Expert’s Opinions: Keeping Teams Productive at Work

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  • Published on
    December 17, 2020
  • Updated on
    March 5, 2021
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    18 minutes
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Keeping Teams Productive at Work

 

We are almost done with the year 2020. Among many adversities that this year has brought us, being productive at work has been a real challenge.

 

Therefore, we turned to the experts that remained vigilant in times where being productive was a big struggle for many across the globe.

 

We have highlighted the top expert opinions and advice they used to keep their teams productive.

 

Communication

 

communication-expert

 

Status Update Meetings

 

We have a Team Status Meeting every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday where we talk about the status of our projects via a Zoom video call.

 

We communicate via the social media and project management app, Slack, and make sure my team adds To-Dos with a clear goal and deadline, so I know what they are working on and when they can deliver. I don’t tell them what the deadline is. I give them flexibility while having them take ownership of their project, so they give themselves their own deadline.

 

I share with them exactly the impact their work has had in converting a follower into a customer or how it has helped to build our email list or Instagram following.

 

Thanks to Lizbeth Cardozo – Tiny Milkshake Media

 

Maintain Communication and Report Accomplishments

 

A chat program like Slack or Google Hangouts where every team member can communicate readily throughout the day helps to increase accountability and foster easy communication.
Ask employees to report their accomplishments each day or week. When employees know they need to produce a list of accomplishments or completed tasks for you, they’ll make sure they have things to report!

 

Thanks to Jayson DeMers – Email Analytics.

 

Have More Brief Meetings

 

My best tip for keeping my team productive is to have more regular meetings but keep them incredibly brief, like 20 minutes tops. These are more like check in sessions to see where everyone is at with their projects, where they need support, or even personal matters. Having these meetings keeps them productive because it creates a sort of show and tell scenario where they can get feedback on their progress and share what they have been up to, which motivates them to have something done for the next meeting.

 

Thanks to Alex Azoury – Homegrounds

 

Stay Connected

 

Staying connected and putting extra emphasis on communication has been vital in keeping my employees engaged and motivated through this time of working remotely. As a leader, I’ve been more present and available to my team members. I do daily check-ins with employees to keep them on track but also to listen to any concerns or feedback they might have to offer.

 

It is extremely important to me to keep my team happy, comfortable, and optimistic. A happier employee is a more productive and engaged employee. In my company, I focus on inclusivity and transparency. It is vital to set up a stream of communication in which employees feel comfortable to express their thoughts as well as making sure those thoughts are fully heard.

 

With feedback from our employees, we assign challenges to specific leaders to implement visible improvements in our company culture and daily workforce environment. Furthermore, we encourage and offer help to find a healthy work-life balance for each of our team members. By trusting and empowering our employees, they feel appreciated and valued which makes them happier and more motivated.

 

Thanks to Ashwin Sokke – WOW Skin Science

 

Keep Communicating

 

One way to keep the team productive is to keep up communication with all members of the team. Keeping up communication in the office helps promote a supportive culture and eliminates any possibility of miscommunication in the workplace. Ultimately, improving workplace productivity and also improves teamwork in a department.

 

Another important way to keep up productivity and morale in an office or team is to ensure that your team gets the recognition they deserve for a job well done. When employees get their due recognition they end up becoming more productive and motivated which is exactly what you want.

 

Thanks to Omair Khan – Physician Thrive

 

Know Your Team

 

know-your-team

 

Assess your employee’s strengths and weaknesses

 

Observing where and what your team lacks and/or is skilled at are crucial in distributing rightful assignments and support. By doing so, the balance of teamwork is feasible. And as a result, employees become more productive as one would not be stuck in a workload that could be done by someone who’s more familiar with performing the task.

 

Thanks to Robert Johnson – Sawinery

 

Invest in Your Team Member’s Skills

 

Each team member has unique skills and abilities that differentiate him/her from others and to keep them productive you need to do two things in this regard. First, you need to match the right (member) skill to the right task.

 

The second thing, you need to develop the team’s skills continuously; by providing them with up-to-date courses, and training in their field. I truly believe that investing in your team members’ skills is a sign to show your care to them and will help them to be more productive at work.

 

Thanks to Gerardo Juarez Sheepbuy

 

Each Team Member is Different

 

Know that your team consists of individuals who thrive under slightly different conditions. If you shift your focus to be more results-oriented rather than worrying about HOW your employees are working, you may find they are more productive anyway. Some people need to work in a reasonable, spread out the way while others feel the need to binge their work in extreme ways.

