How to improve efficiency in business seems to be an age-old question with many possible answers. Varied office cultures and business models mean there won’t be a one-size-fits-all type of answer. However, generally, you want your office to practice streamlined operations and employ self-directed and skilled workers.
The following are 8 suggestions to improve company operations, thus improving office efficiency and reduced operational costs.
1. Create a Welcoming Workspace
Don’t forget that your workers are people that deliver their best work in relaxed environments. The office doesn’t have to be the happiest place in the world, but at the very least, it should be pleasant enough to inspire productivity. Creating a welcoming workspace is a simple first step to take when improving office efficiency. Here are a few ideas for uplifting spirits in the office:
- Beautify common areas—Make walking into work exciting by sprucing up the interior design of the lobby and break rooms. Plants, artwork, or updated furniture can do the trick.
- Let them bring pets to work—Interacting with animals has been shown to decrease stress levels. Pet-friendly offices create a comfortable environment and often have happier and more productive employees.
- Foster friendships— developing bonds between colleagues promotes teamwork and improves communication. This can be achieved by hosting office socials or starting out meetings with short icebreakers.
2. Modernize Your Mailroom
Generally, when looking for ways to improve office efficiency, the mailroom is overlooked. However, the increased popularity of online purchases has created new problems that need addressing, including overflowing office mailrooms.
Frequent online shoppers have realized that shipping packages to their homes is no longer as convenient as it once was; if no one is home to receive the package, it can be rerouted to the post office for pick up, or it can be stolen if left out on their doorstep. This is why many people are choosing to ship their online purchases to their office where they can easily pick it up during the day, and avoid potential delays or theft.
Traditional mailrooms are not equipped to handle this large volume of deliveries which is why modernizing your mailroom is a must. Integrating self-service electronic parcel lockers takes the burden off of property managers, mailroom staff and employees. Employees are notified via text, email, or app when their package is securely stored in a locker. They can retrieve it at their earliest convenience by entering their unique access code.
Parcel lockers provide a solution to office inefficiencies by:
- Eliminating the time-wasting process of accepting, logging, sorting and distributing packages.
- Improving office space utilization
- Reducing package delivery times
- Giving employees one less thing to worry about
3. Invest in Training and Development
Learning on the job may be effective for highly acute workers, but for most people, learning via experience is inefficient. If you find yourself constantly answering simple questions, correcting errors, or noticing below-standard task completion, you likely need to invest more in employee training and development. After all, a well-trained workforce is the foundation for enhanced office productivity.
It really is worth it to spend a day or two guiding employees through what is expected of them and teaching them the necessary skills for their job. Their subsequent self-sufficiency will more than for the productivity lost to the training day.
Growth shouldn’t stop after orientation; you can support employee development by offering individual coaching, shadowing or mentoring opportunities, or even just gradually introducing them to greater responsibility. Additionally, you can encourage them to attend seminars, courses, or workshops that are relevant to their work. Not only will investing in your employees improve office efficiency, but it will also improve employee satisfaction.
Employees that consistently perform their duties well may be up for a new challenge: cross-training. the cross-training strategy broadens workers skillset and increases overall team productivity. Business flow can fall apart when an employee with special skills calls in sick or takes time off for vacation, but cross-trained workers are equipped to fill in. This is also useful during busy periods when multiple people may be needed to complete a project.
An added bonus is that workers who are bored with their daily duties can become re-energized by learning something new. They may even discover they excel in this area, boosting their confidence along with workplace productivity.
4. Make Your Goals SMART
In any context, goal setting is imperative for teams to produce results. Your favorite football team collectively understands which goal they’re aiming for; your office should be managed the same way. If a goal is unclear or unattainable then employees will be less productive.
Get the greatest utility out of your goals by making them SMART: specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely.
- Specific—The narrower the goal, the easier it can be understood. Employees should know exactly what you expect from them and the intended impact of their efficiency at work.
- Measurable—If the goal isn’t measurable, how will you know when you have achieved it? Assign objective key performance indicators to your goal so that you can track your progress towards it.
- Attainable— Don’t waste time chasing a goal that isn’t within your power to achieve. Craft a challenging goal that adds value to your work but doesn’t set your team up for failure. If it doesn’t seem realistic, reevaluate the specifics.
- Relevant— Make sure the goal is worthwhile by asking how it will contribute to your office’s overarching mission.
- Timely—Give your workers a deadline to meet the goal so that it isn’t perpetually pushed to the bottom of their to-do lists. Setting short-term goals is essential to work towards long-term goals. However, be careful not to make your short-term goals too short-term because it will only hurt morale if your team repeatedly misses deadlines.
5. Communicate Clearly
Communication has been streamlined so much by technology that it can feel like your office correspondences are impeccable. Sure you can deliver your message within seconds via email, but is your message being conveyed accurately? Is email even the best channel of communication? In order to improve office efficiency, you should carefully review your communication style.
