10 Proven Ways to Improve Work Efficiency

From the smallest start-up to the biggest corporation, most businesses have one shared goal: to improve their results. To do this, they need to focus on efficiency in the workplace.

In essence, improving efficiency in the workplace is about helping employees work smarter, not harder. Figuring out how to work efficiently can improve productivity, growth and profits with the same resources.

There are several factors that affect employee efficiency and productivity in the workplace, such as work environment, job satisfaction, training and culture. With just a few simple tweaks and tricks to your day-to-day culture, you can start to see happier and more efficient employees – meaning better quality work and improved profits!

Read on to discover the 10 best ways HR professionals can help improve efficiency in the workplace and improve productivity for years to come.

1. Understand Personal Time Management

Time management is the cornerstone of improved efficiency and productivity in the workplace. After all, if we’re mismanaging our time then we’re surely mismanaging our tasks. However, we live in an age of digital distraction. With the technological tools available today, employees can access more information than ever before.

While this can be great for improving work efficiency on the face of it, it can also make it harder for employees to stay on task. You want the benefits of technology without the time-wasting temptations of the net and without clamping down on an enjoyable and flexible workplace environment.

Each online micro-distraction has a larger time cost than the few seconds it takes to check social media or retweet a meme: one study from UC Irvine found that it took up to 20 minutes to return to work after a single distraction.

If your employees are going to continue managing their time efficiently without you looking over their shoulders, they need to own the process and be allowed that workplace flexibility. Instead of policing your employees and creating an oppressive workplace to combat these distractions, educate them on effective time management strategies – from the introduction of time tracking software to creating a written guide to prioritization, chunking and other time management methods.

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2. Develop Effective Collaboration

Sometimes, improving work efficiency can be as simple as improving the way that we collaborate. Employees may prefer to be solitary squirrels or a cooperative colony of ambitious ants – either way, each of us can stand to streamline our styles of collaboration.

This is how efficiency in the workplace and team-building go hand-in-hand. A coworker asking for a quick hand with something can interrupt a person’s workflow just as much as a text message can – and this can be even harder to navigate when trying to collaborate remotely. Managing expectations and valuing each other’s time is vital to an efficient and productive office.

If leadership doesn’t fully communicate these expectations, then employees have little choice but to learn from experience, react accordingly and hope for the best.

Instead of reacting, be proactive in helping your teams learn how to work more fluidly. It’s important to delegate within teams and realize the impact that can have on work efficiency.

Encourage your employees to take a few minutes at the start of each day to look at their workload. Anything that may require an extra pair of hands can be flagged first thing, allowing everyone to fit collaborative time into their schedules as it suits them. Striking the right balance between independence and teamwork can make huge improvements in both job satisfaction and workplace efficiency.

3. Get Proactive with Performance

If the first half of developing a culture of trust is understanding, the other half is accountability. Developing that accountability leads to the third proactive step toward increasing efficiency in the workplace: regular performance management.

Which is more efficient: providing in-depth feedback once a year or recognizing and responding to issues regularly throughout the year? A once-yearly schedule may be efficient for compensation review, but the longer you wait to give recognition and feedback, the longer you let small daily inefficiencies continue.

Regular evaluation and communication on performance help resolve the issues that keep employees from implementing the principles of time management and collaboration.

Once again, the conversation on how to increase efficiency in the workplace needs to center on the true driver of improvement: developing the capacity and skills of your employees. This helps put the time and resource costs of performance management in their proper perspective—as an investment in your employees, not an inefficient use of funds.

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4. Set Achievable Goals

What’s the use in improving work efficiency if you don’t have an end goal in mind? Goals are the lifeblood of any aspirational business and ambitious employee – it gives you all something tangible to strive for.

Setting realistic goals can help maintain motivation, inspire new ways of working and create an altogether more efficient workplace. On the other hand, unreasonable goals with impractical deadlines can make people feel lethargic, disheartened and unproductive.

Whether for yourself or your employees, make sure that the targets that you set are attainable within your timeframe to keep morale high and efficiency in the workplace ticking over.

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5. Learn How to Say No

It’s tough to say no. We don’t want to disappoint our bosses, our coworkers or ourselves. However, overloading ourselves with work is a prime example of working harder, not smarter. If we want to figure out how to work efficiently, we have to learn the power of this little word.

