There are a whole host of ways that managers, team leaders and business owners can improve output and working processes in the office. Here’s our 15 top office productivity tips. Some are quick fixes, some are radical and some involve some investment. They all help.
Here’s the top office productivity tips as prescribed from leading thinkers, designers and studies across the world of office working:
- Time Management Rules
- Upgrade ICT Infrastructure
- Check Levels Of Responsibility
- Use Standing Meeting Desks
- Use Online Communication
- Refresh Your Filing System
- Go Paperless
- Use Cloud Based Software
- Food Free Working
- Install A Breakout Area
- Rework Your Seating Plan
- Alter The Acoustics
- Introduce Hot Desking
- Create Choice
As you can see, some of these tips are quick and easy to implement. Online communication tools are a small investment but they reduce the need to check your email inbox. Which is of course a potential can of worms.
All of these tips are explained in more depth here:
1. Conduct A Daily Meeting
A technique which began on shop floors and construction sites, a daily start meeting is a great way for everyone to clarify what’s being worked on during the coming work day. It should only be a quick meeting – five to ten minutes, maximum – and everybody should have chance to speak.
A simple format to follow is to take turns on kicking off the meeting and everybody has to tell the rest of the team the following:
- Tell the team what was worked on yesterday.
- Say what’s being worked on today and what will be completed.
- State what could stop this happening or what is needed in order to get this complete.
Team leaders and managers can then help coordinate and allocate resources towards any blockages. It will also make more junior staff or those with lower feeling of responsibility more aware of why their more mundane tasks are important and part of a bigger concept.
The hungrier staff will also stand out by asking to help out other members of the team.
2. Time Management Rules
Another variation on the daily start meeting amongst team members is to introduce a “10 minute rule” or “15 minute rule” or “However long suits your office rule” at the start of the day, where no new emails can be sent and no actions can be created or given to a colleague.
This is way of letting people work through their own inbox and existing to-do list and get their day organised… and then start liaising with colleagues and see what’s new and what needs to take priority.
Knowing that every day starts with the bit of “me” time means that an important email which lands at 4pm can be dealt with tomorrow.
3. Upgrade ICT Infrastructure
Sticking with emails and widening the conversation to all things ICT, make sure that your computers and internet connections are running as efficiently as possible.
Screen lag, connection drop offs, slow buffer speeds, difficult to run several programmes at once – they all slow office workers down incrementally. But add this up over the full working day, week, month and year, and it presents a massive opportunity to improve productivity.
4. Check Levels Of Responsibility
Two things in relation to responsibility levels could be making your staff work inefficiently; too much or too little.
Conduct your own audit and canvas employee opinions to see which team members are sinking under too much responsibility and which are becoming stale and inefficient due to too little.
You’ll find some staff are doing too much, some staff think they’re responsible for things that they shouldn’t be and others (but hopefully not) might be coasting through the week whilst others flounder.
Realign who is responsible for what and this should make the whole team more productive.
5. Use Standing Meeting Desks
A big productivity killer is long and tiresome meetings. When you’re sat in the plush meeting room, having escaped from the desk with its phone and email inbox, it’s too tempting to keep chatting and prolong what should be a super quick meeting. After all, you’ve gone to the effort of getting everyone in the same room, so you best make it worthwhile.
This is sometimes deliberate but more often a subconscious decision.
Standing meeting desks are growing in popularity because they make people more proactive in discussion and thinking because they’ll naturally want to be able to sit back down.
A height adjustable desk that can be used for meetings or everyday working. See more here.
6. Use Online Communication
Online communication tools are great for organising how people talk with each other. Colleagues can be more productive in their communication by using a chat tool like Slack, where they can share documents, put ideas forward and communicate short tasks that don’t need an immediate answer.
When these latter messages are communicated by email, the recipient often ends up bogged down looking at other emails. When the message is delivered verbally, it immediately interrupts what the recipient was already working on.
The Slack chat tool.
Another tool is something like Basecamp, a place where to-do lists can be organised, tasks can be assigned to particular team members, discussions created and team members can see it all – right there on the screen. It works kind of like an internet message board.
Again, this cuts the time spent trawling through email inboxes and removes the risk of important items and to-do actions being lost like when they’re only allocated verbally or reliant on notes made by hand.
