyone’s morale; and grow their own leadership, presentation and executive consulting skills. Rarely do non-managers have the chance to shine in leading roles the way they do with EDIT.

Another upshot of our EDIT? We began a new HR project, “Extending the Culture Beyond Our Walls,” in which we’re expanding our employee culture to our clients, contingent workers and broader community through employment branding.

The only down side? We wish we’d done this sooner.

Ready, set, EDIT

If you’re hungry for the fresh ideas that come from a collaborative, team-driven approach to innovation, you’re ready for an EDIT. Here’s how to get and keep the EDIT ball rolling:

1. Make the problem and ideal solution as concrete as possible

call-to-actionEvery EDIT begins with a problem outlined by someone from the organisation’s leadership team. Think of this like a call to action. What’s the problem or opportunity, and what type of action, process or technology will solve or capitalise on it? Be sure to also describe what resources the EDIT will have to work with, such as budgeted funds, fixed assets and subject matter experts.

The Arizona Department of Transportation, for example, was looking last year for faster ways to reopen Phoenix-area freeways after closing them for repair. ADOT workers designed a reverse stencil that protects painted surfaces from an asphalt finishing spray. For materials, they used just scrap metal and two trucks,

Now, a scrap stencil may not have been what leaders first envisioned as their “future perfect” solution, but ADOT’s employees certainly made smart use of their resources.

Related: 10 Ways To Make Your Employees 10x More Productive

2. Give diversity and inclusion space at the table

An EDIT is only as strong as its members are diverse. In other words, don’t assemble a team entirely of marketers, salespeople or denizens of any other one department. A study from Holton Consulting noted that people tend to come up with more interesting, exciting and unusual ideas when they’re not thinking about their own area of expertise.

Don’t worry if one EDIT has four people and one has 10. Team size doesn’t matter nearly as much as the diversity of backgrounds, departments and skill sets. With that said, do your best to not exclude willing participants. To this day, our company has never turned away someone who wanted to contribute to an EDIT initiative.

3. Provide structure, but avoid rigidity

Give your EDIT space to work, but don’t let it fly blind, either. Have the EDIT take its cue from agile development or the scientific method, whichever its members are more familiar with. Encourage the EDIT to hypothesise solutions, test them, iterate and then evaluate them against the “future perfect.”

When our company’s EDITs meet for the first time, they always begin with a brainstorm. From there, they test ideas in low-risk, low-resource experiments. For example, a team suggesting a casual dress policy might survey or visit other companies with such a policy: The point would be to see whether changing acceptable workplace attire affected productivity.

The goal? To get real-world feedback on potential solutions, narrowing them down until the only top performer is left standing.

In our industry, there’s no greater cliche than “Your employees are your greatest asset.” But nothing has driven that point home for us, like EDIT. The soon-to-be-released enterprise-resource planning system that our employees spearheaded is proof that these people are, indeed, our strongest innovators.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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Increasing Productivity

The Entrepreneurial Case For A Co-Working Space

Morné Stoltz, MiWay Head of Business Insurance shares the benefits and competitive advantage of co-working business spaces.

Morné Stoltz

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South Africa’s small business sector continues to grow, with the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor report for 2016/17 indicating that SMMEs now account for over 36% of the country’s GDP. Yet these numbers do not reveal the many challenges faced by local entrepreneurs, many of whom are unable to sustain their business operations due to limited support and countless administrative hassles.

Many entrepreneurs also suffer as a result of reduced opportunities for collaboration and networking, with many working from home or out of small offices that leave them with little exposure to other like-minded business owners, whilst their larger counterparts are able to build networks and push the boundaries of innovation by tapping into a wider spectrum of human capita.

Related: Workplace Evolution 2.0: Are You Ready For The New Era?

Entrepreneurs have been largely left to fend for themselves, leaving them at an obvious disadvantage in the marketplace.Yet, with the recent emergence of co-working spaces, this pattern is slowly starting to shift, with small business owners now beginning to band together in the absence of appropriate support from those able to give it.

Why you need collaborative spaces

Not only do these collaborative spaces expose entrepreneurs to others facing similar challenges, but they also facilitate networking opportunities and much needed interpersonal interaction without a hefty price tag. In these 21st century workspaces, entrepreneurs are able to feed off one another’s energy, discuss and find solutions to administrative challenges and share resources so as to preserve that all-important cash flow.

Some co-working spaces also host regular presentations and events attended by industry luminaries, enabling business owners to up their expertise and connect with relevant big players in their respective fields.

Could this new way of working be the answer for the South African economy, which relies heavily on SMEs to sustain its growth? Sadly, the massive administrative and psychological challenges faced by small business owners are unlikely to be completely overcome without the necessary investment from government and the private sector. Inevitably, businesses need both money and time to survive and it is usually only the former that frees up the latter.

Co-working spaces offer a lifeline to new business

Nonetheless, there is certainly an entrepreneurial case to be made for the co-working space. While it might not be a complete entrepreneurial elixir, it does nonetheless offer up a lifeline for new businesses, affording them access to the people and networks that can elevate emerging enterprises from good to great.

