Tag: productivity

How to regain your office productivity

Focusing in the office has long been difficult, especially since companies became evangelical about knocking down walls in the name of open plan collaboration and lowering costs. But now, after nearly two years at home for many people, the return can feel almost designed to undermine your productivity.

“We have to relearn how to work in an office for eight hours,” says Linda Trim, director at Giant Leap, one of South Africa’s largest workplace design consultancies.

“It brings into stark relief just how noisy and disruptive the office can be. Our remote work settings certainly weren’t always havens of peace and concentration either – but many of us adjusted.

“Now, sitting near our co-workers again feels odd: there’s so much movement, collaboration and talk. Background noises now seem to sound louder. Co-workers have 18 months of gossip to share. There are still dozens of Zoom calls clogging your calendar and your commute now eats into the hour you once used to tame your inbox.”

So how do you get work done?

Trim noted the problem is when we’re just using our brains to think it looks like we’re not doing anything. “You need a signal that tells your colleagues that you’re working.

“Close the door if you have one, put on headphones, attach a flag to your desk and flip it up when you’re heads-down on a project,” Trim advised.

“Then, honour and reinforce the signal. If someone knocks, politely tell them you’re busy and ask them to come back when the door is open. If you’re a manager, try creating office hours, periods where your team can come to you for help.”

Trim pointed out that she is advising many companies on office redesigns to meet the now even greater need for people to have quiet spaces for work. “Before Covid, managers didn’t always see the need for quiet places for uninterrupted working but now it’s what workers expect. Many companies are putting in additional focus rooms to allow people in specific areas to work uninterrupted or to take zoom calls in the office.”

Employees who have some flexibility on their in-office days can also use hybrid schedules to their advantage.

“Save work that requires deep concentration for home. And certain tasks – editing a shared document with colleagues, tackling confidential conversations – are also better done remotely,” Trim says.

But the office is now even more essential for bonding time: there is a really pent up need now for people to reconnect with colleagues and meet new colleagues for the first time.

“There needs to be some type of outlet for workers to talk and socialise. We as humans have an evolutionary need to feel a sense of belonging. Relationships grew too transactional when everything was online,” says Trim.

“Meeting face-to-face has helped people be more honest with one another and assume good intentions when projects hit snags for instance.”

She adds it was also particularly important for younger, less experienced workers to get back to the office to learn from senior colleagues while absorbing the company culture.

By Masechaba Sefularo for EWN

While many continue with the new normal of working from home, an Ipsos survey has found that the phenomenon takes a toll on productivity and staff morale.

The online survey, which was conducted over two days, showed that companies risked losing competitiveness as productivity slumped due to working remotely.

While many said that they enjoyed working from home, they also said that they had to contend with far more distractions.

Sixty-seven percent of the respondents quizzed on how COVID-19 had affected their work-life said that they were spending more time on domestic chores and errands while 27% admitted that they were not disciplined enough to work from home.

The survey found that younger workers, between the ages of 18 and 28, were more adversely affected by working remotely.

Respondents also highlighted issues of trust, the absence of on-the-job training and a sense of isolation, which affected team cohesion and organisational culture.

 

By Allana Akhtar for Business Insider US 

Being on your phone at work, once the sign of a bad employee, is now the norm.

Text messages are “making deep inroads” in workplaces across America, says Wall Street Journal reporter Te-Ping Chen. Yet messaging your boss can lead to accidental texts like “Love you” or “pumpkinbear.”

“While email helps silo work communications, the text inbox is a more blended affair, where notes from friends and family jostle with communiqués from bosses and co-workers,” Chen writes.

Besides awkward text exchanges, there are other miscues many employees can make as smartphones become more commonplace at work. For instance, overusing your phone or constantly getting bombarded with notifications can lead to decreased productivity.

“Productivity is often at its apex during a flow state,” when a person is fully immersed in an activity, NYC-based psychotherapist Jordana Jacobs told Business Insider.