 

You can’t impose a working style on a team, rather rely on deadlines, meetings, and targets to frame their productivity. Think of it as the box within which they can be creative and move around and adjust their schedule to suit their needs, especially if you are in a WFH environment.

 

Thanks to Ian Kelly – Nuleaf Naturals

 

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Time Management

 

expert-in-time-management

 

Time Audit

 

What has worked for our WFH employees to sustain their productivity is adhering to a process called *time audit*. It involves my staff writing down their intentions and views on how they’ve spent their time in the office and then tracking how they actually work. We notice that there’s a significant difference between what they intend to do and the real actions they’ve taken. With the time audit process, they’ve become more conscious of their pending tasks and have become more motivated to perform beyond their margins.

 

Thanks to Michael Hamelburger – The Bottom Line Group

 

Pomodoro Technique

 

The Pomodoro technique is a productivity hack that improves individual efficiency over time. The idea is to divide time into sets of 25 minutes of work followed by 5 minutes of break. Each 25-minute session is considered as one Pomodoro. During the Pomodoro, you have to pick a task and do that alone. No distractions. After 25 minutes, you have to stop doing the task and take a mandatory break for 5 minutes. For the next Pomodoro, you can move onto the next task.

 

Over time you will be able to measure the amount of Pomodoros taken for a task and track its improvement. This strategy also reduces burnouts and keeps people fresh during the day. The quality of work is also enhanced because of the undivided attention provided during the Pomodoro.

 

Thanks to Zach Reece – Colony Roofers

 

Use Block Scheduling

 

We encourage our team to utilize block scheduling. Each hour focus for 45-50 straight minutes and eliminate all distractions. Then use the final 10-15 minutes to grab a snack, check your phone, surf the web, etc. Also, stepping away for a solid lunch break can increase your productivity throughout the day by encouraging a “brain break.” As humans, we need time to decompress and if we focus our energy into small uninterrupted increments of time, we can be more productive over the long term.

 

Thanks to Kristen Fowler – JMJ Phillip

 

Time Blocking Emails

 

Timeboxing emails is a phenomenal way to increase productivity throughout the day. All too often we find ourselves living in our inboxes; slaves to the notification icon. By allocating specific times throughout the day to check emails, productivity is dramatically increased. Not only does this remove distractions, but it also helps you prioritize important tasks first.

 

Thanks to Michael Schaeffer – Dialight

 

Take Advantage of Tools Available

 

tools-for-use

 

Automate Mundane Tasks

 

One of our biggest ways we keep our team productive and inspired is by always working to try and automate repetitive, mundane tasks that can cause burnout. By using technology to replace the monotonous work that stifles productivity and creativity.

 

Thanks to Zack Zarilli – Surefire CPR

 

Provide your team with the Necessary Tools and Technology

 

We believe that it is an employer’s responsibility to provide their team with the essential tools when working from home under a pandemic. Hence, we are actively looking into this at all times.

 

We have equipped our team with project management tools, Asana, and Slack, Google Suite for internal communication.

 

Moreover, if the employees encounter any problem with the office laptops, we have them fixed as soon as possible. We also ensure all our software to remain updated at all times so that no internal crash occurs. All of these factors help to maintain employee productivity levels.

 

Thanks to Jill Sandy – Constant Delights

 

Have a Central Place for Project Work

 

Having a central place for project work can help eliminate the need to chase people for updates, allowing team members the freedom to just get on with things. Look at the digital options available that facilitate this and invest in whichever suits your needs immediately. The number of calls we all face on a daily basis can be overwhelming as well as a distraction, so anything that allows you to reduce this will invariably make everyone more productive.

 

Once you’ve done that, then maximizing productivity is about spreading the workload as evenly as possible. Not just between individuals, but also prioritizing what needs to be done now and what can wait. Overwhelming your teams can cause them to lack focus and skip between jobs rather than giving one item their full attention before moving onto the next.

 

Knowing what’s truly business-critical will allow you to filter tasks in the order that they need to be done, and leaves people to concentrate on what’s actually necessary. Flooding inboxes with several “high priority” items lessens the importance, and the urgency, with which things get done.

 

Thanks to Zoë Morris Frank Group

 

Support your Team

 

support-your-team

 

Adapt to Changing Business Needs

 

I keep my team productive by adapting to changing business needs/requirements to the benefit of my employees.

 

This winter, we are shifting to a 4-day workweek. Why? Because we realized that the current business environment needs employees who can maintain a work/life balance.

 

By being flexible and not holding tight to business practices that are no longer beneficial to my team, my employees know without a doubt that we have their best interests at heart. It inspires and motivates them to continue being productive.

