It’s no secret that companies thrive on how well their employees work and how efficiently they are. Employee productivity plays a major role in how much a company can realistically grow. However, productivity itself relies on many factors, including employee engagement, how motivated and happy employees are, and how satisfied they are with their work and job.
According to Atlassian, only 60% of work time is spent being productive. That’s mostly because the average employee is interrupted 56 times over the course of the day.
The good news is that—with the right approach—you can increase productivity across your team, building a stronger company along the way.
The Truth About Employee Productivity
Over the years, through casual conversations and a systematic approach to business, a lot of untrue employee productivity facts have been floating around.
For example, many people believe that waking up early makes you productive and sleeping in makes you lazy. The truth is that every employee has their own way of doing things. Some may work better in the morning while others may work better in the afternoon and still others work best at night.
There’s another belief that employees can only be productive at the office. However, not everyone is an office person, so to speak. A Stanford study found that employees working from home are 14% more productive than their in-house counterparts.
There’s another myth floating around that says employees work better under pressure. They don’t. If an employee is working “better” under pressure, it’s only because they fear the repercussions of failure—not because they want to get their work done. And at that point, you’ll probably start noticing signs that employees are about to quit.
It’s easy to succumb to these myths due to correlation, causation, and anecdotal evidence fallacies.
However, to counter that, here are seven employee productivity facts that have been observed by multiple sources only to drive the same conclusion.
1. Meetings Kill Productivity
Meetings are important, to be sure. But there is a time for them and a certain frequency to abide by. More than 50% of workers consider meetings to be a major reason behind unproductive days, so the last thing you want to do is schedule too many of them.
What’s more, a Verizon study found that almost 40% admit to occasionally falling asleep during meetings. The study also revealed that 60% of people just take notes to appear busy in meetings while 91% of respondents admitted that they daydream during meetings.
All of this happens for several reasons, such as having too many meetings, having meetings at the wrong time, having unnecessary people in each meeting, making meetings too long, going beyond the meeting agenda, and not making the meeting engaging enough for everyone.
To fix this, managers should reduce the number of meetings while setting pre-set agendas for each meeting. Furthermore, try to schedule meetings between 10 a.m. and 12 p.m. That’s when employees are most productive, according to research.
Furthermore, for those absolutely necessary meetings, try to follow Jeff Bezos’ “two-pizza rule.” The rule states that if two pizzas can’t feed everyone at a meeting, you have too many people present.
When meetings are too big, they’re often unproductive. It’s best to carefully pick the right people for meetings and give employees the option of not attending less important ones if it may affect their productivity.
2. Tuesday Are the Most Productive
According to Accountemps, the most productive day of the week is Tuesday.
This isn’t a recent development; it has been the case since at least the 1980s. Meanwhile, it should come as no surprise that Fridays are the least productive day of the week.
This is due to the fact that people are well-rested after the weekend. Since Monday is a sort of restarter for the new week, Tuesday is officially when employees feel committed to their work again.
However, keep in mind that this is true for typical Monday to Friday workweeks. For alternate work schedules and work-from-home employees, the results might differ.
3. Vacations Supercharge Employee Productivity
Burnout is real, and it can be devastating to not only the company but also the employee. If an employee doesn’t take a vacation on their own volition, the company needs to “force” them to.
Time and time again, data proves that employees are much more productive after a vacation. They’re mentally recharged, teeming with new ideas, and more motivated.
Up to 51% of people believe they’re more productive after a vacation while 31% believe they’re more productive before a vacation. The latter may not be as accurate since almost 34% of executives say that employees start to become less productive before their vacation.
However, according to a survey published by Harvard Business Review, employees at companies that provide more vacation days tend to work faster and get more work done. It’s not that the breaks make them do more. It’s that spending less time at their desks forces them to be more careful with how they spend their time—equating to less time wasted.
The truth is that employers may already be offering enough vacation days and PTO. But many employees don’t use it due to fear, guilt, or a feeling of being left behind. For employers that find themselves in this situation, one course of action could be a recurring, scheduled, mandatory vacation.
This HBR study documents what happened when SimpliFlying encouraged employees to take one week off after every seven weeks with one caveat: If they sent any work-related messages or emails during their week off, they would not be paid for that week. After three months, creativity spiked by 33%, happiness levels improved by 25%, and productivity increased by 13%.
