Productivity in the office is a difficult problem to solve. Obviously, the more work your employees can get done, the more value they'll have for your business, and the more profitable your business will be. But increasing that level of productivity is anything but a simple matter. It's impossible to force your employees to work harder, and imposing strict rules can actually hurt productivity and morale more than it helps. Other traditional means of incentivizing productivity, such as offering raises or bonuses, cost money and compromise the financial benefits increased productivity would have in the first place.

The key to increasing productivity in your workforce is making your employees want to work harder. That's the primary reasoning behind these seven effective productivity strategies:

1. Have social outings. Social outings as a company do two things that increase the productivity of the entire office. First, they serve as a break. Even if you're only going out for a 30 minute lunch, it forces your employees to get away from the office and relax their minds. This fosters a culture that tolerates as well as encourages breaks, which can actually lead to greater productivity. Second, they serve as a means for the team to get to know each other better. When your employees are more comfortable around each other, and when they feel like they're a part of a mutual family, they're going to collaborate better and work harder for the greater good.

2. Get involved directly without interfering. As the supervisor or boss, you're going to serve as a role model for your employees. Demonstrate the importance of hard work by getting involved directly whenever you can. Get on the ground floor and help your employees with their tasks, whether that's on an advisory or executive level. It's going to show that you're willing to get in the thick of things yourself, and showcases the importance of the work being done. Be careful, though--interfering with or overriding your employee's individual directives can cause a drop in morale that will reverse the positive productive effects.

3. Allow working from home. For many years, bosses feared allowing employees to work from home. It was thought that workers would be continuously distracted, unable or unwilling to focus on their work responsibilities as appropriate. Today, with the level of immediate communication available, that fear is no longer relevant. Workers are more than capable of getting their work done at home, and many are even more effective when they have more control over their working style. If you're worried about the effects this will have on your overall productivity, consider implementing it for a trial run. You've got nothing to lose in trying it.

4. Institute flexible hours. The straightforward run of 9 to 5 has been a touchstone for generations, but it's not the most effective schedule for many workers. Some get started early in the morning, thinking their clearest at 7 or 8, while others don't usually get going until midday, closer to around noon. Instituting flexible hours would allow each individual worker to discover the working range that works best for him/her, simultaneously increasing productivity and satisfaction. There may be a few more gaps in lines of communication for your workers, but they'll all be working in the way that suits them best.

5. Get rid of meetings. Meetings are productivity killers. While there are meetings that end up getting actual tasks completed, they are an exception to the rule. Most meetings are filled with updates, reiterations, and discussions, very few of which are used in any practical way. If you gather 12 employees together for a one-hour meeting, you're essentially wasting 12 hours of cumulative company time. If you have something urgent to tell your workers, email it or talk to them individually as appropriate. Don't waste time with overly formalized sit-downs; once you stop, you'll notice your productivity begin to rise.

6. Be transparent with your goals. Don't hold anything back from your employees. Fully disclose your long-term plans and big picture ideas. Being transparent with these is going to do two things. First, it's going to cultivate an environment of mutual trust, which will inspire your employees to work harder on your behalf. Second, you'll reveal the true purpose for all your requests and directions, which will make your employees' work feel more significant and therefore more satisfying.

7. Celebrate small victories. Reward your employees for a job well done. This is an important tenet in any business, but when applied nontraditionally, it can have a profound effect on employee productivity. For example, instead of giving year-end salary raises and bonuses, focus on immediate rewards--celebrate small victories whenever your employees accomplish something of value for your company. Small gestures, like a pat on the back or the public announcement of an achievement, can go a long way in helping your employees feel valued and appreciated.

If you really want to increase the productivity of your office, stop trying so hard to increase productivity. That may sound counterintuitive, but what you're really trying to do here is make a better environment for your workers. Once your workers are happy in an environment that allows them to do their best, they'll not only perform to their greatest potential, they'll want to perform to their greatest potential. From there, all you'll have to do is keep that environment strong.

Published on: May 28, 2015