Increasing employee productivity is a top priority for many small business owners and startup entrepreneurs. When coming up with techniques to increase employee productivity, it is vital to ensure that you are practicing the strategies that you are trying to implement.

How Does Productivity Affect Your Small Business?

Productivity lies at the center of your small business’s success. When neither you nor your employees are productively completing each day’s tasks, your small business is slowly being brought down.

Your company’s productivity is impacted by each decision you make - from office layout, technology, breaks, and lunches to company culture, routines, and noises. Ultimately, your employees’ productivity depends largely on your ability to successfully incorporate various techniques, tips, and life-hacks and make productivity a part of your company’s culture. A small business which focuses on productivity is a successful one.

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Productivity Resources

How the QSEHRA Works for Employees

In this eBook, we go over exactly how the QSEHRA applies to employees no matter their current insurance situation.

Health Reimbursement Report 2017

Download this report to see charts showing data for industry, family status, region to see if a QSEHRA will work for you.

The Comprehensive Guide to the Small Business HRA

Everything you need to know about the new QSEHRA. Including cost comparisons, case studies, and other tools.

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How to Delegate Correctly

If you don’t have time for the little stuff, trust your employees to help you out - this is called delegation. Though most small business owners know what delegation is, few feel comfortable delegating responsibilities to their employees. The reason? Trust. An employer who trusts his/her employee starts with the smallest tasks. Something simple like an easily-fixable item in your office or store, can be accomplished by your employees and shows your employees you trust them. This way, you won’t feel like you’re running around with too much on your plate.

For small business owners who have a hard time with delegating tasks and trusting employees, this section includes advice to see that delegation is a crucial part of owning a small business.

How to Build a Relationship of Trust

1. Have an Open Door Policy

Welcome your employees to come to you for questions, support, expertise, and problem solving. By embracing this and keeping an open door for feedback, this reinforces that you take your employees’ concerns seriously. This, in turn, builds trust with your employees while keeping you abreast of your employees’ concerns.

2. Encourage Feedback

Ask for feedback regularly. This is especially vital when implementing a new program or project within your company. Ask employees whether they fully understood the message that was delivered. Encourage questions and concerns, and use the feedback to improve your strategies.

3. Find out What Works Best for Your Employees

Talk to your employees to find out what kinds of communication methods they prefer. Would your employees prefer to be emailed or talked to in person to address any concerns or questions they have. Find out whether they would prefer daily check ins, weekly newsletters, or monthly meetings to keep them informed of policy changes and new projects. Find out what your employees are most comfortable with and try to work their preferences in with your communication strategy.

4. Make Sure Your Employees Know Your Communication is Confidential

Helping employees with personal concerns, healthcare benefits, HR policies, and procedures requires a great degree of trust between employee and employer. It is vital to show sensitivity for what your employees are going through while validating their concerns. Making employees feel safe and comfortable about coming to you with any concerns they have is important in fostering a relationship of honesty and trust.

5. Use a Medium Appropriate for the Message

Emails are quick, easy to compose, and easy to circulate through your company; however, they’re easier for employees to ignore. If there is something more important to communicate to employees, think about scheduling a company-wide or even one-on-one meetings.

6. Be Direct and Straightforward

Don’t beat around the bush or try and sugar-coat when delivering potentially negative news. Your employees will respect your honesty, even if they don’t agree with the message you are delivering. This is vital in fostering an open relationship based on trust and honesty.

How to Trust Your Employees to Make Decisions

As a small business owner, you’re always trying to put out fires. And as soon as you put out one, another one starts. Don’t worry. This is a common thing among small business owners. However, you have to stop thinking you can take on everything at once. The reality is, you can’t.

You’re afraid to trust your employees to make important decisions. This habit is deadly to your small business. Why? Trust is one of the biggest things you should establish with your employees. Without it, there is little room for success and the chances you’ll feel comfortable delegating responsibility are slim.

If you trust your employees to make correct decisions, you have confidence in them. And as you develop a relationship of trust with your employees, respect and potential for growth are limitless.

Think about it. Wouldn’t you love to know that when you are out of the office your employees are making responsible and well-reasoned decisions? Think of the amount of stress that would be lifted off of your shoulders. As a small business owner, you don’t need added stress. So, it’s time to start trusting. Here’s how.

  1. Start with small things. Take a handful of your small daily tasks and delegate them to your employees.

  2. Tell your employees you are delegating tasks to them in order to build unity and help them learn the various operations of your small business

  3. Request that your employees report to you once their task is complete

  4. Provide help if needed. Let your employees know you’re there if they have questions, and urge them to ask you if they are unsure of something.

