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Maximising Productivity in the Workplace

We had a chat with Charles Vaughan, Productivity Partner at Smarter Not Harder about efficiency in the workplace and how assessments can maximise employee engagement and drive productivity across the board.

ADLIB: For some background information and in a nutshell, what does SNH Training offer in a productivity sense specifically?

Charles Vaughan: SNH helps people achieve more in less time without compromising the quality or enjoyment of what they do.

Emails at record levels, constant interruptions and distractions are just some of the things hampering workplace productivity. The way people feel also plays a big part and an increasing number tell us they aren’t making progress, lack control or feel overwhelmed, can’t switch off or anxious and stressed.

For around 15 years we’ve been fascinated by what makes people highly productive. It’s no secret that businesses frequently spend large sums on new technology to increase efficiency and fresh workspaces to aid collaboration but so often we see these having the opposite effect on personal productivity.

Our research has isolated the 16 things the most productive people do consistently and our training equips people with a set of tools and skills designed to be simple, quick and practical to implement. It’s having a massive impact on the way people feel about their workload, their level of control, focus and ultimately their work output. We regularly see people increasing their capacity by 10 – 15 %, that’s 2 – 3 extra days per month.

ADLIB: How do you think that implementing specific productivity techniques can help with workplace stress?

Charles Vaughan: Workplace stress and anxiety is undoubtedly a significant cause of absence, in fact, according to the CIPD Health & Well-being Survey 2018, it accounts for 50% of long term absences and the trend isn’t positive. Whilst there are many factors that contribute to this, workload volume is the top cause.

We recognise the patterns and behaviours that lead to the most common causes of stress and anxiety and have built our programme to tackle these head-on. Whether it’s an out of control email inbox, project and deadline overload or just the relentless interruptions or distractions caused by people and technology, we help employees regain control in a way that helps them think, feel and behave more positively and ultimately achieve more in less time.

ADLIB: Can you share 3 pieces of wisdom or exercises that one could introduce into their daily routine as an employee or as a manager?

Charles Vaughan: There are so many but my top 3 are:

1.Smart Working needs to be seen as a ‘Team Sport’. The positive or negative impact colleagues, leaders, managers have on their teams can be massive. It can make or break the productivity of an organisation. A culture where last minute requests and constant interruptions can reduce the quantity and quality of people’s work as well as adversely affect the way people feel about their job.

Many people find it difficult to say ‘NO’, particularly to their manager, so our tip is to say ‘Not Now’ and suggest a time to speak.

2.Secondly, you’ve got to have a plan for the day – A little daily planning makes a big difference, so spending just 5 minutes each day can be one of the best investments you can make in your productivity. Being realistic about what you can achieve by predicting how long to spend on tasks is an important step. Whether you plan the night before or first thing, make sure you do it before getting caught up in emails or activities that distract you from your plan.

3.Finally, and this goes hand in hand with a great daily plan but if you know you’ll get interrupted during the day with urgent matters, then incorporate some ‘Contingency’ time into your plan. Be realistic about how long you need to allocate but don’t be surprised when you add it up if it’s more than you expect. Many people I speak to realistically need to factor in 60 – 90 minutes of contingency each day.

ADLIB: In your opinion, how can a productivity assessment & plan improve the way that people work?

Charles Vaughan: Without a doubt, a productivity assessment and plan can be a game changer. Assessments allow people to benchmark their progress against a set of proven behaviours. The resulting development plan then enables someone to create a personalised plan. Our approach doesn’t require people to go from A – Z in a linear fashion, we accept people are different and so are their roles, so we work by helping with the things that make the biggest and quickest difference but we encourage ‘progress not perfection’.

The great news is, things are connected so helping someone get better at planning, in turn, helps them become more focused and less susceptible to interruptions and distractions, more resilient and motivated.

ADLIB: In general, how can consistent productivity be reinforced in the workplace and self-managed as a priority?

Charles Vaughan: My tip to consistently ‘Win the day’ is to be disciplined and embrace the “4 T’s.”

  • Tools – Consistently using planning tools such as our TODAY LIST is a simple way to plan your day the right way. Without a robust and realistic plan outcomes are less predictable.
  • Technology – Use it well and be in control and not a slave to it.
  • Teamwork – Everyone in an organisation plays a big part in organisational productivity, so respect other people’s time, not expect it.
  • Time to reflect – in a busy and dynamic organisation it’s impossible for everything to always go to plan. The key is recognising the signs early and the best way is to occasionally take time to reflect and focus on what’s going well and what can be improved on.

Thanks so much for sharing, Charles!

As part of our work and life balance initiative, we are featuring knowledge, tools and advice that will help businesses and individuals to understand the benefits and approaches to finding the right work-life balance.

This series is all about the conscious step of “putting people at the centre” and utilising them as your greatest asset in order to increase productivity and happiness in the workplace.