In some workplaces, it has been found that reading and responding to emails takes up roughly a quarter of workers’ shifts. This means it is the most time-consuming activity right after actual job-specific tasks. To optimize the flow of information try these suggestions:
- Be clear about how you want your message responded to. Are you asking for a thought out response or will a quick confirmation of receipt do the job? Perhaps you are only sending out a reminder and no action is required. Communicate that so workers can focus their time on other tasks.
- Turn to social networking tools, like Slack, for faster, casual responses. Rely on emails for sharing large files or announcing formal information.
- Revert to good ol’ fashioned verbal conversations. There may not be an electronic script to refer back to but sometimes a quick meeting or phone call can take care of business faster than email threads can. Tone is also an important element that is lost when communicating via electronic messages.
Keep Meetings Focused
When conducting meetings, be sure to be straight to the point. Workers lose precious time by being stuck in unproductive meetings. Draw up an agenda and stick to it to make sure you convey your message in the most efficient manner. Bonus: hold stand-up meetings which feel more like team huddles than sit-downs. Not only are they healthier, but they also deter long-winded talks. When your legs start tiring, you’ll know that you have exhausted your meeting time.
6. Encourage Feedback
It may seem obvious, but workers will increase their efficiencies when they are informed of how they are being inefficient. This is why feedback is crucial. Performance reviews are useful in assessing employees’ strengths and weaknesses. When providing individualized feedback don’t make the mistake of only pointing out inefficiencies; criticism must be constructive so be sure to include guidance on how they can improve their performance. Don’t forget to also praise your employees for the work they excel in.
Office efficiency is not completely determined by your worker’s productivity—you should be asking yourself what you can do to manage more effectively. Pinpointing areas of self-improvement can be difficult, especially when you feel that you are putting forth your best effort. Even the most experienced professionals benefit from advice.
The answer here is to receive feedback from your employees. After reviewing their performance, give them the chance to express what they would like to see more of from you. At first, employees may be shy when offering feedback, or they may not want to offend you. Here are a few questions you can ask to ease them into the conversation:
- Are there certain tasks you like more guidance on?
- Do you prefer working with greater creative freedom?
- Are there any issues in the office that haven’t been addressed? Or if they were addressed, were you happy with the solution provided?
Answers to these questions will give you a better understanding of how you can contribute to improved office efficiency. They also encourage a culture of open dialogue.
7. Strategically Delegate
Delegating is fundamental for running a business and it’s often equated with assigning tasks to workers. However, strategic delegating is more thoughtful, requires more planning, and results in greater productivity.
Play to Their Strengths
An extreme example of skill-task mismatch would be asking your lead data analyst to make coffee runs. You wouldn’t delegate something to an employee if that task didn’t fit their job description, and you also shouldn’t give assignments that don’t fit their skill sets. Take advantage of your employees’ strengths to maximize office efficiency. For example, your creative and extroverted employee may be great at pitching new ideas to clients whereas tasks with stringent guidelines prove challenging for them.
Trust in Your Employees
A common cause of inefficiencies is micromanagement. It’s important to review employee performance to ensure high-quality work but highly scrutinizing all their activity is more harmful than helpful. Trust that they are prepared and allow them space to do their job. You can delegate quality control to your workers. Not only will you be able to focus on more important business, but your employees will also learn how to self-assess their work and develop greater personal drive.
8. Reward Efficiency
Reinforce productive behavior by providing incentives to your employees. Hard work should be rewarded by more than just a paycheck. This will motivate continued productivity as well as prevent worker burnout. Traditionally, pay bonuses and promotions were the way to recognize a job well done. However, you can make workers feel appreciated with more sustainable methods. Consider these ideas:
- Throw project wrap parties to unwind after surviving crunch time.
- Offer concert tickets or seats at local sporting events to your most productive employees
- Award additional paid time off
- Bring in special breakfast treats after productive early meetings and energize sluggish mornings
- Organize friendly competitions between colleagues
- Host lunch, dinner, or happy hour outings
- Share their success with YOUR boss. CC’ing your boss in the thank you email can strengthen your employees’ pride in their work.
- Tailor your show of appreciation to individuals. Some prefer public recognition while others value a private “thank you” or handwritten note.
Get creative with these and shower your employees with praise when they deserve it. The more satisfied your workers are, the more dedicated and productive they will be.
The Bottom Line
There are many different strategies you can use to improve office efficiency. A review of the ones suggested here are:
- Create welcoming workspaces
- Modernize your mailroom
- Invest in training and development
- Make your goals SMART
- Communicate clearly
- Encourage feedback
- Strategically delegate
- Reward Efficiency
You don’t need to implement all of them at once, but try a few at a time to see how your office can benefit from the changes. Perhaps only one implementation will streamline productivity and boost efficiency in a way you never thought possible. The fact is this: improving office efficiency usually boils down to gradual, subtle changes. But first, it starts with you.