  5. Follow up. Ask your employees how they liked their task and if it’s something they’d like to do more often.

  6. Build up to assigning larger tasks.

The Key to Trusting Your Employees: Communication

The best way to break the habit of not trusting your employees to make decisions is through open communication. In other words, if you talk to your employees and tell them you hold them to a standard - that you trust them - they are accountable for their actions and will feel a sense of duty when you ask them to watch over the business as you leave for the day.

Trust allows you to feel comfortable enough to delegate everything from the smallest to the most complex tasks to your employees - creating a unity in your small business you need in order to succeed.

Use Life Hacks to Increase Productivity as a Small Business Owner

As a small business, you could probably use a few extra hands. But, in many cases, hiring more employees just simply isn’t an option. That leaves you with two options: 1) Let a few things slip through the cracks and hope they aren’t detrimental to your operations, or 2) find efficiencies in your day-to-day activities to make sure you’re able to accomplish everything that comes your way.

Most small business owners would choose the second option. For this reason, this section outlines productivity hacks for you and how to deploy them in your small business.

6 Productivity Hacks for Small Businesses

1. Form a Morning Routine

If you’re like most other professionals, the mornings are your most coveted hours in the day. So, to make use of those coveted hours, you must make sure you’re using them efficiently.

A morning routine can help ensure that this is happening.

Take a second and think about what you have done this morning. Did you have a similar process the day before? Chances are you did. If so, that is the foundation of your morning routine. Build this out, test it, move activities that aren’t result-yielding to the afternoon, and be sure to prioritize activities that are for your morning schedule. Eventually you will establish a morning routine that works for you.

2. Create a “To-Do List” in Order of Importance

To-do lists are a very, very useful tool (if used correctly). By correctly, I mean accomplishable. These lists should include tasks that can be checked off during that day or, at the very most, that week.

The best way to employ this tactic is to build a master list of tasks for the week. Then, break down those weekly tasks into daily tasks in order of importance. This will allow you to create daily to-do lists that are accomplishable and sets you up to do the same thing the next day, and the day after.

If you are technologically savvy, Evernote is a great way to manage these lists. If you’re not, sticky notes or any old notebook will do the trick.

Warning: Be careful not to load too many time-intensive tasks in one day. This can easily crumble the entire purpose of the to-do list. Remember, they are for chipping away, day by day, at your weekly tasks; not accomplishing them all at once.

3. Set Aside Some “Me Time”

One of the most productive hacks on this list is to be selfish. That’s right, selfish. Regardless of what department, industry, or company you’re in - you get requests that can easily derail your daily and/or weekly progress.

That’s why it’s important to set aside some time for yourself to do those small things that make a difference. Blocking off an hour or two, once a week, to catch up on email or address a few mindless tasks can be just what you need to make sure you’re getting to all of your requests, tasks, and administrative work.

4. Complete Simple Tasks as They Come

Remember those requests that I mentioned in the last hack? You know as well as anyone that they can be destructive to your time.

To combat the requests, simply complete the ones that are easy enough to quickly accomplish. The rule of thumb is that if it requires less than 15 minutes, it can be prioritized to be accomplished within the next 15 minutes. This will help you avoid adding more tasks than you already have to your to-do lists.

5. Use Technology to Find Efficiencies

Believe it or not, in today’s day and age there are hundreds of apps focused on making you more productive. Apps like Pocket can be great for saving articles that you don’t have time to read at that moment, but want to read at a later time. Do you have quite a few “ah-ha” moments during the workday? If so, Vesper can help you vocally record those thoughts to revisit at a later time.

Technology is tracking at paces never before seen. If you can, utilize these new technologies. You just might find some use in using them over trying to write everything down or trying to read and retain everything in one sitting.

6. Help Your Employees Be Healthy

You may have heard - healthy employees increase productivity. But is it true? Many surveys say it is. If you’re skeptical that health employees really have an impact on increased productivity, here’s a look at what recent studies have found.

  • Employees who eat healthy are 25% more likely to have higher job performance, found one survey.

  • The same survey also found that employees who exercise for at least 30 minutes, three times a week, are 15% more likely to have higher job performance.

  • And, healthy employees take fewer sick days. Absenteeism is 27% lower for those workers who eat healthy and regularly exercise.

  • Overweight employees cost their employers $73.1 billion a year and file twice the number of workers’ compensation claims.

  • According to a Quantum Workplace report, employees are 14% more engaged when provided time off to recharge, 10% more engaged when provided health food options, 18% more engaged when provided time for healthy activities, and 18% more engaged when provided a flexible schedule.

  • Employers have bought in to the idea but struggle to measure the exact impact. According to a Willis survey, 93% believe that healthier employees are more productive, yet very few are measuring the impact of productivity on employees’ absenteeism, FMLA, and presenteeism.

  • Healthy employees reduce healthcare costs. According to Willis, 61% of employers say employees’ health habits are a top challenge to controlling healthcare costs.