4. Getting Proper Rest Can Boost Productivity by 20%
A Harvard study found that sleep deprivation and lack of proper rest costs companies almost $65 billion per year.
According to a study published in the Official Publication of the Sleep Research Society, people who get between 7.5 and 9 hours of sleep are at least 20% more productive and effective at what they do.
A well-rested employee will be psychologically calm, physically charged, and thinking more clearly. To ensure employees are well-rested, consider whether it makes sense to allow naps in the office. For example, Google has installed nap pods in their offices so employees can take intermittent naps and recover their energy during the day.
5. Multitasking Always Decreases Productivity
While you may have heard that multitasking saves time, people who can multitask are more intelligent, or that it’s much more effective—it’s all false. The fact is that we are not capable of multitasking. It’s not your fault; our brains are just not wired to handle or truly focus on more than one task at once.
In fact, a study by the University of Sussex found that constantly trying to multitask damages your brain. Furthermore, trying to multitask can effectively reduce productivity by 40% while increasing your stress levels. Eventually, your critical-thinking abilities also take a hit.
It’s best to devise a step-by-step process or reserve tasks for different time slots throughout the day for maximum productivity. A good practice is to use the Pomodoro technique, where a timer is used to break down work into intervals separated by short breaks.
You can use this Tomato-Timer to give this productivity system a try. To get started, pick a task, set the 25-minute timer, and start working. When the timer is up, leave a checkmark, take a short break, and then go back to setting the timer. After four checkmarks, take a long break, reset your checkmarks, and decide on which task to move on to next.
6. Longer Work Weeks Have Diminishing Returns
An eight-hour workday has been observed since the 1800s. But even today, there are companies where employees work more than eight hours a day and more than 40 hours per week. According to this Stanford excerpt, after 40 hours of work per week, productivity decreases by 50%—eventually leading to negative productivity, where workers do more harm than good.
Meanwhile, Microsoft Japan experimented with a four-day workweek last year and saw a 40% increase in productivity. A shorter workweek meant fewer meetings. It also resulted in employees using the time they had more effectively, and the overall misuse of time and resources was significantly reduced.
Add it all up, and fewer work hours can actually increase productivity because workers are less distracted and use their time more efficiently to get things done.
7. Unique Employee Benefits Lead to Better Productivity
Employee benefits play a key role in employee productivity. Typical benefits like health insurance, 401(k)s, and paid time off are common now. No matter what you offer, you need to make your employees happy with your benefits because happiness equates to better productivity.
Unique benefits like unlimited PTO, work-from-home privileges, free lunch, free childcare, gym memberships, flexible working hours, and tuition assistance, among other things, can have an enormous impact on employee happiness and satisfaction.
Furthermore, individual benefits have their own impacts on productivity. For example, free lunch ensures that employees complete their work on time before lunch is served—and stay in the office longer. Free childcare lets employees focus on their work without worrying about who’s taking care of their children. Things like tuition assistance and student loan repayment assistance create a sense of “giving back” to the company.
Also, things like social responsibility initiatives can help develop a positive image of the company in the eyes of the employees, ultimately leading them to be more dedicated to their work. This is part of the reason why TINYpulse spends 1% of our time volunteering every quarter.
Giving back to the community and creating camaraderie through shared experiences helps develop a deeper bond between employees and the company, leading to a more satisfied and productive team.
It’s a small price to pay for happier, more motivated, and more productive employees.
A Shortcut to Better Employee Productivity
Employee productivity is always easy to measure. But it can be observed through secondary measures like sales closed, revenue generated, and goals achieved.
Because of this, it can be hard to decide where to start when it comes to improving employee productivity. However, you can’t go wrong by focusing on communication and collaboration. According to Salesforce, around 86% of professionals believe that workplace failures are caused by poor communication and collaboration efforts. The better you can do in these areas, the happier your team is likely to be.
From there, you can start focusing on the facts mentioned above and begin making changes that reflect them. At a very basic level, improving employee productivity just involves taking care of your employees and keeping them happy.
This means that if you naturally develop an employee-centric culture and focus on what’s best for your employees, you will automatically be following most productivity-improving methods.
For that reason, the shortcut to better employee productivity is to genuinely start thinking about your employees more. And an easy way to do that is by asking them what’s on their mind on a regular basis. Find out more about the easiest way to do that.