How Small to Medium Businesses (SMBs) Can Boost Employee Productivity

27 May 2016

Rebecca D'Souza

Rebecca D'Souza is the former editor of award-winning digital magazine, Manufacturing Global, and a journalist for Retail Digital. She now works as a freelance writer covering topics relating to SMEs.

SMBs, or small to medium businesses, are a major part of the British economy, making up 99 percent of the 4.9 million businesses registered in the United Kingdom. In order to qualify as an SMB in the United Kingdom, a company must meet two out of three requirements: they must have a maximum of 250 employees, an average turnover of under £25m or gross assets of less than £12.5 million.

SMBs are responsible for employing 24.3 million people, making up 81.6 percent of the U.K. workforce, and in 2013 the number of SMBs had increased by up to 11 percent across the country. In short, SMBs provide an enormous number of jobs across the country, and they are rapidly increasing. Like any sized business, SMBs can suffer from a lack of employee productivity. However, smaller companies with smaller turnovers cannot afford to waste valuable time and resources.

Below, learn how SMBs can improve everyday employee productivity in the workplace:

Invest in a productive environment

Ensuring the entire workspace is conducive to productivity is something regularly overlooked by small businesses. Joanna Crookall, chief executive of wealth management and stockbroking firm Ramsey Crookall, agrees.

“Refreshing our office environment and creating more open plan working surroundings has had a notable impact on staff happiness, motivation and effectiveness,” she said.

“This investment has definitely increased collaboration between departments. Even the simple upgrading of office lighting has had a noticeable effect on the mood and productivity, and while it might be uncorrelated, it could help explain the near 10 percent drop in absenteeism compared with the same period last year.”

Crookall makes a good point. Studies have shown that overly harsh lighting can make employees feel tired or irritable, with fluorescent lights being the number one culprit. Since lighting is simple and inexpensive to change, there’s really no excuse not to encourage natural light in the office if possible, and swapping out fluorescent strip lighting for something less severe.

Another issue that can arise in an office space is back and shoulder pain, a symptom caused by the majority of today’s working population spending the day in front of a computer.

To remedy the issue, provide employees with supportive chairs that encourage correct posture. Standing desks can dramatically reduce pains by promoting physical activity, which has been known to help target back and shoulder problems in its early stages. 

Invest in your people

Teams at SMBs are small, which is why it’s incredibly important that all employees understand their roles to the best of their abilities. Training your employees and providing them with the ability to extend and expand their skills will not only boost their career confidence, but will make them feel valued and invested in. If an employee feels there is room to progress at the company while demonstrating his or her value, he or she will stay for long-term employment. Your team gets to improve and build confidence, and in return, you get a more productive and happy workforce.

Whilst newly launched businesses often have to work all hours of the night to get themselves off the ground, SMBs that are already courting some success should encourage employees to stick to a strict 9 to 5 workday. Many studies have shown that keeping these hours actually boosts productivity, even if employees are spending less time at the office. Allowing workers to start and finish at sociable hours will provide them with the opportunity to pursue their interests outside of work, which in turn allows them to be fresh for the workday. It’s also extremely beneficial to workers with young families and any employees with commitments outside of work.

Getting to know your employees is vital when aiming for maximum productivity, because at the end of the day, you’re asking them to work their hardest for you. The benefit of an SMB is that an owner or boss can know everybody’s name, and keep in touch with what is going on with him or her outside of the office. While it’s never considered good business practice to be best friends with your employees (as an SMB never knows when it might have to make sudden cuts to employment), respecting the people you hire and the lives they lead outside of the office will mean they want to respect you and work hard when they’re there.

Invest in the latest technology

The world is abuzz with discussion of cloud computing and how it can help businesses, but it can be a daunting concept to smaller companies that aren’t already technologically literate. However, SMB owners need not be intimidated by the idea of using cloud-based software to improve productivity. There is a plethora of Internet-based software specifically designed to make the daily tasks that come with running a business easier.

Interactive project planning tools like Smartsheet, discussion boards like Trello and automated email software MailChimp reduce the workload for employees and reduce interdepartmental confusion. The best part? Many of these programs are free to download, or offer a month-long free trial so you can try before you buy.

Employee productivity conclusion

Another key way to ensure the productivity of your team is to invest in the best technology for the job. Ensure that the hardware you have installed is built to last and backed up, and that the people using it know how it works. Using subpar hardware in an attempt to cut costs may save money in the short-term, but if an employee doesn’t understand how to send an email on their machine, or your system is crashing regularly, you may want to reconsider your options.

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