Here are 7 oft-forgotten productivity factors to look out for.

1. Poor Health

Illness alone costs the US economy $576B each year. Of this cost, $117 billion is due to absence and worker’s compensation, while another $232 billion come from medical and pharmacy costs.

Many would suggest that poor health is clearly at the forefront of our minds when thinking about productivity, but therein lies the difference between awareness and action. An AJMC article talks about this staggering truth as found in a global CEO survey. In it, 33% thought benefits and cost management as an important HR responsibility, but workforce health and well-being as a business strategy was not identified as a business priority.

Encourage healthy living and gain economic and workplace productivity. When people feel good, they work well.

2. Food Intake

Diet is a corollary of good health in general. It’s also directly connected to daily productivity in the workplace. Simply put: food is fuel.

If you aren’t fueled up during the day, you can’t possibly perform at your peak. The secret is to avoid blood glucose spikes and dips, which are bad for your brain and your productivity. To combat erratic blood sugar, experts suggest grazing on fruits and vegetables. Not only is meal frequency important, what you eat has a massive impact on your daily productivity. A Harvard Business Review article puts it like this:

“The foods we eat affect us more than we realize. With fuel, you can reliably expect the same performance from your car no matter what brand of unleaded you put in your tank. Food is different. Imagine a world where filling up at Mobil meant avoiding all traffic and using BP meant driving no faster than 20 miles an hour. Would you then be so cavalier about where you purchased your gas?”

Eating fruits and vegetables regularly makes people more engaged, creative, and happy than usual. Encourage your office to graze on fruits and vegetables by having them readily available. Fewer crashes, increased productivity, and regulated blood sugar are a recipe for success.

3. Efficient Meetings

Stanford Economist Thomas Sowell said that “The least productive people are usually the ones who are most in favor of holding meetings.” Lost time for employees stuck in inefficient meetings can add up rapidly. Every time a meeting goes over time, goes on a tangent, or includes too many people, you lose production.

To start, limit most meetings to include the vital decision makers. Multiple levels of management shouldn’t need to spend their time listening to decisions being made. Meeting minutes exist for a reason. Send them out to everybody not present in the meeting. Other tips include scheduling back-to-back meetings to maintain focus, and keeping strict meeting times.

Here are two seldom used methods to increase meeting productivity:

  1. Designate the amount of time and money each department can spend on meetings as a part of your quarterly and yearly budgets. When meetings are treated as a necessary cost, and not “free time off of work,” decision-making is treated more seriously.
  2. Hold official stand-up meetings. Stand up meetings take one-third the time as usual sit-down meetings, with no loss in decision-making quality.

4. Telecommuting

We know that telecommuting is the future of work. A Gallup study shows that in 2015, 37% of employees have at one point worked remotely, up from 30% in 2006 and 9% in 1995. What about corporate culture? What about community? Well, to have productive and engaged employees, it is wise to consider implementing “work from home” days.

A recent Harvard Business Review article based on this Stanford study found both increased efficiency and decreased attrition in regular remote workers.

If remote work is feasible for your organization, start by giving your productive, disciplined team members one day a week to telecommute. It could be the key to unlocking greater productivity from your best employees.

5. The Chopping Block: Productivity Killer

This isn’t what you think. Everybody likes to feel valued. But when you see massive layoffs in favor of outsourced or consultant teams, your mind goes elsewhere. A small study of bus drivers noted increased stress levels in drivers when routes were outsourced. Sure, outsourcing the right labor can net productivity gains, but a looming threat of job loss contributes to stress and dissatisfaction.

According to a study out of North Carolina State University, typical productivity-improving tactics like “layoffs, outsourcing jobs, replacing salaried employees with contract staff, and putting employees onto short-term teams,” while increasing temporary urgency, contribute to job dissatisfaction and increased workplace competition. Essentially, a massive coordinated effort to increase productivity by cutting or replacing employees leads to greater disengagement from existing employees.

6. Alleviating Personal Stresses

Just like health and food intake seem to be one and the same, so do stress and job security. However, there are numerous other personal stressors that employers should look out for. According to a Towers Watson study,

“Employees suffering from high stress levels have lower engagement, are less productive and have higher absentee levels than those not operating under excessive pressure.”

As an employer, it’s vital that you find and address stress factors (assuming high workloads aren’t the primary contributor). This is not to say it’s necessary to offerGoogle-tier benefits, but a workplace survey or employee interview can help you determine how to alleviate personal stresses. For more strategies, look at this APA guide on coping with stress.

7. Setting Goals and Measuring Performance

From organizational strategy to individual performance, goals are important for employee engagement. Often forgotten is how to set the best goals that ensure engagement, departmental efficiency, and organizational success. Vague goals coupled with unchanging performance indicators can lead to stagnation and disengagement.

Strategies like gamification give employees and departments different KPIs to reach for as part of the “game”– all without detracting from production-centric metrics. While gamification isn’t the end-all of productivity improvement, it epitomizes the creative thinking necessary when setting goals and measuring performance. It’s not that performance isn’t measured– it’s that departments place too much emphasis on the wrong metrics. This is compounded by poor organizational strategy to begin with. When the goals aren’t clear (or correct) and the measuring sticks are askew, productivity cannot be adequately measured, and lags altogether.

Most of these factors harken back to the idea that productivity is the natural result of a happy, healthy, and motivated workforce. How you meet these needs will vary, but start by taking a look at how your organization handles these 7 factors for productivity. Adapt and repeat. You might surprise yourself.

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