Having healthy employees is important to productivity, culture, and cost containment.

As you think about programs to encourage healthy employees, there are four main areas to focus on: stress management, nutrition programs, physical exercise, and health benefits.

These programs sound expensive, but they don’t have to be. To implement workplace health programs on a small business budget, consider these budget-savvy ideas:

  1. Provide employees a healthcare allowance for their health, dental, and vision insurance - instead of purchasing an expensive group health insurance plan.

  1. Implement a low-cost wellness program.

  1. Provide membership discounts to a local gym.

  1. Stock your kitchen with healthy snacks.

  1. Provide paid time off.

  1. Encourage (or require) stress-relief breaks, or allow employees to take longer lunch breaks to exercise.

  1. Offer exercise classes on-site, led by a team member to lower costs.

Use Life Hacks to Increase Productivity Among Employees

One of the most difficult aspects of being a small business owner is motivating your employees to stay productive. Often times, you’re unable to supervise your employees and ensure they’re being productive. In this section, we’ll go over simple life hacks to help your employees become more productive both when you’re around, and when you’re not.

5 Employee Productivity Tips

1. Prune Back Meeting Time

While meetings are often inevitable, there are ways to ensure that you and your employees are using meeting time wisely. Provide your employees with a clear written agenda as far in advance of the meeting as possible. When all the participants are prepared and know what the meeting is focused on, meetings are more efficient.

In addition, some companies will implement “No Meeting Mondays.” This doesn’t necessarily have to occur on a Monday. These companies designate a day where they can schedule an entire day of uninterrupted work.

2. Encourage Employees to Take a Break

Although it may seem counter-intuitive, taking a break will help your employees re-focus on the task at hand. Taking a break gives employees much needed time to rest their eyes, move around, and get more blood and oxygen flowing to their brains. In addition, it may help your employees gain a fresh perspective on a complicated work problem. Even just a short, five minute walk will help employees to clear their heads and refocus on their work.

3. There’s an App for That

Unsurprisingly, there are a plethora of smart phone apps designed to improve business productivity. There are apps to aid you and your employees with everything including project management, interoffice communication, organizing information, and waking up on time for work.

4. Quit Obsessively Checking Your Email

Checking, reading, and responding to each email immediately after it hits your inbox is a huge time-waster. Unless you are waiting for something extremely important, try not to keep your email inbox open constantly throughout the day, and encourage your employees to do the same. Try checking your email periodically- every hour or 90 minutes.

If this isn’t possible for your business, try to prioritize emails and give yourself a set block of your schedule to return emails that don’t need to be responded to immediately. Fight the impulse to respond to every email the instant it arrives.

5. Prioritize Your Workload

Start your day by writing yourself a to-do list, and encourage your employees to do the same. By checking things off your list as you complete them, you can leave work feeling more accomplished at the end of the day.

In addition, complete your most arduous or unpleasant task first thing in the morning, rather than delaying it. By accomplishing your most difficult task at the start of the day, you are setting a positive, productive tone for the rest of the day.

Workplace Design Tips

Workplace design is a much referenced buzzword when it comes to tracking and improving employee productivity. If your business has an opportunity to renovate you may find yourself considering new layout options.

Although some 70 percent of all American offices have open floor plans, a significant body of research shows that bullpen-style spaces negatively affect employee productivity. This section is full of tips and tricks to help you evaluate the way your office space is set up and if it is conducive to productivity.

4 Ways Workplace Design Affects Productivity

  1. Noise Distracts Everyone

Many millennials have grown up in high sensory environments. They learned how to multitask from a young age and have brought that skill into the workplace. That does not mean, however, that they are impervious to distractions. A study in cognitive control found that the more an individual multitasks, the more susceptible they are to interruptions. Furthermore, habitual multitaskers take more time to recover from distractions.

In an era of young companies and a millennial workforce, it is important to integrate quiet work spaces into your office design. Giving employees an option to work in a quiet, interruption-free area will allow them to maintain focus when it’s crunch time.

  1. Employees Are More Productive with Privacy

Although it may seem intuitive that employees are more productive when their work habits are made public, studies show that lack of privacy is often viewed as a significant problem. Not only are employees often uneasy when always under the scrutiny of their peers, but the lack of architectural privacy can limit the exchange of ideas. A 2011 article in the Harvard Business Review concluded that “employees in open-plan spaces, knowing that they may be overheard or interrupted, have shorter and more-superficial discussions than they otherwise would.”

Privacy can also help stymie the spread of germs. One study found that employees working in open offices took 62 percent more sick days off of work than employees working in individual offices.