Encourage your employees to, respectfully, say no to each other. Whether they are already tackling a busy week or if they just need to reserve some time for their own personal development, there is nothing wrong with turning down opportunities if they’re not helpful. Not only will this help with prioritization and time management, but they’re more likely to do a better job on the work they’re already dealing with if they aren’t taking on anything extra.

6. Give Yourself a Break

Workplace burnout has been referred to as ‘the great exhaustion’ by McKinsey and is a very real threat to job satisfaction and efficiency in the workplace. In fact, a recent Gallup poll found that employees experiencing burnout are 63% more likely to take a sick day and more than twice as likely to be looking for a new job. Not great news for improving efficiency in the workplace.

This is why it’s so important to give yourself a break – and allow your employees to do the same. Maybe you’ve been working solidly for hours and are running out of steam, or maybe you’re just completely stumped on how to begin your next task. Sitting and ploughing through this will not give you peace of mind or worthwhile results. Take a step back and clear your mind for a second.

There are plenty of tips out there on burnout prevention – the trick is finding one that works for you. Do some yoga, take a stroll and grab yourself a treat from the bakery. From jamming to your pump-up anthem to reading the next chapter of your book, you’ll find your brain is much clearer after taking a little break.

7. Develop a Routine that Works for You

Workplace efficiency doesn’t just exist in the office – your daily routine can have a huge impact on how you work. Remote workers, hybrid workers and office devotees should all have a good daily routine that inspires productivity. One way of encouraging this is by introducing a flexible workplace so your employees can strike the right balance between themselves and their work.

Your morning routine isn’t just about the basics of grabbing your coffee, brushing your teeth and flying out the door: it’s about creating sustainable habits that set you up for the day. So you’re not a morning person? Lay out your things the night before so you can enjoy an extra 5 minutes in bed before diving into a productive day. Maybe you like to start your morning with a bang – a quick run before your morning shower, an early-morning gym session or some energizing yoga can nourish your mind-body connection before you head to the office.

Embrace your lunchtime stroll, your mid-afternoon coffee break and your go-to commute podcast – all of these things can bring you joy in your personal life, leading to efficiency in the workplace.

8. Create an Environment that Works for You

It’s impossible to concentrate in a messy room – we all learned this the hard way throughout the pandemic. According to Forbes, the number of people working from home will only continue to increase as businesses adapt to the post-COVID workplace. If remote work is here to stay, employees have complete autonomy over their workspace.

In order to maintain a good level of work efficiency and productivity outside of the office, you need to make sure that your space has everything that you need. As well as providing your employees with necessities like a computer, charging outlets, a comfortable chair and a desk, encourage them to create a home office that inspires calm, creativity and comfort.

Reducing clutter is one way to keep yourself focused on the task at hand. Not only that but curating an environment that minimizes distractions and optimizes inspiration can give your performance a new lease of life. From the perfect soundtrack to keep you driven to the right lighting and color scheme, you need to create a space that works for you – not the other way around.

9. Don’t Strive for Perfection

Everyone seeks perfection—but no one ever attains it. One of the most important things to remember when trying to improve efficiency and productivity in the workplace is that nothing can ever be perfect. Holding yourself and your employees to unattainable standards is demoralizing, stress-inducing and impractical.

Part of the working world is embracing setbacks and challenges without letting them overwhelm you. If employees are constantly striving for perfection, they will never have a healthy understanding of success and will, therefore, struggle with their work efficiency.

Progress is far more important than perfection – embrace feedback from your colleagues and help them to do the same. Without the weight of perfectionism around our necks, we are much less likely to procrastinate and far more likely to achieve something great.

10. Take Screen Breaks

Not just for improving work efficiency but also for helping with your mental and physical health. Sitting down in front of a dazzling screen glare all day is not conducive to originality, creativity or energy – plus it’s murder on your eyes.

Be sure that you and your colleagues are taking regular screen breaks to keep yourselves stimulated and engaged with your work without becoming lethargic. Taking little strolls, even if it’s just for a chat at the fabled water cooler, can sometimes be all you need for that “eureka” moment.

If you’re easily distracted, include your phone in this bargain. Productivity apps are a great way to deter impulsive scrolling and keep your mind focused. Give yourself allocated time slots to check in with social media to scratch that itch without falling down the rabbit hole.

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