How Lost Productivity is a Productive Use of Time in the Workplace

01/09/2018 03:47 pm ET

Any time spent outside of working at work is wasted time. You want to be sure you’re getting the most out of your employees and keeping productivity at high levels all day. After all, a productive employee is a happy employee, right?

As a matter of fact, recent research shows that’s quite wrong.

The 2017 Gallup State of the American Workforce report -- surveying more than 195,000 employees across the U.S. -- discovered a staggering 70 percent of workers are disengaged.

Meanwhile, the 2017 Work Market/KRC Research Workforce Productivity report found only 31 percent of upper-level managers feel their workplace is as productive as it should be. The report surveyed 200 U.S. business leaders on productivity and workplace management.

While there’s a connection between productivity and employee morale, as the cliche says, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” The key to creating a more productive workforce exists in redefining how we view productivity. Employers must embrace the need for shared interest events, team-building exercises, and taking breaks to avoid the doldrum. Ultimately, this recharge is a productive use of time.

Here’s what you need to know about productivity in the workplace:

1. Low Morale and Stress Negatively Affects Productivity

Your employees are already disengaged and unproductive, and it’s affecting the company in more ways than you realize. Overwhelmed employees take more time off work. They get sick or require mental health days. And when they don’t take breaks from the day-to-day grind, they’re more likely to make costly mistakes. Not to mention, bad attitudes are infectious. Stress comes from outside-of-work sources (family or personal problems, financial woes), but also heavy workloads. Conflicts are more likely to arise with other stressed employees -- breaking down the company culture. When this happens, clients and new hires who observe signs of low morale won’t forge a relationship with the company -- potentially devastating the brand.

2. How Lost Productivity is Productive

Thankfully, positive attitudes are equally contagious. Creating and/or participating in “shared experience” events brings teams closer together and eases work-related stress.

One such event was the August 2017 total solar eclipse, which united people across the country. Employers tapped into the excitement by temporarily suspending work for “watch parties.”

In fact, a CNN/SSRS survey found more than 60 percent of all workers planned to be away from their desks during the eclipse -- either watching outside with co-workers or viewing online or on television. One executive coaching firm (Challenger, Gray, and Christmas) used Bureau of Labor Statistics data to argue it would cost U.S. employers $694 million in lost productivity.

However, evidence shows this wasn’t the case. Instead, the eclipse proved to be a large-scale team-building opportunity, as well as a rare experience that was shared with people across the country.

Shared experience events are built-in team building opportunities. Team building creates connections, which increases productivity and also builds trust, morale, and mutual respect. In addition, this type of event lends to increased collaboration and ultimately contributes to commitment and a sense of belonging.

Consider how LinkedIn offers monthly “In Days,” where employees are encouraged to think creatively, work on inspirational projects, and socialize with co-workers. Company leaders say this scheduled monthly break from day-to-day activities has increased productivity. It’s easy to see why LinkedIn ranks in the top ten on Glassdoor’s ‘best large companies to work for.’

3. Embracing the Changing Face of Work Culture

Today's job seeker actively pursues companies with a positive cultural fit. Since their days are spent at work, they want a company where they’ll feel comfortable being themselves. Allowing for conversations and breaks makes employees feel less “tied to a desk” and more like they’re working on projects in between time spent growing professionally with peers.

Your employees expect at least some activities that aren’t entirely focused on work, such as:

  • discussion of news and current events
  • fitness breaks
  • random challenges (who can make the most baskets in a minute)
  • stand-up comedy coffee in the morning
  • health and information fairs

In addition, they want public recognition for individual and group achievements. Happy workers are loyal and focused on high-performance.

For example, Groupon marks work anniversaries with team banquets, where they present team members with athletic jackets embroidered with the employee’s name. Yellow stars are added for each additional year with the company. This creates a lasting, visual appreciation for the employee’s dedication. It also creates a goal for other workers.

Reaching Peak Performance Through On-the-Clock Outreach

Outreach activities also have a positive impact on the public view of the company. People connect on social media if activities align with their beliefs and interests. This demonstrates that it’s possible to have fun and still be focused on meeting project deadlines.

For example, prescription eyewear company Warby Parker posts daily activities -- from crafts to community events. This encourages sharing and discussion. When employees and the public realize a company is focused on more than just the bottom line, they become engaged in the greater business ideals.

Demonstrating offline involvement is also essential to a positive public image. For example, Daytona Beach, Florida-based Synergy Billing encourages employees to volunteer. While not required, those who choose to engage are recognized in the company’s newsletter. In addition, they’re entered to win prizes such as paid time off and travel perks.

By demonstrating your company’s fun side, employees feel they’re part of an organization that cares. This is also a chance to partner with clients and companies who share the outreach vision.

It’s important to recognize that productivity goes beyond just cranking out work. Employees crave opportunities to balance the demands of endless projects and task lists.

Above all, they want a workplace where they’re comfortable being themselves, are engaged and interested in their work, and view co-workers as friends. It turns out, “lost productivity” that brings employees closer together improves productivity after all.

What are you doing to increase productivity at your organization? Let us know in the comments!

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