According to Jacobs, while phones are great for the technology they provide, they also feed into our natural distracted state. Cell phones take us out of the flow state, “which is so fundamental to productivity,” she said. “Essentially, we are consistently interrupting our own thought process,” she said. To put it simply, our phones “take us away from ‘the now,'” she added.

It’s probably not plausible for you to get rid of your phone at work completely, but you can still take steps to keep it from getting in the way of your goals.

The first step to being more productive is identifying all the ways our phones keep us from staying focused. Jacobs and Jonathan Alpert, psychotherapist and author of “Be Fearless: Change Your Life in 28 Days,” broke down the phone habits that are ruining our productivity:

Mindlessly checking emails harms productivity
According to Jacobs, smartphones take us out of being in the present. When we’re constantly checking those work and personal emails, she said it puts us in the mindset of, “I’m doing this rather than just being where I am now.”

Constantly taking photos can keep you from being in the moment
One of the perks of today’s smartphones is that they double as high-quality cameras.

While it’s great to want to take a picture here and there to have a keepsake of a particular moment, Jacobs said that playing paparazzi in our own lives is another way of taking us from living in the now.

Checking social media distracts us from the actual task
Social media can feed our obsession with other people’s lives, but Jacobs said it’s also a platform for us to brag to our followers about what we are doing or have done.

Texting others keeps you from conversing with people around you
Jacobs said that texting and messaging other people can have you more focused on what those people are currently doing, causing a distraction from anything productive that you should be achieving.

Having your phone out all the time keeps you from prioritising
Jacobs said she believes that we have lost the capacity to be alone.

“We now think of the phone as our primary attachment figure; all of the people we know and love live in the phone, that’s how we talk to them,” she said. “We never actually have space by ourselves to contemplate, reflect, or gain insight into the self, in the way we used to be able to.”

Knowing and growing ourselves can be the most productive work we do, and our phones often get in the way of this.

Productivity apps can help and hurt your efforts
While Alpert does think that there are some productivity apps that can be helpful, he said he believes that relying solely on them or downloading the wrong one can actually do the opposite. According to him, the best way to stay productive is to have the right mindset.

“How someone thinks can significantly impact their behaviors, drive, and ultimately their output,” he said. “People should feel encouraged that developing a go-getter mindset is possible.”

Notifications on your screen can be distracting
Alpert said many people do, and these notifications – whether it’s a text message or news alert – can distract you from finishing whatever work you have started. He suggested shutting off social media notifications completely. “These merely serve as a distraction and probably don’t contain anything urgent,” he said.

Opening one app can leads to opening another
With apps, the internet, and other features of smartphones, you can easily find yourself going down a deep rabbit hole of distraction.

“Rarely do people go online or on their phones and stick to the intended reason for checking their phones,” he said. “If they’re checking weather, that might then lead to checking email, messages, or reading a news story – all this serves as a gross distraction and impacts productivity.”

The blue light emitted by your phone impacts sleep quality
According to Alpert, the blue light that is emitted from devices can affect our sleep patterns.

“Blue light is thought to enter the brain through the eyes and impact the pineal gland. This gland plays a role in melatonin production, the hormone that helps regulate sleep and wake cycles,” he said. “So devices used close to bed could impact someone’s ability to get proper rest.”

This will have a profound effect on mood, energy levels, and ability to focus and complete tasks, he said.

Since we can look up anything  we may be losing the ability to wonder
This one may not be expressly related to productivity, but it is still concerning.

Jacobs said we have lost our ability to wonder, because we can pretty much look up whatever we need to – the answers to every burning question we may have are always right at our fingertips. “I think this truncates the creativity process and stunts our imaginations,” she said.

Written by Jason O’Brien for Training Journal 

The introduction of digital technologies into the workplace has brought with it a number of advantages. Businesses have solutions to improve productivity and reduce expenditure. Employees have greater flexibility and better tools to do their job.

