The top productivity killers at work are just as expected: cellphones, the Internet and gossip, according to a CareerBuilder survey examining 2,175 responses in March.
Unfortunately, employers can’t control these activities without resort to micromanaging with no-phone policies, monitoring Internet use and discouraging office talk. Instead, they should develop new ways to keep employees focused and engaged while allowing them the breathing room they need.
Here are some ways managers can help improve employee focus without micromanaging and restricting their freedom:
1. Balance employee togetherness and privacy.
Workers who are most satisfied with their work environment are also the most engaged, according to a Steelcase study, surveying 10,500 workers globally. Of the most highly engaged workers surveyed, 98 percent said their work environment allows them to concentrate easily and 95 percent said they can work in teams without being interrupted.
The once-popular open office trend may be on its way out as leaders see a lack of focus among employees forced to share the same space and collaborate constantly. But, the traditional office model isn’t the answer either.
Create a workspace with a balance of collaboration spaces and private offices, so employees can limit distractions when they choose to perform more effectively.
2. Let employees choose where they work.
Steelcase’s study also found 88 percent of the happiest, most highly engaged workers can choose to work anywhere they want within the office, depending on their task.
Not all tasks require employees to be in a specific place to be completed -- especially if the work can be done digitally with a laptop. Give employees the freedom to choose where they want to work within the office.
Create different spaces throughout the office. For example, think about including elements seen in a coffee shop like a community table, sofas and comfortable chairs. Or, alternatively, let employees work from home one day each week.
3. Invest in wearable tech.
Unsurprisingly, 58 percent of employees said they would use wearable tech if it enabled them to do their job better, and 67 percent admitted the presence of wearables in the office would make them feel curious, according to Cornerstone’s State of Workplace Productivity Report, examining responses of 1,029 U.S. employees in August 2013.
Wearables have received a lot of uproar since their release into the working world. Regardless of their impact on productivity itself, their impact on engagement is proof they’re an important addition to the office.
Consider letting the team use a wearable device, like a smartwatch or RFID badge, to show employees management is invested in helping them use their time more efficiently.
4. Use apps.
On a tight budget, wearables may be out of the question. If this is the case, invest in apps. In fact, apps are so important to employees, they’re willing to invest their own money to use them. Cornerstone’s report found 57 percent of employees would purchase apps to use for work.
Choose apps that are easy to use and provide convenient access to information employees need consistently on the job. Use at least one app to facilitate collaboration -- 40 percent surveyed by Cornerstone said collaborating with others is one of the most important benefits of workplace apps.
For example, check out Argo. This app connects people across an organization and uses “small data” to help them understand how their work influences other departments.
5. Create a mindfulness at work program.
Meditating to relieve stress isn’t a new concept, but research shows exactly how practicing mindfulness at work benefits employees.
In Sodexo’s Mindfulness At Work Report, which analyzed findings from studies conducted 2009-2013 among 48,000 employees, mindfulness programs resulted in nearly a 37 percent improvement in stress, 22 percent better sleep and nearly 47 percent higher productivity among participants.
The numbers speak for themselves. Employers should make stress-reducing initiatives like these a priority.
Create a mindfulness program at work. Invest in a company gym membership and incorporate a few classes into employees’ work schedules. Or create a fitness room and hire a yoga instructor to visit the office weekly. If those options aren’t feasible, simply block off meditation time for employees and encourage them to participate.