The way we all work isn’t technically working anymore- whether it is from a distance or from the office premises. A primary concern among all the managers is to increase productivity, and it is no brainer why.
Logging into the day while still chugging coffee on the bed and checking emails while having breakfast is the new norm for telecommuters. And while it takes a toll on their physical health, it also has a drastic effect on the working schedule.
Not to forget the hour-long commutes that the employees have to deal with- who go to their offices every day. Added to that are the overworked routine, stressful hours, strict vigilance, and the lack of interaction outside the cubicle.
Long story short, a maximum of employees feel more like a part of the company’s statistics and less like actual humans with whom the employers would gather around and have a conversation.
And that’s where the problem lies! When employers don’t take a rational approach towards fitting into their employees’ shoes, it becomes difficult for them to understand what’s lacking. People-centered leadership is much-needed. And in this blog, we will take a scientific approach to understand how to increase employee productivity.
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The Productivity Paradigm
What image springs to your mind when you think about employee productivity? Is it a corporate employee typing at the rate of 70 words per minute or a factory worker wrapping chocolates at a superhuman speed?
It’s probably something close to my examples.
The catch here is- the word productivity immediately has a somewhat negative and unnatural connotation. This perception of doing the most amount of work in the minimum possible time is not healthy! When you work beyond your limits, you compromise your work quality. It also affects your work-life balance, and you may take more leaves due to that constant back pain- hence compromising your productivity again.
So it is safe to conclude why productivity is NOT what you think it actually is. How to increase employee productivity, then? Well, take a scientific approach!
The Scientific Way
Contrary to popular beliefs, a productive employee takes care of their deadlines without unnecessarily stretching their working hours. Maintaining their creativity and originality remains a priority. And nothing upsets their physical health due to excellent management skills and a well-planned schedule.
Increasing productivity is a tricky task to accomplish, especially with the flawed perception of productivity itself. Research in neurobiology, psychology, and human performance suggests some counter-intuitive ideas to make it happen. Read ahead to understand how:
1. Circadian and Ultradian Rhythms
Circadian rhythm is a biological process that regulates the sleep-wake oscillation in the human body. Our body uses such a rhythm for essentially differentiating between the day and night hours. But it doesn’t have to sync with local day and night times- giving rise to night owls, early birds, and everyone in between.
The ultradian rhythm is a smaller oscillation. It refers to the 90-120 minutes of brain frequency cycles occurring both- day and night. Meaning, an ultradian rhythm keeps you more focused on your work when awake and gets you a dream-filled REM sleep when napping.
Identifying the regulation of both cycles is crucial. They regulate all the ups & downs of a person’s homeostatic system- from hormonal secretion to brain wave frequencies and blood flow. A person feels terribly drained when the body goes out of sync due to irregulation in both these cycles.
There’s nothing wrong if you’re not a morning person! Try to analyze and assess individual productive hours and understand the peak working hours. Ask them to divide their day into three categories- productive, lazy, and neutral hours. Always assign them the most energy-consuming and urgent tasks during productive hours.
Encourage everybody to work in a 90-20 pattern- 90 minutes of work followed by 20 minutes of break. Take baby steps like these, and you will be able to witness an immediate increase in employee productivity and focus over a month! I bet you.
The prevailing wisdom of humankind says that the human brain is malleable only until a certain age. And things get rigid and hardwired beyond it. Well, that’s partially untrue! Neurobiologists suggest that the connections, capacity, and behavior of your neural networks change over the years.
This phenomenon is known as Neuroplasticity, and it occurs in response to new information, development, sensory damage, stimulation, or dysfunction. In other words, your employees are not your fixed resources, and you can transform them into their best version!
Neuroplasticity is tricky and requires constant effort. No one is limited to mental and physical capacities, but they need a trigger and a coping environment. Develop a supportive work atmosphere that doesn’t reek of toxicity. Try to minimize their stress, increase collaboration, provide constructive criticism, and inspiring leadership.
You cannot increase productivity in your premises if you can’t help your staff grow. And an employee’s innate talents can evolve and grow with regular nurturing. Be open and avoid information silos. Appreciate their effort, encourage team communication, and try to build leaders out of them. Teach them new skills and never endorse information bottlenecks. Good employees can become great, and great employees can become excellent.
3. Decoration and Right Colors
This step might seem minor- but it has a HUGE impact on a team’s productivity. Don’t you feel more excited when working with a little star hanging down your screen during Christmas?
Offices with creative interiors look more relaxing and home-like to their staff. In the long run, such an environment fuels creativity. You don’t have to go over the board to decorate the premises- a few bean bags, recliners, and cool graffiti will serve the purpose.
Talking about color psychology, a recent study by the University of Texas states that white walls diminish the staff’s productivity and working quality. The University of British Columbia, in another study, found that employees perform better in their detail-oriented tasks when surrounded by red. The same study claims that blue promotes communication and creativity, yellow can cause anxiety, and gray can cause depression and energy loss.
The Outside-In Theory
Adding greenery to the office premises increases employee productivity by 15%, boosts morale, and purifies the environment. People feel more emotionally and cognitively involved with their work and happier with the atmosphere. Add that cute little cactus to your cubicle if you haven’t already!
4. The Paleo-Mammalian Brain
The human brain functions very differently from its evolutionary counterparts! Did you know that we have three brains?
The first and the most ancient part is the reptilian brain- named so because of the homologous structure found in reptiles. Such animals lack a developed brain structure. And thus, your reptilian brain consists only of the stem and cerebellum. It controls heart rate, breathing, and the desire to protect.
The second structure is the limbic brain- shared by all mammals. It deals with our emotional side. When we think about our relationships, social life, and nostalgic memories, we tap into the limbic brain.
The third and final structure is the neo-cortex or frontal lobe. It is responsible for our abstract thinking, creativity, language, and learning skills. And all primates have it. This part of the brain matters the most in business because it controls innovation and creativity. And when people feel unsafe and stressed, their frontal lobe shuts down.
You can’t increase productivity by saying work faster, or I’ll fire you. Such fear will trigger the production of adrenaline and cortisol- thus compromising creativity. A stressful environment is never appealing for meeting deadlines or creating content!
5. Maintaining Flow State
Have you ever reached a state when all of your senses start vanishing? It happens when your brain captivates the information that it views- like watching a show or listening to an eerie podcast. Such a state is known as a flow state, and we often enter it when working.
Although a flow state is very difficult to attain, it is very, very productive. But, as I said earlier, it only happens when your brain captivates the information that it views. Meaning, you need to maximize your focus and minimize distractions while working on one task instead of three other mini-tasks.
One of the best ways to attain a flow state is music. Working with earplugs is a very CREATIVE way of cutting the mental clutter while keeping oneself focused on the ongoing task. Avoid changing songs every once in a while- stick to a playlist. Listening to the songs whose lyrics you haven’t memorized are the best. They avoid you from drifting off.
Another way to reach a flow state is to avoid multitasking. Schedule your day and divide tasks for different hours, but never work on all of them at the same time. Multitasking is never a wise option for anyone- even if you are a manager. And it negatively affects your output. It may look like you increase productivity in the long run when managing multiple assignments together- but it actually slows them down and generates mediocre output.
Wrapping It Up!!
Whether subliminal or overt, the norms and standards of a productive team are crazy. It doesn’t cost a hand and a limb to increase productivity- it just requires you to be a bit strategic and practical with your approach. Science has an answer to everything per se- and we have compiled the BEST ones for you.
Do you want to add something here? Do you have a doubt or a query? Let me know in the comments below. I would love to hear from you.
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