If we say that the UK is in the midst of a silent epidemic, “productivity” might not be the first thought that immediately springs to mind. However, the truth is that 86% of UK small businesses say that they struggle with productivity. The reason we all should care is that flatlining or falling productivity makes it harder to raise wages, improve company structures, and grow overall as a business.

It’s a bit of a worrying statistic. Research also suggests that two-fifths of small business owners don’t know what “productivity” really means in practice, making productivity issues difficult to pull up at their root. So what does it mean to be more productive, and how can small businesses boost their output?

Boosting productivity isn’t about how many hours you spend in the office. Productivity is about working smart and doing good, all in the most efficient manner possible. So in the spirit of said efficiency, here are just four suggestions for boosting business productivity, from an individual through to a company-wide level.

Technology

It’s no secret that technology is making it markedly easier to organise your finances, your timetable, even how you order your lunch. Streamlining these processes improves productivity by giving you more time to focus on more important tasks. There are numerous apps like Toggl which can make it simple to measure what you spend your time working on, whilst widely available cloud-based calendar services such as Google Calendar allow you to share your timetable with everyone in your business, reducing the amount of time you spend coordinating meetings and phone-calls.

RELATED: Technology and small business – a brief guide on what it’s good to know

Delegation

Productivity suffers when one person does a wide array of unspecified jobs. Meanwhile, delegating gives your employees a sense of autonomy and ownership of their work, which in turn will boost the quality of their output. Encouraging employee-led innovation initiatives, like reward programmes such as Bonusly, also often improves the quality of cross-team collaboration, so that your delegated task is fully supported within your business.

The process of delegating also requires sitting down and working out what tasks on your list need to be done, and when. By knowing where you’ve been spending too much time (see apps like Toggl), you can boost your productivity further, delegating these hassle tasks off your plate entirely.

Green, leafy plants have been proven to improve employee mood, and as a result increase productivity

Environment and workplace culture

Creating a beautiful office has its benefits. Green, leafy plants have been proven to improve employee mood, and as a result increase productivity. Open plan spaces and apps like Slack or Microsoft Teams make it easier to share ideas faster, encouraging a constant stream of thinking-out-loud. Creating a welcoming space will also make your employees feel more at ease, and encourage them to work to the best of their ability. It’s an age old truth that being enthusiastic about where you work will feed into staff motivation, boosting employee-welfare and productivity at the same time.

Transparency and trust

Being honest with your employees about the status of the business will increase their trust and investment in the business’s goals. Increasing common ground and opening lines of communication will improve productivity through sharing goals and targets. Sharing setbacks also allows for crowd problem-solving, as well as keeping everyone informed. If you’ve not heard of it before, the concept of Radical Candor is well worth checking out as it outlines a strikingly fresh blueprint by which staff can communicate with one each other honestly and productively.

Government research suggests small businesses have more ‘people problems’ than skills problems. Offering your employees the opportunity to try flexible working is one way to boost productivity. By trusting your employees to manage their own schedule, working from home or with more flexible hours, you can decrease tardiness and absenteeism. After all, as the old saying goes, work expands the time allowed.

Flexible working also lets you prioritise the things that you value most. 58% of small business owners say that spending time with their families in the evening is crucial to their effectiveness and productivity as a team leader. Letting your employees do their work when they are at their most effective will certainly improve the work they do too.

These are just four suggestions for how to boost employee productivity. Read next: 5 tips for accountant time-management (and any other business owner)

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