Increasing productivity of your workforce

Productivity and Focus

There are only so many hours in the day, yet there always seems to be so much to do; too much to do. Getting your teams meeting the demand and increasing their productivity can be a real challenge. So many businesses have workforces running dangerously close to burn out as they try and manage increasing workloads. So how can we support them to increase their productivity and get more done?

There are generally two answers proposed to this question, the first, beloved by many managers, and promoted by American management techniques from the 1940s onwards, has been to increase the hours worked. The idea is obvious and simple; more equals more, more hours means more productivity, except that all the data in over a hundred studies by leading institutions proves that it doesn’t. Working more hours will increase productivity for only a short period of time, typically no more than a couple of weeks. Then productivity rapidly drops back, until no more is being achieved than was at the original hours. The second option is the one promoted by what are consistently the most productive nations on the planet, countries like Denmark and Sweden. There, if you consistently work long hours you’re likely to be kindly demoted back to a role which you can do within your assigned work hours. You get no promotions for working overtime in Lego or Volvo!

How can this be? It comes down to one word: Focus. By ensuring that the hours worked by your teams are worked with focus you maximise the results in that time and thereby more gets done in less time. Some of the aforementioned studies have shown that typical, average productivity can be boosted by up to 280% if optimum focus can be achieved, that’s the equivalent of someone on seven and a half hours a day working twenty-one hours a day, without working a minute of extra time! Now that’s exceptional and assumes someone doing everything right, but increasing personal and team productivity by fifty percent is absolutely achievable by any businesses with a little effort.

The key things to implement for your team are:

  • Reduced external distractions:
    • Have dedicated quiet delivery time
    • Put up do not disturb signs
    • Encourage the team to avoid emails, social media etc
    • Allow people to block out time in their diaries for focussed work where they will not be interrupted.
    • Encourage workers to put mobiles away; just having your phone in sight on the desk can raise your blood pressure to dangerous levels and reduce productivity by over 20%
    • Insist the team take breaks, 2 mins per 18, then 5 mins at the end of each hour. Ideally they should get up and walk around
  • A focussed environment:
    • A comfortable seat
    • Well laid out, tidy desk space
    • Not too hot or cold
    • Good lighting
    • No clutter
    • No noise
  • Health support by encouraging the team to:
    • Get plenty of good sleep. It is the single most important thing as lack of it actually stops people thinking of new ideas or forming memories
    • Exercise. Gentle exercise is absolutely fine, but it should be regular. Encourage the team to have regular exercise breaks throughout the day. These can also be diarised.
    • Try to avoid stimulants, including coffee, as the ‘crash’ when it wears off is worse than the benefit it brings. Nicotine is much worse, regardless of other health impacts
    • Eat well and get good nutrients, this absolutely includes healthy natural fats and fatty acids which are vital for the brain – low fat diets remove these and are catastrophic for concentration and focus. However, too much sugar causes a ‘crash’ just like stimulants do. So, sugar bad, fats good!
  • Manage stress:
    • Everyone has stressors (things that make them stressed). Support your employees to work out what theirs are. Some are obvious, others not, and work with them to plan for these events.
    • Stressors cause people to react emotionally, not rationally
    • Employees can learn to build ‘alarms’ to remind them when they’re reacting emotionally. They can o this by replaying the feelings of a stressful situation in detail, and imagining an alarm or klaxon, with a visual, like a big cartoon alarm clock. If they do this over and over eventually they’ll get the ‘alarm’ when stress starts to build. This allows them to take a deep breath and stay in a rational state of mind
  • Plan:
    • Finally, help your team to plan their time effectively in whatever ways work best for them
    • The team should use a planning tool like an Importance/Urgency Matrix to support effective time management
    • Employees should be supported to delegate where appropriate and shown best practice for this.  Remember the team can delegate up as well as down the management levels

If your team do all of these things consistently their focus and concentration will improve and with it their effective productivity.

One executive we know went from working 18-21 hour days, and being on the edge of burn-out, to working strict a 8 hours a day or less and yet increased his productivity to the highest levels of his career, assessed not by himself but by his CEO and colleagues. Concentrating on focus to boost your productivity is great for the company, your clients and you, giving everyone a less stressful working environment and more time for things that are important outside of work as well as inside.


If you would like to speak to someone about productivity and focus training for your workforce please get in touch.