 

Thanks to Daniel Cooper – Lolly

 

Encourage Work/Life Balance

 

Invest in making work/life balance part of your company’s culture. Some policies that can instill work/life balance are: not working over the weekend, allowing employees to work from home and shifting to a 4-day work week if your workload allows. Balance cultivates happier employees, and happy employees are highly productive.

 

Thanks to Reuben Yonatan – Get VOIP

 

Invest in Employee Assistance Program

 

Happy employees create positive and productive work environments. Try to create a culture where everyone can thrive while working together toward a common goal. Institutionalizing a program to provide confidential counseling services to help team members work their way through challenges relating to work, family, stress, finances, and other personal issues are the first essential step in that direction.

 

Thanks to Simonas Steponaitis – Hosting Wiki

 

Keep the Environment Stress-Free

 

A good leader will always be approachable. This only happens if you are a good listener, understand the problems, and solve them in an unbiased way. But that’s not enough. The working environment should be stress-free. The most productive work happens when people work without any stress and it is the responsibility of a team leader or senior to implement it.

 

If you find out that it’s getting hectic and teams are not able to cope up, then try to calm things down. Give them a break or talk about something that’s not a part of the work. Then switch back to the work and see the results. Working without stress is the most important part of team productivity. It is a basic solution to many problems.

 

Thanks to Adam Rowles – Inbound Marketing Agency

 

Designated Relaxation Space

 

Allocate a designated relaxation space for employees. To boost your employees’ productivity, you need to assure that your people are well-taken care of. We are all aware of how toxic and stressful can a day be in the office. Thus, creating a space where employees can unwind, relax, and even take a power nap is a huge booster for their productivity. This type of initiative can help alleviate their stress and anxiety in the workplace.

 

You don’t need to invest a great amount of money or assets in creating a relaxation space. A simple bean bag will make a big difference. Knowing that they have allocated space to breathe, relax, and ease the tension throughout the day will make them feel like they are well taken care of. Thus, it allows them to recharge their brain and body that keeps their productivity high.

 

Thanks to James Pearson – Eventuring

 

Take Care of Employees’ Emotions

 

Besides providing effective working tools and making an organized schedule, an employer should also take care of employees’ emotions. Especially now, as working from home can contribute to loneliness and negative emotions, employers should do what they can to provide emotional support to employees. Leaders should set the tone for their offices or home working environment with a calm and upbeat presence, which helps create a level-headed workplace where people can still get things done.

 

In a fully remote work setup, managers should also be more available than usual for check-ins and other questions that may come up given the unfamiliar circumstances. Set virtual office hours and be present on instant messaging apps throughout the day to help employees.

 

Leaders should additionally encourage self-care among their employees, who mentally are trying to adapt to remote work, the stress of new environments, and the stress of daily updates around COVID-19. Managers should advocate for Remote employees to exercise, get quality sleep, take showers, and continue on with lives as normally as they can.

 

Thanks to Caroline Lee – Coco Sign

 

Empowering Employees with Learning Tools

 

We focus on empowering our employees and using learning tools to make a more efficient and productive team. We have found that when they learn new things that they are more motivated and productive – so offering courses, books and access to other learning tools is a great way not only to motivate your team but empower them to have full control of their department!

 

Thanks to Catherine Way – Prime Plus

 

Adopt Productive Habits

 

adopt-productive-habits

 

Limit Distractions

 

Multitasking means your attention is divided and you’ll be unable to give equal attention to all tasks that you start.

 

If more than one task is available for a limited time, my team allocates time to every task to complete it in the assigned time. However, preference is given to urgent tasks.

 

During working hours, no team member is allowed to use his phone unless it is something related to work. They are asked to switch off their phones and pay full attention to work. In this way, they are able to save the time that is spent on checking notifications; hence, a greater chance of an increase in the productivity level.

 

When you are working in an office, there are always some interruptions which you can’t avoid. Every team member is trained enough to survive such distractions. During remote work, team members are asked to change their status to busy during working hours.

 

Thanks to Bradley Stevens LLC Formations

 

Stop Micromanaging

 

One way to keep your team productive at work is to set deadlines, even when there really isn’t one. By attaching a Due By date to all assigned work, both you and your team know when stuff needs to get done. And what you’ll actually find is that your staff will appreciate this because it will keep them focused and on track.

 

Next, never micromanage. This could seem counterintuitive, but micromanaging is actually a productivity killer. Your workers have to constantly stop what they’re doing to answer your questions, and unless you have someone who needs extra management, this is a waste of your time and theirs. Give them the tools they need to get the job done and then get out of the way.

