by Steffen Maier

Whether you’re working in HR or as a manager of a team, keeping up productivity levels is essential.

However, in an eye-opening TEDTalk titled “Why work doesn’t happen at work,” software engineer Jason Fried argues that the main barriers to productivity are the people who should be actively trying to improve it: managers.

Here are five reasons managers may be hindering productivity and how they can turn things around:

1. Eliminate excessive meetings

One of the biggest barriers to workplace productivity is a calendar full of meetings. We’ve all experienced that feeling when you leave a long meeting and your brain feels completely fried.

The fact is that meetings not only take away time, but they also deplete your employees’ decision-making and concentration power, making it harder to jump back into their regular tasks. In fact, a survey found that 45 percent of senior executives believe employees would be more productive if meetings were banned for at least one day a week.

While you can’t eliminate meetings altogether, it’s important that managers learn how to run each one effectively by carefully considering who should be included, keeping them to 30 to 45 minutes, keeping people on track, sharing an agenda in advance, and creating clear action steps for follow-up.

2. Cut down on stress

More and more companies are realizing the major impact that workplace stress can have on productivity. Looming deadlines and balancing work-life conflicts can lead to a lack of sleep, low fitness levels and, ultimately, a drastic decline in engagement and productivity.

A study by Willis Towers Watson found that out of respondents who were experiencing high stress levels, 57 percent claimed to be disengaged. Additionally, highly stressed employees were reported to take an average of 4.6 sick days per year as opposed to low-stress employees, who took only 2.6 days.

One of the most powerful solutions is to encourage more communication with managers. Every leader should be having regular one-on-ones with each report. This is the perfect time to check in and find out if there is anything causing stress in their employees’ work life or a personal issue that could be impacting their work.

Gallup found that only 15 percent of employees who do not meet with their manager regularly are engaged.

Employees don’t want to be treated simply as a source of revenue. This is reflected in the fact that a number of studies, including Google’s Project Oxygen, have found that the most highly rated leaders regularly express an interest in their team members’ well-being and development. The more you know about what’s causing stress in your team members’ work and personal lives, the better you’ll be able to help them overcome these barriers and become more engaged and productive.

3. Share productivity hacks

Sharing knowledge, especially about workplace hacks that will make your employees’ lives easier, should be a key part of your learning and development strategy. Google did this by leveraging its intelligent and diverse workforce to create an ecosystem of peer learning in which employees are encouraged to share knowledge on different topics with each other. This is how Googler Chade-Meng Tan was able to teach and share the benefits of mindfulness within the company.

Consider holding voluntary learning sessions where you share tips and new tools that will help employees organize their time efficiently, prioritize tasks, deal with stress, etc. Opening it up so that it’s not only managers but also peers who have the opportunity is a great way to tap into your wider knowledge base.

What’s more, Google found that even without teaching experience, these peer teachers were just as effective in training others.

4. Give feedback in real time

A major factor that surfaces in low productivity is lack of guidance. In fast-paced environments, it can be easy for employees to feel their manager doesn’t have the time to give them advice ad hoc.

Willis Towers Watson found that 37 percent of respondents felt their managers didn’t have time to deal with the people aspects of their job. If employees are left in the dark about their performance, they’ll simply move on to the next task and continue making the same mistakes until review time.

Sacrificing development in favor of other responsibilities is the No. 1 mistake managers can make. Encourage your managers to be available for feedback when your employees need it most. Investing in a feedback tool allows managers to answer feedback on the go via mobile and keeps feedback requests top of mind with notifications.

5. Recognize achievements

Of course, never forget the power of positive feedback. Though recognizing an employee’s achievements seems like a simple thing, according to Gallup, only one in three workers in the United States strongly agree that they’ve received recognition or praise in the past seven days.

The fact is that showing appreciation has an even deeper impact than your managers might expect. A study by Globoforce found that 82 percent of employees are motivated by recognition and 78 percent would even work harder if they were recognized and appreciated more.

In fact, another study found that 83 percent found recognition to be even more fulfilling than rewards or gifts.

Rather than simply telling managers to give more positive feedback, the most effective way to make sure employees receive the recognition they need is by infusing it into your culture. Here at Impraise, we have a ritual of setting aside time during our weekly all-hands meeting to recognize rockstar peers, managers or reports for great work or for taking the time to help out others.


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