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5 ways to help employees work smarter not harder

Would you rather have an employee who spends 60 hours a week in the office, or one who can accomplish the same amount of work in half the time? It’s a no brainer

Enabling your team to work smarter rather than harder not only increases productivity but can also prevent staff from getting stressed or burning out.

But how can you help make sure your team is in the best position possible to do this? Here are a few ideas…

1. Organise and prioritise workloads

Many people steam headlong into the day without a clear plan of action, so it’s worth getting everyone to set aside 10 or 15 minutes at the start of the day or the end of the previous day to set some targets. Work out what absolutely has to get done and what can be put on the backburner.

While giving employees a big pile of work and telling them to get it done ‘asap’ inevitably happens, it’s more helpful (and less stressful for your employee) if you can set some realistic deadlines. That way, they’ll know what to prioritise.

It’s up to them whether they write out a to-do list or even use a Gantt chart, as long as the work gets done when it’s needed.

2. Encourage good communication

Consider this – a diligent worker might spend an hour trawling the internet to find an answer to a question or problem. A smart worker will ask a colleague first. If they know the answer, it’s a five-minute job instead of an hour-long one.

Create an atmosphere where everyone feels comfortable asking questions, no matter how ridiculous they might seem.

And ask those who do the job on a day-to-day basis for their ideas on how procedures can be improved.

3. Offer flexible working

Different people work best at different times. Some are early risers who can be highly productive in the morning but start flagging by the afternoon, while others are night owls who are better at working later.

If it’s practical to offer flexible working in your office, allow employees to work hours that better suit them. This will not only boost productivity but boost health too.

A recent study1 showed that employees who don’t have the option to work flexibly are twice as likely to experience work-related stress than those with flexible workdays.

4. Give them the right tools for the job

With the right technology in place, many menial tasks and admin jobs can be automated to free up time for brainstorming and new projects. Identify where time is being wasted and where processes can be streamlined so work can be delivered faster.

Make sure computer systems are up to date, and use automated software that’s flexible and easy to implement.

Be open to ideas from your employees on technology that will help them get the job done. For example, while email may be the ‘go to’ way to communicate with those not physically in the office, there are now lots of communication tools like Slack and Trello that enable remote teams to work together in a very effective, efficient and cohesive manner. Again, if it works for your team and it doesn’t blow the budget, consider trialling it.

5. Tackle workplace distractions

It’s human nature for people to be constantly flicking backwards and forwards between projects, emails and social media sites. But it wastes an awful lot of time and energy.

Udemy’s 2018 Workplace Distraction report2 shows that 36% of millennials and Generation Z employees spend two hours or more of their working day checking their smartphones, and it can take them up to half an hour to refocus.

Adopting some anti-distraction measures can help employees concentrate better. Encourage them to:

  • Have one or two dedicated times a day to check and respond to emails, instead of checking them as they come in
  • Turn off notifications from social media sites
  • Wear headphones if they need a period of intense concentration

1 Employees who aren’t allowed to work flexibly are twice as likely to experience stress at work, Britain’s Healthiest Workplace, VitalityHealth, 18 April 2018,
2 2018 Workplace Distraction Report, Udemy In Depth, 2018, Page 4

Topics: Insider