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Via Human Resources Director : Is this the best strategy to boost workplace productivity?

Maintaining productivity in the modern workplace is a constant challenge. No matter how good our intentions, tools, systems or productivity strategies, most of us still struggle to stay on top of our commitments and priorities, according to Dermot Crowley, speaker, trainer and author of Smart Teams.

“Many organisations throw personal productivity training at the problem, and while this undoubtedly helps, people revert back to old habits easily and quickly,” said Crowley.

He added that to create a truly effective and sustained boost to your team’s productivity, you need to look at productivity from two angles.

“A performance motor racing team can increase the speed of their car in two ways. Build a bigger engine that delivers more thrust and power, or change the body shape to reduce resistance and drag,” said Crowley.

“Personal productivity training is like building a bigger engine. Reducing the productivity friction we all experience in the workplace is like reducing drag.”

Crowley added that we experience friction when we receive too many unnecessary emails, get pulled into too many ineffective meetings, or collaborate with others in an unproductive way.

“Our effectiveness as workers is greatly hindered by productivity friction, yet we have come to accept this as ‘just the way that it is’,” he said.

“But there are plenty of things that we can do that will not only improve our productivity, but also the productivity of those around us.”

Crowley recommends four strategies that you could implement with your team.

Reduce email noise

Many of us receive more than one hundred emails per day, but do not need to receive anywhere near that many to be effective in our roles. Overuse of CC and Reply All is overwhelming many workers. Talk to your team about your expectations about being copied on emails, or involved in email conversations. Email others in a mindful way, and expect the same from them. If you need to, set up rules to automatically delete or file less relevant emails. The key is to take control of your inbox – don’t let it control you.

Make projects visible

Many of us are not dedicated project managers, yet we are expected to manage a range of projects alongside our operational day to day work. Unfortunately these projects are often managed in an excel spreadsheet at best, or in our head at worst. To collaborate productively on this type of work we need to make these projects visible to ourselves as well as the wider team. By doing this we gain control of the work, and can plan the why, who, what and when of the work. There are now many simple web based tool available to make projects more visible like Trello, Asana or MS Planner.

Reduce unnecessary urgency

When is everything needed around here? Yesterday! I hear this all the time in my client companies. Everything feels urgent, but this urgency comes at a price. Pressure, stress, mistakes, rework. Much of this urgency is false, and not urgent at all. It often seems urgent because others have reactive workstyles where everything is left the last minute. Sometimes we do this to ourselves. Focus on prioritising by importance, not urgency for a week. See if this starts to shift what you work on as a team.

Have 100% less meetings

Yes, you read me right! 100% less. This is easy to achieve if you break it down into four easy targets. Schedule 25% fewer meetings in your week. Hold 25% shorter meetings. Invite 25% less participants to meetings. Finally, reduce wasted time in meetings by a further 25% by taking the time to plan the meeting with an agenda. Easy. Well, maybe not easy, but not that hard.

Via LiveMint : Enjoyable workplace spurs innovation, productivity: Mahindra Auto

Rajeshwar Tripathi, head of HR at Mahindra Auto, which is one of the top 10 workplaces according to Great Place to Work Institute, speaks about the firm’s people policy

Mahindra and Mahindra Automotive and Farm Equipment Sectors, the flagship of the Mahindra Group, ranked 23rd in India’s Best Companies To Work For 2017 list compiled by the Great Place To Work Institute. In 2013 and 2015, it ranked third in the manufacturing and production industry list. Policies to ensure safety and improve productivity on the shop floor have helped build the company’s image as an employer of repute. Rajeshwar Tripathi, head of human resources at the firm, shares how the Mahindra Group’s Rise philosophy is incorporated in its people policies. Edited excerpts:

Why is it important for you to be a good workplace?

It helps us attract the right people from various industries, possessing different skill sets and having diverse backgrounds.

Secondly, to engage with our own people; this is very important because that’s when they give us their best. People must enjoy their workplace; it spurs innovation and productivity because people are a key differentiator. For example, if there were two companies with the same product and structure, people will make a difference at the individual and collective levels.

What is your recruitment process?

Various psychometric tools are used to indicate an individual’s alignment with Mahindra’s Rise philosophy, which is to drive change. Recently, more focus has been laid on an applicant’s learning agility because we live in an ever-changing world. How capable they are of changing themselves and driving change matters to us.

How would you ensure retention and motivation on the shop floor?

