You know the feeling when you are so busy at work that you don’t have time to get any of the actual work done? Productivity has been highlighted as one of the big issues in Microsoft’s new Work Trend Index Annual Report. It says that the constant flow of emails, meetings and instant messages – or ‘busywork’, as it’s been coined – can often prevent us from engaging in what we might call ‘actual work’– the tasks that move projects forward, deliver value to clients, or contribute to our professional growth. But there are some steps that you can take to help boost your team’s output.
1. Keep your team happy
Happy workers are productive workers – it’s a well-documented fact, but one that can be hard to keep sight of as the deadlines loom and the pressure builds. In a study titled ‘Happiness and Productivity‘, researchers from the University of Warwick conducted a series of experiments involving over 700 participants. They gave one group mood-boosting stimuli like watching clips from a comedy movie or eating chocolate, while another group were left to get on with their work without any treats. The results were clear: the group with mood boosters demonstrated a remarkable 10-12% increase in productivity.
IWG research backs this up and highlights the many benefits of hybrid working. By cutting back on the daily commute and giving employees the opportunity to work closer to home, or in an office that fits with their personal preferences, you can give people back time and control of their lifestyle. According to the same research, hybrid workers are exercising more, sleeping longer, and eating better — and they spend more time with friends and family. As a result, 79% said they have been more productive post lockdown.
2. Make time for uninterrupted focus
Microsoft Teams data shows that our collective focus is on communicating rather than creating right now. In the same report, 68% of people asked said they don’t have enough uninterrupted focus time during the workday.
Giving people the time and space for focussed work is essential for productivity. That could mean allocating specific times during the week, setting out rules when it comes to scheduling meetings, or giving team members access to a workspace that works for them, which often means getting out of the busy company headquarters or away from home and the lure of the sofa. In truth it is probably all of these things combined.
3. Embrace AI
As AI develops and improves it will inevitably take on a bigger role in the workplace. The author of Microsoft’s Work Trend Index describes it as a “co-pilot” that can help us to manage the busywork. “This new generation of AI will remove the drudgery of work and unleash creativity,” said Satya Nadella, Chairman and CEO of Microsoft. “There’s an enormous opportunity for AI-powered tools to help alleviate digital debt, build AI aptitude, and empower employees.”
4. Foster a Culture of Learning and Development
People like to know that their employers are invested in them, and offering training and development opportunities is a great way to show that you’re a manager who cares. Personal growth and a breadth of experience is very much the career zeitgeist of the moment, and Gen Z employees who are just entering the workforce cite both of these things as among their key wants when looking for a job.
On a small scale you can embrace new skills by helping people within your team to share their knowledge and expertise, then bring in outside experts when possible.
5. Curated meetings
Hybrid era meetings are different to before, but many of us are carrying them out in the same tired format and meeting fatigue is a common complaint.
IWG’s Chief Commercial Officer Fatima Koning believes a solution comes in the form of curated meetings, which help to generate ideas, foster team bonds, and nurture a strong company culture.
“A curated meeting is the antithesis of things happening by accident,” she says. “And worlds apart from the sort of ‘quick catch up’ that, in many pre-pandemic workplaces, could easily turn into meandering, time-wasting conversations with no discernible outcome.”
To curate your meetings effectively, start by setting clear goals as a group. Encourage active participation, allowing everyone to have a say. A designated facilitator can guide the discussion while ensuring a balanced conversation.
Importantly, curated meetings should also be enjoyable and social. As Fatima points out: “There’s no reason why a curated meeting can’t have sociable, fun moments at the same time as achieving its objectives!
After each meeting, take the time to assess if the goals were achieved and define next steps. By following these steps, you can unlock your team’s full potential and foster a culture of productivity.
Remember, being productive doesn’t happen by accident, and people who are bogged down by busy work or held up in overly long meetings don’t have extra hours to then go and get the important work done. Hybrid working can help because it gives employees the space, energy, and the extra time (those valuable hours not commuting, for example) to produce great work, and that keeps everyone happy.
Read more to discover how Spaces membership can help drive creativity and focus in your team.