Related: The Workspace And MiWay Announce Entrepreneur Competition

That being said, not all co-working spaces are created equal and it is important that entrepreneurs seek out locations that best suit their businesses and working styles. Here are a few key things to look out for when embarking on the search for the perfect space:

Search for synchronicities

It is not simply enough to be around other entrepreneurs – if you want your business to thrive rather than simply survive, you will need to find a space populated with others in similar fields.

Naturally, you do not want to be sitting across from your biggest industry rival, but it is not going to do you much good if you are a marketing guru surrounded by a group of architects. So look for places typically frequented by those with complementary skills – it is the perfect kick-off point for great network building.

Do your research

Everyone has different working styles, so it is important that you find a co-working space that best suits yours. A loud, boisterous environment might be invigorating for some, while others prefer a quieter, more laid-back tone. By setting up camp in a space that facilitates productivity and energy, you’ll be far better placed to succeed.

Buy into the right benefits

Co-working spaces come in many shapes, sizes and price ranges. Ensure that you pick one that offers you exactly what you need without breaking the bank. While you’ll want your space to be adaptable in the event of growth, you also don’t want to have to invest in more square meterage than entirely necessary. By all means think big, but also preserve your bottom line for the time being.

Related: Lifestyle-Focused Work Environments Are Not Just For Millennials

You’ll also want to look into the other perks offered by your local co-working spaces. Many offer secretarial services, administrative assistance and other similar amenities, which are like gold dust for entrepreneurs who’ve started up their operations based on skills rather than savvy.

For other business owners, networking events and seminars might be exactly what’s needed to fast track your growth trajectory, so carefully weigh up the benefits and costs based upon your specific pain points and potential areas for improvement.

MiWay is an Authorised Financial Services Provider (Licence no: 33970)

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Increasing Productivity

You Can Motivate Your Employees Without Creating A Hyper-Competitive Culture

Creating work atmospheres where people choose to engage and do their best work for the right reasons will lead to sustainable success.

Gary Beckstrand

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Recently, major companies – from the flashiest tech startups to centuries-old legacy banks — have made unwanted headlines due to unrealistic expectations and growth-at-all-costs behaviour.

Employees expressed concern that Uber favoured “high performers” over a safe environment for its female employees, as detailed by a former employee’s viral blog post; Zenefits created software to help its employees cheat on state online broker license courses to sell insurance illegally, and hired people with little experience in the highly regulated insurance industry. Also among companies reluctantly in the news recently, Amazon reportedly condoned workaholic behaviour to achieve its ambitions.

These companies exemplify company cultures that seem to focus only on results, leading to unintended consequences. Unfortunately, this corporate perspective is common to many Silicon Valley start-ups, as well as established companies.

In attempting to accomplish innovative feats, they ignore fundamental culture practices that will benefit every company, regardless of whether they’ve been around 30 months or 30 years and what metrics they’re trying to hit. Focusing on results without creating work atmospheres where people choose to engage and do their best work for the right reasons will lead to behaviours that put current and future business results at risk.

Related: These 4 Types Of ‘Nightmare Managers’ Are Scaring Employees Away

What can be done to avoid growth-at-all costs environments that continue to be an issue for many organisations? It begins with leadership.

How leadership can improve

Many leaders scale the ranks because they were effective doers – they got the results they wanted through hard work. These leaders often don’t understand that when they assume a new role as manager of a team, their purpose in the company shifts as well. Their primary responsibility is to influence the work of others rather than do the work themselves.

Often, inexperienced or poor leaders can be micromanagers who unintentionally put unhealthy pressure on team members, rather than taking a step back and creating an environment in which people can do their best work.

Connecting to purpose

Leaders cannot force their employees to do something, but they can give their employees the choice to engage. The best motivator for true engagement is to help the employee connect with the overall purpose of the company, rather than driving performance through fear or pressure.

Is your company simply driving results for results’ sake? Now might be the time to connect the results to an end benefit for the customer and to share that greater purpose with your employees.

People aren’t lazy

lazy-staffMany leaders hold the misconception that people are inherently lazy and will slack off if highly competitive cultures aren’t cultivated or goals aren’t mandated. They believe that if people don’t have structure and steep quotas to reach, their natural tendency is to not produce.

Related: 10 Tips To Motivate Employees Without Resorting To Money

The reality is people want to make a difference. People want to do great work and achieve what hasn’t been done before. If they feel their work is connected to a deeper purpose and the overall mission of the company, they will willingly spend more time on projects, rise to the occasion and hit targets, without undue pressure.

Recognising rather than penalising

Employees want to achieve great work, but they also want to be recognised for it when they do, rather than penalised if they don’t hit the mark. They want a culture that celebrates wins of individuals and teams instead of one that instills fear. A recent study conducted by my company found that of the six most common motivating factors that cause employees to produce great work, recognition is by far the number one factor.

We live in a competitive business world in which every company wants to go above and beyond the industry standard. Establishing aggressive goals and focusing on results is important; however, unless leadership works to create cultures where employees are motivated to do their best work for the right reasons, they may unintentionally reinforce unhealthy and unethical behaviour that puts the very business results they seek at risk.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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