Retention should arise from an individual’s intrinsic desire to stay at the organization, which should arise directly from the work they do. Much effort has gone into the ambience, working conditions and policies of our plants. Work hours have been made flexible while some Saturdays are off as well. Wellness has been given a special focus with preventive health exams being conducted, in addition to nutritionists and clinical psychologists being present at our occupational health centres.

Our policies are becoming increasingly segmented and personalized since the needs of all groups, say age-wise, are not the same.

What have been some challenges in retaining talent?

Reskilling our people to suit evolving business models and strategies, especially in the past three years, has been a challenge. To avoid human obsolescence among the company, intensive workshops are conducted, thus making us an agile organization.

What is the role of the top management in forming people policies?

Policies emanate from the top management because they are a manifestation of organizational philosophy and culture. The top three drivers of our people policies are the values our organization wants to pursue, the purpose for our existence—the customer, and finally, our business strategy.


A couple of years ago, I was offered the position of the senior copywriter in a renowned ad agency. I believed that this very well could be my “dream” job. On my first day at the job, I was given a cramped and dingy cubicle in an office with no natural light. Anyone who has worked in a dingy cubicle will confirm how it makes them feel. Whenever I mentioned that the bad, fluorescent lighting and the isolating ambiance was taking away my concentration, motivation, and productivity, I was ignored.

I decided to stick with a year, instead of risking to appear like a job hopper on my resume. One of the biggest lessons I learned at the ad agency was how external stimuli can impact the way we think and behave, including our productive work habits.

According to Haworth’s research, companies need to provide different spaces to foster innovation at work. Offices tend to promote only one kind of work – they are either, open and collaborative, or they’re highly segmented. Modern workplace design is all about finding the right balance between these two types of spaces.


In a white paper titled Optimizing the Workplace for Innovation: Using brain Science for Smart Design, Haworth’s team looks at how modern workplace design can increase productivity.

In order to facilitate all four stages of cognition, a workplace must be designed to support all of the brain’s neural network. The salience network monitors external and internal stimuli and organizes priorities. The default network forms creative insight particularly when emotions and engagement are low. The executive control network develops innovative ideas in response to focus work.

Focus at work requires a controlled space, with physical barriers that provide refuge from external distractions. Abundant natural light is proven to improve focus, as is having control over lighting and temperature within the building.

Oftentimes, we need time to clear out the head. One cannot expect the brain to give that many ideas while doing routine work. For micro-breaks, companies must design a workplace where individuals can move freely for some time for restoration. The ideal restorative space can be informal with great visuals and objects for inspiration. Visual access to a green outdoor space is also beneficial.

An ideal workplace design is the one which enhances focus, restorative activities, and provides its employees the right tools for knowledge sharing. In addition to creating a workplace which enhances focus on concentration, one must also create a space which fosters creativity and knowledge sharing.

The white paper also advises that movement within the organization should be encouraged. This goes in two ways: one is across internal groups, and the other is with people external to the organization. The movement encourages interactions that foster knowledge sharing and learning with different groups of people.

This is not to say that a great office design is a solution to every problem in your office. But, a smart workplace design can enhance one’s company culture and foster optimal creative performance within the organization. When a great workplace culture and office design are misaligned, things start to get hazy. In order to support all sorts of personality types, it’s best to create a workplace that provides for all of these behaviors and ways of thinking.

Via The Globe And Mail : How to cut out drama in the workplace to improve results

Those are five core beliefs shared by Cy Wakeman in No Ego, a book about how individuals create drama and discord in the workplace – rather than constructive collaboration – by operating out of ego.

Originally a therapist who moved into workplace consulting, she was struck by how conventional leadership approaches were missing this element.

At times, the approaches fed ego – and not just those of top leaders, but also anyone in the ranks resisting feedback and grumbling about how wrong everything around them is.

Sound exaggerated? Ms. Wakeman says we continually stoke drama in the workplace, creating “emotional waste.”

She gives this quick example: The boss asks how you are doing on a project. You indicate you’re a bit behind and she encourages you to try to catch up as soon as possible. Good-willed collaboration? Probably, but chances are you might create a different story around that interaction, about a micromanaging boss or a superior always hounding and mistrusting you, particularly when you’re overly busy.

Ms. Wakeman surveyed human resources experts and employees, finding that emotional waste – stewing in our stories, arguing with reality – chews up 2 1/2 hours a day. Such surveys have their faults, but no doubt your experience suggests emotional waste is real and higher than desired.

“Ego is not your amigo,” Ms. Wakeman says in an interview. “Ego is a distorted filter of the world, judging and creating motive. It’s like wearing a bad pair of prescription glasses. Stop believing what you think.

“You aren’t what you think. You aren’t even the one doing the thinking.”

