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Recent events have caused major shifts in how we work. Now, more than ever, businesses are rethinking what it means to be productive. Gone are the days where working more hours was the key to success. Instead, if you want your business to grow, you need to prioritize productivity over hours worked. Here are five ways you can do it in your business.
Working more isn’t better. It’s just more.
The Bureau of Labor and Statistics puts the average American workday at 8.8 hours. Of those hours, research showed that employees were only productive for 2 hours 53 minutes on average.
The truth is that you can only be so productive for so long. One Stanford study found that productivity sharply drops once an employee reaches 50 hours in a workweek.
Most people claiming to be ultra productive/marathon workers might show up to the office and stay there longer, but they’re most likely not working hard and focused the whole time.
Working longer hours doesn’t mean you’ll be more successful. The opposite appears to be true. It may even be a sign of failure as employees who are underperforming might stay later to convince management they’re working hard.
The benefit of better systems
With the right mindset and systems, any employee should be able to come into work and knock out their tasks without too many obstacles. The issue many growing businesses face is they have a lot of obstacles for employees. That’s because they don’t know how to scale properly.
Scaling isn’t just about maintaining growth or reaching your KPIs. It’s as much a mentality as anything else. You need both if you want to get more out of your time and put less time into your business.
Office work isn’t measured in hours like a factor but in productivity.
That’s why it’s better to focus on KPIs that look at how productive your employees are rather than how many hours they work each day. And it’s better to incentivize smarter work, not more work.
The goal is to change how your employees view work and the results they ultimately produce.
5 ways to increase productivity in your business
No one gets into business to get worked to death. We work to live, not live to work. And as a business grows, your success shouldn’t be seen as a double-edged sword.
The key to coming out on top is to restructure how you do business. Some of these changes deal with culture; others deal with how your business functions.
1. “Check-in” (not up) on employees.
There’s a big difference between ”checking in” on employees vs. “checking up” on them. Checking up means that you care about their well-being. And you want to make sure they’re doing OK. Checking in on employees is to see if they’ve finished a task, also known as micromanagement.
Every time you put another task on your plate, you lose a bit of your time in the day. And every time you micromanage an employee, you take away a bit of their independence.
In a way, you also establish a culture of learned helplessness. Your employees will begin to rely on you to check up on them, slowing down the time it takes to finish a task.
2. Learn when to say “no.”
As a manager/business owner of a growing business, you need to be prepared to niche down. When your business is new, you don’t have the power to be picky.
Instead, you’re hungry for more clients and customers to pad your bottom line and give your company the resources it needs to stay afloat.
Once you hit a point of sustainability, that mindset has to change. Not every client and customer you come across will be the right fit for your business. And building out new systems to meet rare, unique requests only slows down your business processes while eating through resources.
3. Map out workflows and find time sucks.
Every business has inefficiencies. The easiest way to find them is to map out or whiteboard your workflows. This will help you clearly see where any bottlenecks may be. The next step is to share this information with your department leads and staff to get further feedback.
The goal here is to find menial, time-consuming tasks so you automate them away. To get everyone on board, let them know that you want to improve how your business operates.
State that your goal for process improvement is to make your employees’ lives easier. And ask them to share any frustrating, time-waster tasks they’ve noticed.
4. Invest in better business systems.
Scaling a business requires better systems. It’s common for bootstrapped organizations to build temporary, ad hoc solutions to handle growing problems.
The most common issue we see is an overreliance on spreadsheets. The other major problem is having a CEO or leader manually approving requests.
Either way, there comes a time when these systems do more harm than good. Time spent on manual data entry (and errors from it) creates waste that scales with your business. Without better systems, you can only improve your business so much.
Ineffective cost reduction techniques tend to do more harm than good. They’re more or less a placebo. After all, you can only cut office supplies and electricity usage down to a certain point. And the savings tend to be minimal, at best.
Rather, it makes more sense to reduce the number of hours your employees need to work or reduce the number of employees needed to manage tasks.
Reducing overtime, the need to hire new employees and the costs associated with missing deadlines will bring you a much higher return faster than cutting back on coffee creamer in the break room.
The best way to do that is by investing in better business systems. But that doesn’t have to be as expensive as it sounds. Most businesses can build the custom applications they need using low code and no code. These platforms use drag and drop interfaces to rapidly build automations and integrations that scale.
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5. Focus on the right goals.
You want everyone to buy into your business process optimizations. To do that, they need to understand why it’s important to scale your business.
A critical component to making this happen is to remove the notion that automating and integrating systems will simply result in more work for employees.
That is not the case.
Streamlining systems allows for more meaningful work. Employees can focus on a handful of high-level tasks that require critical thinking, tasks that are interesting and provide satisfaction. And with better business systems, they’ll have more time to work on projects that yield results, instead of trying to rush through busy work to get to what really matters.
Promote productivity over hours worked
Whether you’re a business owner or an employee, there’s no need for you to be overworked by your business. Working longer hours is not a badge of honor. It’s not something to be proud of, even.
After all, there’s a big difference between being productive vs. working lots of hours.
The big question you need to ask is simple: Does this work move the needle? If yes, then you and your employees are on the right track. If not or if you’re not getting the results you want despite pouring more time, energy, and resources into your growing organization, then you need to reevaluate what it means to be productive in your company.
By taking the time to rethink how your business approaches productivity, you’ll get better results faster. All while keeping your employees motivated and your customers happy.