7. Refresh Your Filing System
If you’re an office that relies heavily on examining the same documents and data time and again, and then adding to the database as things move on – accountants, purchasing, construction firms, architects, solicitors, auditors, and so on – a refresh of your filing system might be needed.
Some ideas include digitising your whole database. Platforms are available which make storage of this secure and accessible by all team members. If paper copies are needed for practical reasons, for example that could be how the documents are created in the first place before they’re digitised, set limits for how much paper can be stored in the office or on people’s desks.
And if you still need lots of hard copies filed and kept close by, look into well organised and easily accessible storage walls.
8. Go Paperless
Another alternative is to take the previous point a step further and go completely paperless (as much as possible – people will still need to make notes in meetings and so on). If you can support it, have all documents scanned and digitised then shared with whoever needs to receive them.
They can then be renamed accordingly and saved in the central filing system. It’s infinitely quicker to search for a contract, invoices or meeting minutes via a search query on a computer than trawl through various lever arch folders and storage boxes.
9. Use Cloud Based Software
To help facilitate all of this, cloud based software is getting bigger and cheaper by the day.
An online place to store all of your documents means that they can be accessed remotely, at any time, by anyone with a login and an internet connection.
And that’s just storage. Cloud based processing tools – word processors, spreadsheet tools, etc. – allow multiple users to work on the same document at the same time, live and in real time. This removes duplication issues, worries about working off a superseded document and promotes collaboration.
All of this helps productivity.
10. Food Free Working
Moving away from ICT improvements, a big change we saw put to great effect in a Civil Service office was the banning of food being eaten at your desk.
This came about because too many staff were arriving to work on time, but then spending five or 10 minutes in the kitchen preparing breakfast, making a coffee and having a chat, before heading to their desk and spending another five or 10 minutes eating and drinking. Work wasn’t beginning in earnest until going on for half past nine. This was repeated at lunch time too.
Having a dedicated place for break times and eating means that working space is more distinct. It makes break times more beneficial and therefore working time more productive. Read more on how this works here.
11. Install A Breakout Area
Obviously, suggestion 10 is not possible unless you have the space available for staff to use. But people eating at their desk probably isn’t enough justification to install a dedicated lunch area.
However, if you consider that a well designed breakout area is multi-purpose and can be used throughout the day, productivity can soar. It can be used for collaborative working, ad-hoc meetings or simply as an alternative place to sit and complete one’s work. See this breakout blog post or jump to number 15 to read more on why offering choice is important.
12. Rework Your Seating Plan
Some offices regularly change their seating in order to keep the workforce energised and open to change. Try to mix locations and team members so that new ideas and ways of working can be found.
13. Alter The Acoustics
Noise is one of the main distractions in the workplace and it stops people working productively. Especially in open plan offices, the sound of people on the phone, people still discussing last night’s match, acrylic nails typing on a keyboard, a group meeting to finish a project… it all combines to make a cacophony of distraction.
Improved ceiling systems, soft furnishings, altered desk layouts and installing dividing screens can make a drastic improvement in noise levels. This lets people work more productively.
14. Introduce Hot Desking
As alluded to earlier and as explained more fully below, offering staff choice in where they work is important.
Hot desking is a great way of achieving this.
A desk is only a person’s for as long as they are sat in it. This means seating plans are fluid and change from day to day. It means that employees cannot fill their desk with files and clutter – all of which slows down the way people work and harms productivity.
Instead, belongings and equipment are tidied away into lockers at the end of a day and people are free to sit with the colleagues they need for a particular task and can then move to a quieter area of the office to work on their own.
15. Create Choice
Offering choice is the biggest way to make sure your office is working productively. It’s the biggest of office productivity tips that we can suggest because studies have found that being stuck in a permanent working position is harmful to productivity, physical health and mental well being (the latter two issues also harm productivity).
Different tasks need different work settings. And people’s moods and concentration levels change throughout the day too. Never mind from one day or month to the next. People might need the hum of an open plan space at certain times, but the quiet focus of a silent space during another.
They might want to sit in a regular ergonomic chair at a desk for some tasks, but need to spread out on a large table and work with a colleague for others. Or remove all distractions and sit with just their laptop for an intense task.
Your office needs to offer all of this to make sure that your employees can work productively at all times rather than be bound to a rigid workspace setup.
Want To See More Evidence & Get Inspirational Ideas To Improve Productivity In Your Office?
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