  1. Give Your Employees Options and Control

By far the biggest workplace design factor in boosting productivity is giving employees the ability to control their own work environment. Providing staff with adjustable desks, options for lighting and temperature control, and variety in work rooms increases job satisfaction and team cohesion. Variations in work rooms can include private offices, conference rooms of different sizes, and collaborative tables.

Not all of these provisions are possible for each business. However, allowing your employees mobility when possible and the power to choose the environment they work in gives them the resources to maximize their productivity while at work.

  1. The Revival of Working from Home

The final workplace redesign is allowing employees to telecommute. Working from home is also commonly considered to decrease productivity, however a 2014 study from the Harvard Business Review found that employees who were allowed to work from home were happier, less likely to quit, and more productive overall.

Not every household and not every job is conducive to quality work at home. But to the extent that one’s own home provides a quiet, private space with flexibility in environment, working from home can provide all of the critical components to increasing employee productivity.

Workplace and Color

Did you know that color affects mood? For your workplace, choose blues and greens if you want a calm atmosphere. However, keep in mind that if you have too much of blue and green, you may inhibit high energy needed to keep employees motivated throughout the day.

You can add a small amount of red, orange, or yellow in your workplace to increase energy flow and enhance your employees’ productivity. Keep in mind that an entire workplace filled with red can convey aggression and anger, while too much orange or yellow can create a lot of socializing.

Choose a good balance of these colors to convey the right amount of productivity. Additionally, choose the right colors for the right areas of your workplace. You don’t want to create too much energy in the wrong area, or a lack thereof, either.

Design Based on Departments

Every department is different and it’s important to address these differences when thinking of workplace design. If you want your employees to stay productive, think of how each department does their jobs and what they need to do them efficiently.

The best way to do this is to keep departments together. Your IT, Marketing, Sales, Accounting, etc. should all be grouped together in order to create an atmosphere of unity and productivity. If you separate even one team member from a department, you run the risk of that employee losing productivity.

Furthermore, make sure each department has what they need close by. If a department has to do a lot of printing, make sure their printer is close by. If team does a lot of stocking, make sure their supply room is in close range as well. Whatever the case may be, each department in a small business needs to be able to quickly access what makes their job more efficiently accomplished.

Designing Your Workplace to Reflect Your Company Culture

Can your small business’s office design reflect the culture? You bet! How? Think of your culture as it is right now. Depending on what type of culture you have, you should model your workplace to reflect it.

If your small business’s culture has high energy, you’ll want to have a fun workplace to reflect this. Some ideas for this would be a couple arcade games in a room and a ping pong table, or maybe high energy music lightly playing to keep your employees full of energy.

For small businesses with a focused company culture, it’s important to have designated quiet areas where employees can go to concentrate and give their best work.

As you design your workplace, keep your company culture in mind. Because culture is such an important aspect of your small business, you want to continue to nurture it and make it a forte through effective workplace design.

Additional Resources on Productivity

You Need A lesson in Productivity: Meeting Deadlines

A study was published in the Journal of Consumer Research which reveals the key to getting motivated to meet deadlines and increase productivity. This article talks about the study, why you’re waiting until the last second to get tasks done, and how to trick yourself into meeting deadlines. Read more.

Don't Let March Madness Ruin Productivity: Tips to Avoid the Madness

There are millions of devoted sports fans or even just people excited to be a part of these talented basketball teams vying for the title of champion. From an employer perspective, you want to allow your colleagues to enjoy these morale boosting events, without compromising productivity. Read more.

Worried You're Not Being Productive? Try these Small Business Life Hacks

With so many life hacks for things we do every day, there has to be some pretty amazing ones for your small business, too, right? Of course there are! To help you run your small business more efficiently, we’ve put together some of the best life hacks to help you and your employees be more productive. Read more.

You’re Wasting Time - 7 Time Management Tips for Business Owners

Wasting time is one of the easiest things to do - everyone does it. However, for small business owners, time is extremely limited, and, when spent incorrectly, it can mean the difference between a bad day and a successful one. This article encompasses seven of the best time management tips for small business owners. Read more.

Do Employees Trust their Employer? (And Does this Matter?) [Study]

Despite the rebound in the U.S. economy and an improving job market, nearly 1 in 4 employees say they don’t trust their employer. And, only about half believe their employer is open and upfront with them. How important is trust to on-the-job satisfaction, and what does this mean for productivity and employee engagement? Read more.

6 Strategies to Keep Employees Happy - Number 6 is a Must See

The market for labor is currently in a state of hyper-competition. Companies everywhere are looking to expand, to increase presence in their respective spaces, and to hire top quality employees for new positions. From an HR perspective, this presents not only the opportunity, but a demand to create an environment conducive to happy, positive employees who have the desire to contribute their talents and hard work at 100 percent capacity. Read more.

The Comprehensive Guide to the Small Business HRA