Dealing with this as a supervisor or team leader revolves around two more aphorisms she has developed as core beliefs you need to adopt:

  • The impact of a leader does not come from what he or she tells team members but from what he or she gets them thinking about.
  • Engagement without accountability creates entitlement.

You should push for self-reflection by team members or subordinates. Instead of giving them answers and directions – actions you probably think leadership requires, but only provoke egotistical reactions – the questions deftly sidestep their ego. The questions get them pondering how they might improve, instead of creating more stories to defend against change. “Ego keeps us from growing and self-reflection,” Ms. Wakeman says.

Here are some questions that can help:

  • What do you know for sure?
  • What would be most helpful in this situation?
  • What could you do next that would add value?
  • What could you do right now to help?
  • Would you rather be right or happy?
  • What is helpful in this situation – your expertise or your opinion?
  • How could we make this work?

“Collaboration and engagement are natural states when you get the ego out,” Ms. Wakeman says. Stay away from questions with “why” or “who” in them, which usually ignite ego, and the accompanying stories of misery with inevitable emotional waste. You can instead ask those questions of yourself, disrupting your own ego.

Before you judge someone else, take the lead for improvement. If a colleague tends to be uncommunicative, start the conversations first yourself. Keep your heart and mind open.

As an example, she says, “you could have voted for Trump and my mind closes. If I open my heart, it helps. I might learn that you are worried about your job.” When you find yourself suspicious about other people’s motives or behaviour, it’s probably a signal to examine your own intentions and behaviour.

If somebody gives you troubling feedback, instead of developing a story of why it’s wrong, embrace the feedback as true and see if that helps you to improve.

She says leaders today are overly concerned about engagement, believing that if they create perfect circumstances for employees those folks will give the gift of work. But engagement is a choice. It’s a choice usually made by people who are highly accountable for their work and feel they can be productive and contribute whatever the situation. But our engagement surveys lead us to pay too much attention to people who don’t have a sense of accountability for improving their circumstances. Foster accountability through questions that encourage self-reflection, and you’ll get more engagement.

More generally, do your share to cut your workplace drama. Apply her insights on reducing or bypassing ego.

Via Workplace Insight : Nine out of ten employees believe flexible working is key to boosting productivity

Data published by HSBC claims that flexible and remote working practices are more likely than financial incentives to motivate staff and ultimately increase workplace productivity. A study of British businesses and employees found that nine in ten employees surveyed (89 percent) consider flexible working to be a key motivator to their productivity levels within the workplace – a view shared equally among male and female employees (87 percent and 90 percent respectively) – and more so than financial incentives (77 percent). Alongside this, 81 percent of workers who can work remotely believe this opportunity helps them to improve their productivity, making a clear link between flexible working cultures and increased business productivity levels.

Regions where flexible working is more popular, such as London (where 30 percent of workers have the option) and the South East (32 percent), generally see the highest levels of productivity in the UK (where productivity, as defined by the ONS, is calculated as output per worker or output per hour worked ). In contrast, only 18 percent of employees in Wales, where productivity levels are lower, are offered the opportunity to work flexible hours – suggesting that companies providing a better work life balance may be paving the way for a more productive workforce as employees feel more motivated.

The most productive sector – the professional services industry – is the most likely to offer employees flexible hours, with 36 percent of professional services employees saying it is available to them. Whereas, in the retail, hospitality and leisure industry, where one in four workers (24 percent) are not offered benefits or perks of any kind (including flexible working), productivity is lowest. In Q2 2017 output per hour stood at just £23.00 in this sector (significantly lower than the national average of £32.20) while the sector with the highest output per hour, professional services, had an average of £68.10 per hour.

The study also highlights a disparity between the working style options employees believe to be most motivating and those that they are offered – as the vast majority of employees who are currently offered flexible working believe it motivates them, yet less than a third (30 percent) of business offer it. The deficit is most apparent in the manufacturing industry where nearly all employees currently offered the benefit (91 percent) believe the opportunity to work more flexibly would improve their motivation and productivity at work, yet less than a quarter (23 percent) have the option.

Far from being an attitude associated only with younger workers, flexible working is valued most by 35-44 year olds of whom 59 percent value the opportunity ‘a great deal’, compared to just 47 percent of millennials (under 35s). Suggesting cash isn’t always king, good workplace culture was cited as being crucial to improving workplace productivity, while more than half of employees (53 percent) believe work they find interesting boosts their productivity levels. Furthermore, almost one on five (18 percent) employees cite poor work life balance as a reason for leaving their last job – a problem many companies could address with flexible working.