 

Finally, give them a say in business operations. Ask them if they can think of ways to get things done faster (without sacrificing quality). See if they have an opinion about how the weekly work schedule can be written to improve productivity. Basically, open the floor up for questions so to speak. You’ll probably be surprised at the results because normally, your team members know tons of shortcuts and other strategies to improve productivity, and in the end, the profitability of your business.

 

Thanks to Thomas Hawkins Electrician Apprenticeship HQ

 

Give your Team Support to get their work done

 

In my 15 years of managing my employees, I found that doing this results in the exact opposite. I’ve learned that the best way to go about it is, hire the right people (ones who fit your office culture), train them, get them everything they need to be able to get their jobs done, set realistic goals and expectations, and then let them do their thing. As long as they know they can come to you if they need anything, you don’t need to constantly oversee them.

 

Thanks to Matt Bowman Thrive Agency

 

Provide Opportunities to Employees

 

One of the most effective strategies for increasing productivity is to offer responsibilities rather than forcing them onto employees. This means providing opportunities for employees to grab specific tasks based on their skillset. To the surprise of many employers, this is a wonderful way to get everyone to work together while enjoying their role in the team.

 

Thanks to Sara Bernier Born For Pets

 

Positive Feedback

 

positive-feedback

 

Pay what they are worth

 

Keep your team inspired by paying them what they are worth, this is basic. Also, rewarding them for a job well done is awesome. For example, give them a voucher from their favorite salon.

 

Thanks to Scot J Chrisman The Media House

 

Celebrate and Recognize Accomplishments

 

Praise is a huge motivator, and people tend to work with more focus, stamina, and enthusiasm if they know that their hard work is being seen. Nothing kills productivity faster than feeling like you work all day and don’t make a difference.

 

Thanks to John Cho – My Pet Child

 

Offer Support and Appreciation

 

Workers who are motivated and excited about their jobs carry out their responsibilities to the best of their ability, and production numbers increase as a result. Motivation plays an essential role in improving productivity. Offering constant support to your employees in time of need and appreciate their efforts and hard work will always motivate them to do more and do better. When employees work with motivation, they will put in hard efforts to uphold their work quality and bring maximum productivity to the table. Another way to motivate employees is to offer incentives.

 

Thanks to David Shell – Trademen Cost

 

Kudos, Perks, and Surprises

 

For many years, we’ve included an employee peer recognition opportunity in our weekly staff meetings. It’s not required and is only meant for recognizing truly outstanding and memorable efforts by team members. While not everyone appreciates public recognition, it does provide a structured format and can have a meaningful impact on morale. We consider kudos when conducting annual reviews, in that those who regularly receive recognition are likely high-performers and should be compensated accordingly.

 

We’ve tested all types of recognition for employee appreciation, and have found group-oriented rewards are more inspiring and impactful than individual rewards. We’ve taken the team on special field trips, brought in masseuses, and provided special meals when certain goals were achieved (outside of our regularly scheduled quarterly fun activities). We also have a discretionary budget for the team to spend on treats or swag, as appropriate. When COVID hit and we worked remotely, we sent out DoorDash gift cards to the team to help ease the adjustment and thank them for their flexibility.

 

Though not as common during difficult economic times, I believe it’s important to recognize exceptional behavior when possible. I’ve found gift cards provide more impact than just kudos alone, and are often appreciated more than larger monetary bonuses, especially when thoughtfully chosen (favorite store, restaurant, etc.). There are tax implications that should be considered when doling out gift cards, however. For those motivated by cash, however, we have a preset bonus program based on client growth and other revenue metrics.

 

I believe money talks, certainly more than a compliment at a staff meeting. For the employees who have completely elevated their game during times of crisis or economic hardship, I feel it’s important to recognize and reward with increased financial compensation. Since March, I’ve increased compensation for a number of employees, with the funds coming out of the executive teams’ salaries (for now). Leading from the front can create long-term loyalty and this is the second time I’ve set aggressive goals during a recession and compensated my team well in order to achieve those goals. Although my targets are for 2021, I’m in this for the marathon, not the sprint.

 

Thanks to Kent Lewis – Anvil

 

Work as a Team

 

work-as-team

 

Virtual Team Building

 

Virtual Team Buildings. Conducting virtual team buildings can help your employees to break the ice and to refresh their mind with work. This also helps them to combat being burned out from work which is the most common challenge while working from home.

