Getting the most out of your workforce is one of the most important aspects of running any business. Employees are ultimately what makes a business run, but they’re also one of its primary costs. Unfortunately, getting a high level of performance out of your workers isn’t as simple as hiring competent and driven people—which isn’t to say that even that is a simple task. The culture of a business and the way that employees are managed has a major impact on how much work someone can do without burning out, or simply being overwhelmed.

Reduce Interruptions

In the modern workplace, it’s extremely difficult, and sometimes even rare, for employees to spend any significant length of time working without interruption. This is incredibly harmful because it prevents them from building up the proper focus they need to handle complex tasks efficiently. Managers, push notifications, co-working spaces, open plan offices and co-workers constantly interrupt, effectively making prolonged focus impossible.

By instituting set periods during which interruptions are or aren’t allowed, or generally advising management to limit interruptions, businesses can drastically improve the efficiency with which workers are able to complete solo tasks.

Stop all the meetings

An average worker spends over 10 hours per week either in meetings or preparing for meetings. Middle managers, for their part, can expect to lose over 30 per cent of their time to meetings, while upper-level managers often spend more than half their day in meetings.

Business leaders often consider meetings to be a great way to democratise decision making and access employee expertise for that purpose. However, it’s important to remember that a lot of the time spent by employees in meetings are effectively lost productivity. A one-hour meeting could easily translate to 20 hours of lost productivity, just to get a second and third opinion on an idea. It’s far more efficient to simply approach relevant individuals informally than it is to put an entire team into a meeting room while just two or three participants actually discuss an issue.

Manage workloads to limit bottlenecks

In any organisation, roles that naturally bear a great deal of responsibility tend to accumulate more and more responsibilities over time. As a result, it becomes increasingly difficult for them to keep up, which creates bottlenecks in the entire company’s workflow. Entire teams are forced to slow down or stop working because their manager has no time to provide ongoing guidance or to check off on a project before they can continue.

It’s the responsibility of business leaders to ensure their teams are empowered and that everyone has a manageable workload so that work can continue to go ahead smoothly. That means seeing where bottlenecks exist, and delegating responsibilities away from the relevant person in a way that improves the efficiency of the entire business.

Prioritise Tasks

Without any clear guidance, often workers complete tasks and work on projects in the same order that they were given to them, or prioritise those projects and tasks that are currently most on the minds of their superiors. Unfortunately, that often has little to do with what work actually needs to be done to keep the business functioning smoothly.

Indicating what level of priority a task has when assigning it is an excellent way to manage this. For example, some tasks are absolutely vital for the business’ normal function. If a purchase order needs to go out immediately to ensure that supplies are delivered in time to avoid work interruptions, it makes sense that this becomes a priority. Despite that, it’s not uncommon for tasks to be delayed to ensure attendance at a meeting, or to take care of more visible issues.

Improve Communication

Employees can become more effective, more innovative, and more productive if they regularly share ideas and collaborate. The key to encouraging this, though, is to improve communication between team members. A good way to do this is to provide workers with collaborative, rather than competitive goals. Employees that are trying to outdo each other in order to access bonuses, promotions, or pay raises will avoid sharing ideas and information for fear of aiding the competition. Offering communal credit and rewards to an entire team, on the other hand, encourages them to work together.

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