However, the evidence suggests there are some downsides to the amount of technology we use in the workplace. Although it might seem counter-intuitive, sometimes limiting the amount of technology employees use can actually increase their productivity. Limits on tech can prevent fatigue and help staff avoid procrastination so they are worth taking a look at.

Tech affects our mental state

Technology may make our professional lives easier, but studies have been conducted that suggest it doesn’t make us healthier. Take this 2015 study of college students, published in the Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication. It shows the link between smartphone addiction and negative physiological and psychological symptoms including increased blood pressure and anxiety.

In 2012, the University of Gothenburg’s research into smartphone and computer usage found that excessive use is linked to stress, sleep disorders and depressive symptoms. If users undertake excessive use of both smartphones and computers, the risk of these symptoms is heightened, A computer repair Company in Springfield finds.

Affecting everything from attention spans to creativity, use of technology affects our ability to get a good night’s sleep. This in turn affects a business’s bottom line.

Sleep is the real issue that underpins the negative aspects of technology use. Affecting everything from attention spans to creativity, use of technology affects our ability to get a good night’s sleep. This in turn affects a business’s bottom line.

A 2016 study from Hult International Business School showed that a lack of sleep costs organisations $2,280 a year for every sleep-deprived employee. Without enough rest, the ability of staff to communicate effectively and problem solve is lowered – costing businesses money.

Help employees reduce usage

To combat the detrimental effects technology brings to the workplace, organisations are adopting the ‘Digital Detox’, an initiative that looks to reduce the level of exposure employees have to technology both in and out of the office.

For office-based workers, a computer is a necessary part of the job, but it means employees can clock up 30-hours screen time a week just at work. To bring this down, you could implement some of these work policies:

In the office

Active lunchtimes

Given all the distractions the internet provides us, it’s all too easy for staff to stay seated at lunchtime and use their computer for entertainment. To encourage people to get a break from the computer screen, you could organise recreational lunchtime events, particularly around exercise.

Put on a yoga class or find a local gym that could offer discounted rates to your staff – anything that gets people engaged and active. Exercise has been demonstrated to improve our ability to shift and focus attention. An active mind will help staff return from lunch ready to refocus on the afternoon’s tasks.

Tech-free meetings

Communication tools and applications make it easy to chat to colleagues no matter your or their location – but as a result, face-to-face interaction has become a bit of a lost art. Meetings are a great opportunity to ditch digital communications and rediscover vocal interchanges.

Adopt a meeting or two each week that specifically sets out a no-tech policy.

Inadequate communication between employees reportedly costs large businesses $62.4m a year. Communicating over digital channels like email doesn’t allow for facial gestures and tone of voice, making misinterpretation common. Encourage personal, face-to-face communication to minimise these effects and grow your team’s interpersonal skills.

Out of the office

Encourage a ‘leave in the office’ policy

Given the impact technology has on our stress levels and sleep patterns, organisations should look to minimise the level at which employees take their work home with them. Some office cultures expect this of their employees despite evidence suggesting it’s likely to have a negative impact on productivity in the long-term.

You might not want to go as far as France, who have enshrined in law the right to avoid checking work email out of hours, but encourage staff not to engage in too much work activity in their own time. The blue light emitted from our smartphones and computers suppresses melatonin, the hormone that controls our sleep cycles.

Given the effect poor sleep patterns have on productivity, the more you allow your employees to switch off at home the more they will be able to focus when in the office.

Improve employee sleep to improve employee focus

A good night’s sleep is the key to having an engaged, focused and happy workforce. Too much exposure to technology makes it more difficult for us to achieve this – either through negative psychological symptoms like increased anxiety or stress or by suppressing the hormones we need for better sleep.

But organisations can help. Adopt a Digital Detox policy and help reduce the things that cost your employees valuable sleep. The result could see your company’s productivity increase.

