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How to Take a Scientific Approach to Improving Employee Productivity

MindWorks

A Guest Blog by Rae Steinbach of 15five.com

 

Although our digital devices have certainly made life more convenient, they’ve also made it more fast-paced. This is particularly evident in the way we approach work and what we appreciate in our work culture. It seems like more employees feel the need to be more productive in their jobs these days because they are connected to their office 24 hours a day. They are checking email constantly, working much more than 40 hours a week, and always looking for ways to increase efficiency at work both in and outside of the office.

On the one hand, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to get more done in less time. On the other, many workers seem to think that chugging coffee and skipping sleep are the best ways to accomplish these types of goals.

Those strategies might work in the short run, but in the long run, they lead to burnout. That’s why it’s important for team leaders to implement productivity strategies that are actually rooted in legitimate studies and evidence. The following methods have been proven to help people get more done with their day when used in conjunction with performance feedback strategies.

 

Neuroplasticity

For a long time, conventional wisdom stated that once the brain had developed to a certain point, it became essentially impossible for a person to improve their mental prowess. Thanks to groundbreaking research in the field of neuroplasticity, we now realize this isn’t the case.

For instance, a person suffering from anxiety or work-related stress might take up meditation in order to find some peace during the day. Researchers have discovered that over time, meditation actually changes the brain structure, making a person naturally more resilient to stress.

Business leaders can apply this principle to the way in which they manage their employees. By offering positive leadership and healthy environments, they can create a space where people feel less pressured to get everything done fast.

Ironically, doing so will most likely help employees accomplish more. Over time, their brains will adjust and they won’t be as anxious about being productive. Instead, they’ll be able to focus more mental energy on the task at hand.

 

Frontal Lobe Innovation

The human brain consists of three major structures: the reptilian brain, limbic brain, and the frontal lobe.

The reptilian brain regulates basic processes like breathing and heart rate. The limbic brain is associated with emotions, aggression, and similar qualities.

The frontal lobe, which is unique to humans, allows us to think creatively and innovate. However, it’s very difficult to access this part of the brain when you’re stressed. Anxiety keeps us locked in the limbic section, unable to fulfill our mental potential.

This is another reason why team leaders who value productivity should focus on creating stress-free environments for their workers. You want your employees to be able to access their frontal lobes easily. When they can, they’ll come up with better solutions and more efficient approaches to their work.

 

Hack Your Rhythm

Here’s a familiar scene: an employee checks their email on their phone before they even reach their desk, then arrives at work and spends hours jumping back and forth between projects, rarely stopping for a break.

They may look like they’re getting a lot done, but humans aren’t meant to work at that kind of pace. We’re much more effective when we model our work schedule after our circadian rhythm.

Most people go to sleep at relatively the same time every night. Your body has a natural rhythm, and it knows when it’s time for rest. This is true at all times, even at work. Instead of plowing through work nonstop for hours, you’re much more productive in the long run if you work for about 90 minutes at a time, followed by a period of rest.

Taking breaks every hour and a half may make an employee look lazy, but they’ll actually get more done if they’re able to mentally unplug every so often. Encourage your workers to get into a healthier rhythm – It will pay off in terms of greater productivity, efficiency, and improved morale.

 

Flow States

In his book Flow, Mihaly Csikszentmihaly posited that human beings are most productive when they’re in what he referred to as “flow-states”: a state of being in which a person is so focused on their current task that time seems to fly.

There are certain conditions that allow a person to enter flow. The task must be challenging enough that they don’t get bored, but not so challenging that they’re discouraged. There needs to be some form of regular feedback that lets them know if they’ve made any progress. There also must be a clear set of goals.

In flow, people are vastly more productive than they normally are. That’s why it’s important for team leaders to organize tasks in a manner that facilitates this state:

  • Give employees duties that are suited to their specific talents.
  • Make sure they understand what the goals are.
  • Establish a feedback mechanism.

 

Although it may take some time and planning to arrange tasks so that they meet flow-state conditions, it will be worth the effort. As a leader, your role involves making sure employees have the resources they need to be as productive as possible.