What Is Productivity?

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Team Workiro

Productivity is one of the most important factors for all businesses — it impacts the amount of work you can complete and supports or limits the overall growth of your business. But improving productivity isn't as simple as just asking your team to complete more work each day, you need to focus on improving planning, project management, and finding ways to work more efficiently, not just quickly. 

The information below answers questions such as ‘what is productivity?’ and provides insight as to why improving productivity is so important. Find out everything you need to improve your team's output and increase productivity below.

What is productivity?

Productivity is defined in many industries as the rate of output per unit of input. When it comes to business and your team, productivity is a measure of how efficiently someone is completing a task — usually the amount of work they complete compared with a certain amount of time. Improving productivity doesn't necessarily mean getting more tasks done each day, it means improving how quickly on average someone takes to achieve the same or similar tasks.

How to measure productivity

There are a number of different ways to measure productivity depending on the nature of the work you are doing, some of the most common ways are outlined below:

  • Long and short term goals: your organisation will have overall goals, and these can be broken down into smaller goals that need to be met to achieve your long term goals. You can measure productivity based on how long it takes to achieve smaller goals, and whether your team becomes more efficient at meeting them.
  • Set individual targets: rather than team goals, you could set targets for individual team members that they have to achieve each week or month.
  • Time tracking: monitor how long your team spends on each task and whether they are able to complete them in shorter spaces of time. You can also track time spent on admin and other work that doesn't contribute to the team's overall output.
  • Peer feedback: your team could give feedback on their colleagues’ productivity based on how well they complete tasks assigned to them and their contribution to the team.
  • Measuring profits: instead of tracking individual performance, this focuses on the overall profits and where they are increasing. Some businesses will compare their profit against the amount spent on salaries to measure productivity. 

Why do people struggle with productivity?

Productivity is a priority for most businesses, but ensuring that your team stays productive at all times is often quite difficult. Your team could be struggling with productivity for a number of reasons.

  • No goals or deadlines: without clear goals and deadlines, there's no sense of urgency to get something, potentially resulting in your team being less motivated. They also won't get the same sense of achievement once it's completed.
  • Too much work to do: if your team has a lot of work to get done but it's not clear what they should prioritise, then they're going to struggle. They're likely to switch between tasks to try and get more done, but they'll end up making slower progress on everything. It makes it harder to concentrate and they'll probably feel overwhelmed.
  • Too many distractions: whether it's down to a disorganised workspace, noise levels, chatty colleagues, or frequent interruptions, every time someone's concentration is interrupted it reduces productivity.
  • Not taking breaks: It's also important to take regular breaks though to stay focused and keep productivity levels high.

The impact of productivity on business

Productivity is key to getting things done efficiently, and getting them done to a high standard on time, which means there's a strong correlation between productivity and profitability. 

For example, if your team is working slowly or inefficiently then they won't be completing work on time or meeting goals and targets. Meaning less time to complete other tasks. By finding ways for your team to work more efficiently and increasing productivity, you'll be able to achieve more with the same amount of resources, which ultimately means you can increase profits and grow the business.

However, it's not as simple as just pushing your team to get more done in the same amount of time. The work that's being achieved needs to be done to a good standard or producing the right results.

The Toyota Production System is one of the best examples of a business that has optimised and refined their workflow for maximum efficiency. Their manufacturing process aims to eliminate waste using the Jidoka concept and a just-in-time system.

A Japanese term, Jikoda is used as a way of quickly identifying and fixing issues in the production line that could lead to faults. While the just-in-time system ensures that each stage of production only produces what is required for the next step in the process. Parts are regularly stocked so that production is never held up, and the system avoids waste, maintains high-quality standards, but also ensures each car meets the customer's exact specifications.

Productivity Tips - How to get the most out of your resource

There are hundreds of different ways to approach improving productivity. You can read productivity books such as Getting Things Done by David Allen. Alternatively, you could try optimising your workflow by using a decision matrix like the Eisenhower Box to reduce time-wasting tasks or implement a time management method like the Pomodoro Technique. 

Although each business will require a different approach to improve productivity, there are some basic productivity tips you can start with right now: 

Organised workspace

A messy, disorganised workspace makes it harder to focus on work. Make sure your team is set up with files and organisers, and try to encourage them to keep their desks free of junk and clutter.

Set deadlines and time limits

Even when work or projects don't have a deadline that's set in stone, giving your team a deadline to complete a chunk of work will help to motivate them. Setting a time limit for how long you expect them to spend on something will help keep your team more focused. 

For larger projects, it also helps to schedule in small deadlines and review sessions so that you can ensure they are on the right track.

Prioritise tasks

Setting deadlines is important, but highlighting which tasks are a priority will help your team to organise their schedules and you'll be able to make sure overall projects are completed in plenty of time.

Tackle difficult tasks first

There's always going to be some tasks that are more difficult than others. While it might seem like a good idea to tick off some easy wins first thing in the morning, it's actually more productive to tackle the harder ones when you're most alert. 

The longer you put harder tasks off for, the more impossible they will seem — it's always best to jump straight in and give it a go.

Avoid multitasking

It might feel more productive working on several things at once, but switching tasks too often can have a big impact on overall productivity. It's harder to focus on the task at hand if you're switching back and forth and thinking about other things in the back of your mind.

Take regular breaks

It's not possible for most people to stay completely focused for hours at a time, so encourage your team to take regular breaks. Even five minutes to make a cup of tea will help reset and improve concentration.

Use a task management tool

When you're managing a team and trying to keep on top of multiple projects, it can be hard to know how to measure productivity. By using a software for managing tasks, like Workiro, you can break projects down into tasks that are ready to assign to members of your team with clear deadlines and priorities. 

You can simplify team organisation by easily adding and removing people from tasks as is necessary. Also, each task in Workiro will have a single objective and owner, so that everyone understands exactly what they need to be working on. Your team will also get automated reminders until their tasks are completed, ensuring tasks are finished on time without the need to manually chase them up. 

If you’re looking for some more advanced productivity tips and advice, Workiro have put together these resources on streamlining workflows and increasing output, and the best productivity apps and tools available: 

Best apps for productivity

From communication and collaboration to project management and every other aspect of running a business, there's an app that can help optimise your workflow, automate your processes, and increase productivity. Take a look at our ‘Best Productivity Apps’ page that explores apps that your business needs to start using.

Best productivity software for small businesses 

Small businesses have tight budgets and limited resources, so achieving and maintaining high levels of productivity can be the difference between success and failure. Click through to our ‘Best Productivity Software For Small Businesses’ article to find out more.

If you’re looking for other ways to increase productivity and minimise time spent on everyday admin tasks, watch this webinar on how to take back control of your email.

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