Technology is making workspaces and work styles more flexible and collaborative by the day. Cutting-edge personal devices continue to infiltrate the workplace and with cloud computing and superior Internet connectivity, the idea of working from anywhere is the new norm. The physical workspace is evolving from static to dynamic to meet changing business and employee needs.

Bring your own device (BYOD) is a growing trend that permits employees to use personal devices such as laptops, tablets and smart phones in the workplace to access company information and applications. From increased productivity and reduced hardware, software and networking costs, to increased convenience, employee satisfaction and work-life balance, there is no reason not to foster a BYOD culture.

To BYOD or not to
Studies show that a BYOD policy can boost productivity by 34% and save workers well over an hour every day as employees work faster on devices they are comfortable with. New employees have a decreased learning curve associated with new devices. When tech hungry employees bring trailblazing technology into the workplace, it is bound to save time and boost productivity.

Roughly 75% of employees in high growth global markets and 45% in developed markets are currently using their own devices at work. In South Africa, BYOD is still in the early stages of adoption. Nevertheless, it is fast becoming an achievable must-have with the aid of security, device management and network scalability solutions to manage BYOD on business networks.

Overcoming the challenges
Data is the lifeblood of any business but giving employees access from anywhere on personal devices is enough to keep business owners up at night. Do their devices have the right security measures in place? Who else has access to their devices? What happens when devices are lost or stolen?

Start with the right cyber security. With Nashua’s Managed Document Solutions (MDS), businesses can harness the remote workforce by enabling secure access to documents from any device, provided employees have the appropriate access privileges. It considers whether documents can be saved onto personal devices and if so, what security measures need to be in place. MDS also takes into account the workforce’s need for secure and convenient access to business applications, bearing in mind that these are no longer protected by the business’ IT security.

BYOD is marred by grey areas, particularly regarding security, device monitoring and employee privacy and reimbursement. That said, best practices and policies are continually refined to strike a balance between business and employee needs. BYOD offers a win-win situation so instead of fretting about risks that may never materialise, invest in solutions that can bridge the gap.

Before stepping into the BYOD space, start preparing for device integration with a detailed digital strategy. Draw up a policy that stipulates usage terms at work and outside of the office. It must clearly communicate the implications of data breaches and should make employees aware of any device monitoring technologies used to track business-related activities.

Consider your network scalability and capability to accommodate the influx and simultaneous use of personal devices. Studies show that businesses need at least 20% more Wi-Fi capacity and sufficient wireless bandwidth to support mobile devices. As far possible, businesses should specify access rights and only authorise access to confidential information on a need-to-know basis. Businesses can also improve end-point security by enforcing the installation of the latest security programs and anti-malware and by linking devices to secure cloud-based network and data storage services.

To capitalise on the benefits of an increasingly flexible workspace, businesses must embrace BYOD as a powerful tool that can empower workforces and boost business productivity.

Great offices are not merely well decorated and thoughtfully designed, but also have a profound effect on workers’ productivity and their sense of well-being.

Richard Andrews, MD of Inspiration Office says, “It’s one of the main reasons why there’s a trend the world over for companies to make over their boring and old furniture by including stylish, pleasing chairs, couches and desks which is transforming utilitarian, drab spaces.”

Here’s how great office space can enhance productivity in the work place:

Boring furniture will make you lazy – and bored
Being surrounded with boring furniture, individuals oftentimes lose interest in work and lead to a drop in productivity “Even if we don’t think dull workplaces impact productivity they do by creating a subconscious listlessness that is associate with dreary surroundings,” Andrews says.

Vibrant colours bring enthusiasm
Lots of offices are choosing furniture and fittings in bright colours. “Bright colours assist in lifting a person’s mood. It’s a good way to alleviate stress, as well as increase productivity,” says Andrews.

Standing desks making your healthier
Several studies have discovered a link between the amount of time an individual spends sitting and her or his odds of developing diabetes, cancer and cardiovascular diseases.

