Employee Productivity: 5 Myths and 10 Ways to Boost It

Find out how you can improve employee productivity in your company by utilizing the right methods and avoiding common productivity myths.

January 18, 2021 By Sara Ana Cemazar Share on Twitter! Share on Facebook! Share on LinkedIn!


Employee productivity is sometimes a subject of contradictive positions. While employers believe employee productivity should be enhanced, employees often feel overwhelmed by the number of tasks they must perform. 

Luckily, there has been a lot of research with employee productivity in mind. HR leaders are realizing that there are no quick fixes to it and are investing more resources than ever to improve employee productivity in their companies. 

👔 Read on to find out what are common misconceptions related to employee productivity and what are some of the most effective ways to improve it. Before you start, get these 16 questions that employees use to evaluate employers for an illuminating change of perspective on your place of work. 

The Hard Truth about Employee Productivity 

Working hours are usually 8 hours per day, or 40 hours per week on average. However, there is more research than ever showing that are employees are productive for way less than 8 hours per day. 

A research done on 2000 respondents in the UK states that employees are productive for 2 hours and 53 minutes per day. Shocking, right? However, when you consider all the distractions of a modern workplace, it starts to make sense. 47% of employees say they check social media when they should be working, and 45% read news websites.  

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Moreover, research by Trello found that people working 8-hour days complete the same or less amount of work than people working a 6-hour day. This research on Scandinavian working culture, famous for its 6-hours working days, mentions Parkinson’s Law. It states that work is expanded to fill the time that is allocated for its termination. In simpler terms, people take more time to finish some tasks simply because there is more time left to do it. 

That being said, it does not mean that employees should be punished for not being as productive as they can be. In fact, research on positive employee feedback found that the best ratio of positive to negative feedback is 5:1 if you want optimal levels of employee productivity. 

employee productivity

Employee Productivity Myths 

As it has been and still is a subject of employers’ and HR professionals’ interest, many theories about employee productivity were created. Fortunately, research in the last decade has helped to disprove faulty myths related to employee productivity and confirm some findings based in research. 

Here are some of the most famous employee productivity myths that, unfortunately, some professionals still hold true. 

Employee productivity myth #1:
Remote work makes employees less 
productive 

Many employers still believe that employees would do less or poorer work when left unsupervised and physically remote. However, many researches lately have disputed this way of thinkingIn a 2019 study, Airtasker’s study found no difference in the quality of work between remote and in-office employees. Moreover, 65% of remote workers feel more productive away from the office. 

If employers haven’t been persuaded into benefits of remote work so far, in-office working restrictions during 2020 must have proven them otherwise. This is why even after the pandemic, over 80% of companies plan to permit remote work. 

employee productivity

Employee productivity myth #2:
Employee productivity is measured by time spent working 

Do you believe that employees that work longer hours are more productive? This is not necessarily true. The fact is that it takes different amount of time to finish the same task for different employees. The time employees spend working and finishing a task depends on their motivation, training and more. 

However, most of employees’ jobs are different from their peers, and it would be wrong to compare employee productivity on completely different tasks. Instead, employees’ work should be goal oriented. Every employee should have its own objectives and their deadlines should be devised in accordance with their managers. By taking the complexity of task in mind, it helps employees to organize themselves better, prevents procrastinating and maximizes employee productivity. 

Employee productivity myth #3:
Employee productivity is best incentivized by monetary rewards
 

Yes, employee motivation has the greatest influence over employee productivity above all other factors. However, employees can be intrinsically and extrinsically motivated to do their jobs.  

When employees are intrinsically motivated, they don’t necessarily need tangible rewards to improve their productivity. Instead, non-monetary recognition is a better way to revive that initial intrinsic spark they had. 

👔 Read our piece on impact of recognition on learning and development to understand this phenomenon better. 

Employee productivity myth #4:
Micromanagement is conducive to employee productivity 

Many managers still believe that micromanagement is helpful to employees. However, this could not be further from the truth. Just as letting your employees figure out what, when and how they are supposed to do something, micromanaging their jobs is also not useful to improve employee productivity. 

In fact, 71% of employees said that micromanagement interfered with their job performance. Moreover, 69% said they considered changing jobs because of it. Therefore, advise your managers to adapt their management style to give more freedom to their subordinates and make them feel empowered to tackle the workload the way they see best. 

employee productivity

Employee productivity myth #5:
Employee productivity cannot be trained
 

One of most damaging employee productivity myths out there is that employees are productive or unproductive by nature. Dividing people into “lazy” and “hardworking” categories is a plain mistake that can get you thinking that employee productivity cannot be trained and improved. 

On the contrary! There is a myriad of techniques to improve employee productivity, starting with getting to know your employees better and asking them what could help them be more productive. In the next section, you will find out how you can encourage and train employee productivity. 

