If you’re in HR or management, workplace productivity will always be one of your most important considerations. After all, it’s all well and good to find amazing talent – but if they’re not getting work done on a consistent basis, what’s the point?
But here’s the tricky part: how do you motivate your team? There’s a seemingly never-ending list of employee engagement tactics and tricks to choose from, but what’s going to actually get results?
Science to the rescue!
Here are five research-backed ways to create a productive workplace, and get the most out of your team.
Hire good people
Yes, you want to hire people that are good at what they do. But that’s not what we mean here. We mean positive, virtuous employees. Employees that care about each other and offer support, forgiveness, inspiration, and respect. Filling an office with this kind of employee – and establishing practices that encourage them – can boost output exponentially, according to research by the University of Michigan:
“When organizations institute positive, virtuous practices they achieve significantly higher levels of organizational effectiveness – including financial performance, customer satisfaction, and productivity . . . The more the virtuousness, the higher the performance in profitability, productivity, customer satisfaction, and employee engagement.”
Open the blinds
As research has shown, a happy worker is a productive worker. And, happy workers have access to natural light. According to a Northwestern study, a lack of natural light during daytime work hours has detrimental effects on workers’ health and well-being.
“There is increasing evidence that exposure to light, during the day – particularly in the morning – is beneficial to your health via its effects on mood, alertness and metabolism,” said Phyllis Zee, one of the authors of the study. “Workers are a group at risk because they are typically indoors often without access to natural or even artificial bright light for the entire day. The study results confirm that light during the natural daylight hours has powerful effects on health.”
Get some plants
Biophilic design suggests that keeping nature close by is crucial to our well-being. And when it comes to sparse office environments, there are plenty of experts that agree that this practice becomes all the more important.
For example, a study out of Exeter University found that workers were 15 per cent more productive when houseplants were added to otherwise bare workplaces. The research also found that plants improve employees’ memory retention and led them to perform better on basic tests.
“If you put an ant into a ‘lean’ jam jar, or a gorilla in a zoo into a ‘lean’ cage – they’re miserable beasties,” says study author Chris Knight, explaining that employees in bare-bones offices are no different. “If you are working in an environment where there’s something to get you psychologically engaged you are happier and you work better.”
Give people privacy
We’ve talked before about how open-concept office spaces can be a problem – and research from all over the world echoes similar concerns.
Stockholm University found that open-plan workers are twice as likely to take sick days, while the University of Sydney’s research cited issues with noise, privacy loss, and distractions. “The benefits of being close to co-workers in open plan offices were offset by factors such as increased noise and less privacy,” says author Jungsoo Kim.
While collaboration is crucial to productivity, research shows that it’s also important to also give employees a sense of privacy, whether it’s through cubicles and sound-proof booths, or through smaller implements like noise-reducing panels and headphones.
Offer healthy food
Anyone who has ever binged on a 2 p.m. nacho platter and then tried to go back to work knows this to be true: unhealthy food makes you less productive.
In fact, a 2012 study found that unhealthy eating made employees 66 per cent more likely to report a loss in productivity. “Total health-related employee productivity loss accounts for 77 per cent of all such loss and costs employers two to three times more than annual healthcare expenses,” says author Ray Merrill.
Healthy food, on the other hand, makes employees more engaged, more energized, and generally more happy, according to a New Zealand study. It found that eating more fruits and vegetables led to “greater eudaemonic well-being, curiosity, and creativity” among its participants.
Ready to start cleaning out those vending machines?