 

Thanks to Jacob J. Sapochnick – H1B

 

Develop Deep Relationships between Team Members

 

Our approach to keeping people productive is helping people develop deep relationships that result in people feeling more connected to one another and the companies they work for. We do this by being intentional and thoughtful in our activities and the ways we communicate (clear, consistent, and collaborative) with people/teams. We strive to meet people where they are at in every way (see context above) which results in more connection, engagement, happiness, and ultimately greater productivity at work and at home.

 

Thanks to Erin Koss – SYTE

 

Invest in Working Friendships

 

I provide diversified and frequent downtime for my employees so that they are feeling refreshed and positive when it comes to work time which allows for greater productivity.

 

One of the paid downtime experiences that I offer is subscriptions to online gaming, where a small portion (about a half-hour every other day or about twice a week) is paid to encourage unity and togetherness. You’re playing or you’re working, I’m cool either way.

 

It is a sound investment on my part because when you play together, you have invested a little bit more in your working friendship and therefore feel more obliged to be a part of the team and remain productive. There is also, I feel, an underlying current of respect in our working community that has people keeping on point.

 

Thanks to Andrew Taylor – Net Lawman

 

Democratizing Decision-Making

 

The main tactic we’ve used to increase productivity at Unito has been democratizing decision-making. By that, I mean we’ve worked extremely hard to empower employees at all levels of the organization, regardless of seniority, to make their own decisions on work. Having people jump through hoops to get approvals on each and every decision is a huge productivity killer and one we’ve largely managed to avoid.

 

We’re obsessed with information transparency. We want everybody in the organization to have the same level of information access, because it puts them on even terms when it comes to decision-making.

 

Thanks to Evan LePage – Unito

 

Responsibilities and Expectations

 

responsibilities-and-expectation

 

Accountability calls

 

In my team, we have weekly calls that work mainly for accountability. They are very simple and usually quite short.

 

Each team member answers two questions:

 

What did you accomplish this past week? What are you going to work on this week?

 

I might also ask about what their biggest dilemmas are or if anything is holding them back.

 

The calls are great for many reasons:

  • Positive peer pressure – the team members see each other being productive and want to stay on top of their own game.
  • Accountability – as a team leader, I take my own notes on what they plan to accomplish each week and can hold them accountable next week.
  • Feedback – I can give feedback to each team member and we can discuss whether they’re focusing on high impact tasks or not.
  • Team spirit – in a remote team, it’s important to create a sense of togetherness, and having these team calls with a good vibe helps with that.

 

We do single-tasking sessions a few times a week that any team member can join via Slack. These are especially great for writing and other tasks that require a lot of focus.

 

Each session is an hour or an hour and a half and goes like this:

  1. Mute yourself and turn on your camera
  2. Remove all distractions (quiet environment, phone out of sight, notifications off)
  3. Plan your single task
  4. Do your single task

 

Again, some of the benefits are direct accountability by keeping on your camera, and you are much more likely to things done in a session like this.

 

Thanks to Paw Vej – Financer

 

Mechanics for Goal-Setting and Measurement

 

The most impactful way to keep a team productive and focused is to set up mechanisms for goal-setting, measurement, feedback, incentives, and celebrations. Especially in the current environment of remote or hybrid teams, it can be very difficult for employees to see the results of their contributions or to feel like they are a part of a team.

 

Project managers should set a number of concrete landmarks that represent paths to the successful completion of a project or attainment of a goal, find ways to measure these, create ways for team members to monitor their own and their overall team performance, and then set up ways to celebrate successes frequently. It’s important to change up the incentives and celebrations, and also to allow team members to recommend their colleagues for special recognition.

 

Thanks to Diane Gayeski Ithaca College

 

Purpose Powers Productivity

 

I truly believe that purpose powers productivity. When you feel that you are acting with purpose, that what you do and how you do it creates an impact, you are far more willing to give it your all and to bring your A-game to any situation. As a leader, I believe it is incumbent upon me to instill purpose in my team — to share our company goals and successes and also the opportunities. When employees feel that what they are doing is contributing to a broader good, it is very impactful and yields tremendous success.

 

To implement purpose across an organization, you have to communicate. The company mission and vision must be shared and lived. It must be a part of who and what the business is and there has to be a buy-in from the team. Purpose has to be genuine and create a positive overall sentiment that yields productive work among team members for a common good.

 

Thanks to Deborah Sweeney – My Corporation

 

Conclusion

 

Using the above tips you can get more productive in your personal and professional life. If you have any suggestions feel free to share with us at fwilson@ntaskmanager.com