How to Encourage Employee Productivity 

Now that we explained most common employee productivity misconceptions, it is time to offer solutions to increase and encourage employee productivity. This section offers a number of techniques that have a proven positive effect on employee productivity. However, every company’s workforce is different. Therefore, it is responsibility of every HR leader to find out what are biggest “productivity stealers” for their employees and to apply techniques that would work best to address this issue. 

That being said, employee productivity is usually not a single-factor issue. It often takes a combination of methods to improve employee productivity, and these methods will usually improve other relevant aspects of a workplace – like employee engagement or employee experience. 

1. Enforce continuous and positive feedback 

Employee feedback is one of the best methods at your disposal for improving employee productivity. However, in order to be effective, employee feedback has to be continuous or more regular. In other words, many HR leaders have dropped their practice of annual performance reviews and are promoting more frequent and informal feedback practice instead. 

In fact, 43% of highly engaged employees receive feedback at least once per week. As employee engagement is closely correlated with employee productivity, it is time to put this awesome technique to use! 

employee productivity

2. Recognize your employees work 

Employee recognition has a myriad of benefits for your workplace. It improves company culture, builds trust, and helps employees stay motivatedIts main principle is to reinforce good habits by praising and appreciating good things that employees are doing. 

In fact, 69% of employees say they would work harder if they were more recognized. Moreover, employee recognition does not always have to be monetary. In fact, non-monetary employee appreciation in form of verbal or written praise is very conducive to employee productivity. 

👔 Get these employee appreciation quotes to recognize your employees’ work. 

3. Following up upon employee surveys 

HR leaders should regularly conduct employee surveys to detect their employees’ sentiments and opinions. However, what makes an impact on employee productivity and engagement are not surveys themselves, but managers’ response to survey findings.  

To be more precise, conducting surveys does not lead anywhere unless there are actions that follow them. When managers make changes to amend issues raised in employee surveys, their employees’ engagement is much higher than they would be if no actions were taken. 

employee productivity

4. Making work more meaningful 

Employees are not only looking to make their ends meet by doing their work. They are also looking for meaningful work. Knowing how they contribute to their teams, departments and company is a valuable input that can increase employees’ productivity. 

Therefore, one of the main postulates of employee experience and satisfaction is explaining how an individual’s work fits into the bigger picture. Every employees’ work adds to company’s end product, its reputation or to its customer satisfaction. Are your employees aware of how meaningful their jobs are? 

5. Avoiding overtasking 

It was long believed that the more work you assign to employees, more work will be completed. However, overtasking poses a great danger to employee wellbeing and increases chances of burnout. Naturally, burnout leads to more stress, absenteeism and heightens the chances of employee turnover. 

Of course, employees should not be given too little responsibilities either. As in many other situations, moderation is the key.  

6. Make work goal-oriented 

The mandatory part of giving your employees constructive feedback should be setting goals. All employees should know how much work is expected from them in order to be more productive. Instead of measuring time spent working, employers should measure objectives that were achieved. 

Yes, it is that simple. Of course, employees’ goals should be devised in accordance with employees themselves and their managers. Moreover, goals should be diverse. There should be both short-term and long-term ones, as well as individual and team goals in order to optimize employee productivity and team cohesion. 

7. Offer employee training and guidance 

Employee development allows employers not only to improve retention and close the skill gap. It also makes employees aware that they are a valuable asset to their companies and that advancing their careers is in employers’ interest. Therefore, employee training is conducive to employee productivity. 

There is a lot of room for improvement in this area, as only 74% of employees believe they are currently reaching their full potential. Imagine how much more productive employees could be if their potential was fully unlocked and let to flourish! 

employee productivity

8. Embrace remote work 

As explained earlier in the article, remote work actually contributes to employee productivity for most employees. The remote work challenge is easily solved by introducing goal-oriented work and tracking employee productivity by tasks performed instead of measuring time spent working. 

However, some employees still find the office atmosphere better. Since these preferences are highly individual, it is best to let your employees determine which option works better for them. Allow your employees to work from home or come to the office, or to utilize both of these two options. 

9. Facilitate effective communication 

Did you know that employee productivity increases by 25% in organizations where employees are connected?  

employee productivity

Effective employee communication is crucial for facilitating employee productivity. Enabling your employees to communicate with their peers and superiors is equally important as sending the right amount and type of information your employees’ way. Too much emails often makes employees less prone to reading emails at all, and ineffective communication can be stressful for many. 

Read these employee communication basics and how to create and implement an internal communications strategy. 

10. Use the right tools 

Nothing beats having the right technology in place. You need to track your employees’ output, measure productivity, conduce regular feedback, facilitate easy employee recognition… This is impossible without having the right tools that work for you. 

Semos Cloud offers a suite of employee experience related products that can help you boost employee productivity and create a happier workplace. Get in touch with our representatives and find out how we make our solutions work for you and your company. 

all-in-one-employee-experience-suite