For example, one 2010 Australian study, discovered that for every additional hour participants spent sitting on a daily basis, their overall threat of dying within the study period (7 years) increased by 11%.

Says Andrews: ”A 2012 study discovered that if the average person in America decreased her or his sitting time to 3 hours a day, life expectancy would increase by 2 years.”

Keep it clean, and orderly
“Cleanliness and order are very important factors for an office that feels good to work in,” noted Andrews. “ A disorganised office deprives workers of the enthusiasm and send a message than sloppiness is OK.”

A clean and orderly office, helps to keep workers comfortable and productive.

Fixed spaces for handy items
A good idea is to always keep things in their place, as well as keeping them handy.

“Often workers put off their work because they need to get up and go to an additional place for finishing the task or wonder around trying to find something like a stapler. Keeping items handy won’t just speed work up, but it also makes you more productive,” says Andrews.

Where possible let the daylight in
“We all know the uncomfortable feeling of being stuck in a windowless room under fluorescent lights during daylight hours,” says Andrews. “Lack of natural light has profoundly negative effect on people’s health and therefor productivity.”

In a study entitled Impact of Workplace Daylight Exposure on Sleep, Physical Activity, and Quality of Life researchers at the Neuroscience program at Northwestern University in Chicago, reported that the detrimental impact of working in a windowless environment is a universal phenomenon.

It concluded that there is a strong relationship between workplace daylight exposure and office workers’ sleep, activity and quality of life.

“Employees who did not have windows reported reduced scores than their counterparts upon life quality measures associated with vitality and physical problems. Also, they had poorer outcomes within measures of overall sleep efficiency, sleep quality, daytime dysfunction, as well as sleep disturbances,” Andrews added.

Furniture installed by Inspiration Office is created in South Africa by AngelShack. It is German designed but locally produced to international standards. All furniture is VOC (Volatile Organic Compounds such as adhesives and dyes) free, made from sustainable material and coated with anti-microbial finishing.

AngelShack is one of the first companies in the world to apply this anti-germ technology.

Gmail add-ons launched

Google has launched Gmail add-ons, a new way to work with business apps in Gmail.

Gmail add-ons make it possible to use apps within Gmail, removing the need to toggle between your inbox and other apps.

“With Gmail add-ons, your inbox can contextually surface your go-to app based on messages you receive,” said Google.

Google said that because add-ons work the same across web and Android, you only need to install them once to access them on all devices.

“Click the settings wheel on the top right of your inbox and then Get add-ons to get started.”

Source: MyBroadband

Poor air quality kills productivity

People who work in poorly-ventilated offices with higher levels of indoor pollutants and carbon dioxide (CO2) have significantly lower cognitive functioning which severely damages their productivity.

Linda Trim, director at workplace specialists Giant Leap, says that good ventilation is often the last thing people think about in an office.

“But it should be far greater consideration when you realise most people who work spend 90% of their time indoors.”

She notes that when designing offices, people typically think about layout and the look and feel of the space.

But interestingly, as buildings have become more energy efficient, they have also become more airtight, increasing the potential for poor indoor environmental quality.

“While design and energy efficiency are of course important, little regard is given to air quality. If it isn’t good, none of the other stuff matters because it diminishes worker productivity so much.

“It should no longer be an afterthought when you consider the high cost to businesses of having staff performing below par.”

Trim cited an October 2015 study from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Syracuse University which assessed indoor environment.

“The researchers looked at people’s experiences in which both the participants and the analysts were blinded to test conditions to avoid biased results.

“The findings suggest that in office spaces in which many people work daily could be adversely affecting cognitive function—and conversely, improved air quality could greatly increase the cognitive function performance of workers.”

These results suggest that even modest improvements to indoor environmental quality may have a profound impact on the decision-making performance of workers.

The same study also ran cognitive tests on people working in enhanced ventilation conditions and compared them to those working in elevated levels of carbon dioxide which replicated the typical workspace.

They found that cognitive performance scores for the participants who worked in the enhanced ventilation environments were, on average, double those of participants who worked in conventional environments.

Researchers found that the largest improvements occurred in the areas of:
• crisis response (131% higher in enhanced ventilation work places over conventional environmental with elected carbon monoxide)
• strategy (288% higher as above )
• information usage (299% higher as above)

“Our understanding and refinement of the best working environment is still developing however it is clear that poor ventilation has a marked effect on worker performance.

“Improved air quality is a simple yet very effective way to get more out of people and help them feel better and more energetic at the same time,” Trim concludes.

Truly efficient people know there’s a difference between being busy and being productive. Harnessing the power of productivity is less about time management and more about managing energy – working smart instead of hard. Nashua has rounded up seven tips to help you perform more efficiently, no matter your job description.

Schedule it
Organise tasks you need to complete each day in order of importance – and go a step further with self-imposed hourly deadlines. Limit time frames and see how your mind focuses to get the task done. Not only are you accountable to yourself, you can also direct focus to one specific project at a time. Be realistic to avoid frustration.

When prioritising tasks, complete the most pressing jobs first to capitalise on high energy in the morning. Set aside time to respond to emails instead of allowing your inbox to dictate how you spend your day. Urgent mails and calls are (obviously) the exception.

Avoid mental fatigue
Scheduled breaks help improve concentration – especially if the break involves standing up to stretch or a short bout of exercise to get blood pumping, like taking a walk. Five to 10 minute breaks between long tasks can help maintain a constant level of performance, as opposed to a steady decline in performance from working without breaks.

Don’t multitask
Although it’s seen as a positive attribute, multitasking isn’t always key to increasing efficiency. In fact, psychologists say there’s no such thing as multitasking – our brains simply switch from task to task at a rapid pace. This results in lost time and productivity. Committing to finishing a single task before moving onto the next is a better, more constructive habit to form.

Banish distractions
Interruptions throughout the day are inevitable, but the extent of the distraction can be mitigated. If possible, try work from different locations or isolate yourself for a certain period of time. For a subtle ‘do not disturb’ sign, wear headphones. And to the colleague who’s looking to shoot the breeze, communicate honestly to let them know you can chat later.

Online videos and phone notifications can also be distracting. Instead of checking social media every five minutes, limit it to every two to three hours (or longer) instead.

Regain control
Procrastination can bring productivity to a halt. To regain control, take an hour to get organised and sort out admin. Delete irrelevant emails and file those you need to keep for reference. Don’t be tempted to start the actual tasks at hand: plan them first. Separating bigger jobs into smaller, achievable chunks reduces the feeling of being overloaded – a great incentive to crack on with the work.

Another trick is to build a routine to get into a working mind-set, like creating a playlist or turning off your phone before you get started.

Declutter your work space
A cluttered desk leads to unnecessary distractions. Instead of hoarding piled-up paperwork, transfer documents to cloud storage, like Google Drive and Apple iCloud Drive.

Research shows art in the workplace can increase creativity and productivity, so personalise your desk with one or two colourful accessories. Paintings and drawings from family, framed photos or desk plants all work well. Stick to two to three desk items to cut clutter.

Prioritise sleep
According to research, after several nights of losing sleep – even the loss of just one to two hours each night – your ability to function suffers in the same way as not sleeping for a few days. You take longer to finish tasks, have a slower reaction time, are more prone to mistakes and can slip into micro-sleep (brief moments of sleep that occur when you’d normally be awake).

Set a regular bedtime and put your phone away an hour or two before you sleep, to boost quantity and quality of sleep. Practise relaxation techniques like breathing deeply and visualisation. Also use this time to reflect on your achievements and productivity.

Whether working from home or working in an office, sometimes the way you have your computer and desk set up can hinder your productivity. Sound a little crazy? Try working on a laptop in your living room, sitting on the couch in front of your TV. It sure sounds great, but it’s not ideal for your work habits. You’ll find yourself distracted in no time.

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