How to improve workplace efficiency

Office workers gather around a table to do research and implement new ideas.

The tension between overhead and profit, market shifts and growth targets makes pursuing greater efficiency attractive, but with all the options, it can be hard to know where to start.

Office workers gather around a table to do research and implement new ideas. Is the key to greater efficiency automation or employee motivation? A different workspace or a better toolset? A remote team or better in-office perks?

The best way to achieve maximum efficiency in the workplace is to create an environment that supports employees in their work. There are several dimensions to creating a supportive, and thus optimally efficient, work environment, and all of them depend on the specific needs of your business and team.

The space

Unless your business operates solely with remote teams or contractors, you’ll want to ensure that you provide a workspace that supports efficiency. While there are some broad best practices to take into account, the right workplace will depend to some degree on the type of work that your business does, the type of work that each employee specialises in, and their personality and professional approaches. The key takeaway is that a one-size solution is functionally inferior.

Open workspaces support collaboration and can take up less space, but if you have a team that needs to do detailed, focused work, or employees that are more comfortable in small groups or working alone, a divided space with offices could provide your people with what they need to do their best work. Flexible spaces where employees drift to the right type of workspace for their needs in the moment could be an optimal use of real estate if you have a creative team that will take advantage of the freedom to adapt their space to suit any given project or activity. On the other hand, some employees require the security and dependability of a settled location that they can make their own. Consider the type of tasks that your business, and the teams and individuals within your business, perform on a regular basis, as well as the personality types on the team, when developing or updating a workspace.

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More general guidelines include providing access to natural light and adequate indoor light to complete tasks at speed, ergonomically optimised workstations that can be adjusted based on individual needs, and appropriate table-top and storage space for employees to get work done without being slowed down by inadequate space.

Employee needs

Your employees need certain situations to produce their best work, and while there is some variance between personality types, there’s also a high degree of commonality in peak-efficiency teams. Employees are most productive and efficient when they are able to trust each other and the leadership; when they’re given well-defined and reliable targets, responsibilities and direction; and when the workplace culture is compelling, inspiring or otherwise motivating.

It is not necessary to be your employee’s best friend, nor is it possible to exhort them to greater trust in leadership and one another. Rather, a workplace must grow toward becoming a place that cultivates efficiency and productivity by building a record of trust, safety, excellence and reliability. As a leader, communicate clear and well-defined targets, model an even temperament and follow through on your word. Consistency builds culture. Storytelling is another way to keep employees motivated and inspired to do their best work. Make a point of sharing and celebrating wins and how your work has made a difference for your customers.

Employees may be more efficient in different work circumstances, so it’s worth looking at whether flexible hours, a shortened workweek or remote work are right for your teams. If employees have too much workload or are working extended hours regularly, counter-intuitively, they tend to be highly inefficient.

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Tools and software

Efficiency is often boosted by better equipment, hardware and software. Multiple monitors and upgraded computers offer immediate improvements to employee capacity. Improved processes and programs for your business type can also revolutionise your efficiency. Microsoft Dynamics 365 CRM can cut away inefficiencies by sharing information more effectively. Finance, business development and project management divisions are primed to benefit from appropriate software integrations with core business processes. Automating away clerical tedium and better resourcing employees will allow them to focus on more interesting and higher-value capacities.

Everyone wants greater efficiency in their business, but with so many dimensions to cover, it can be a challenge to know where to start. Focus first on your business and employees in order to understand which areas will result in the greatest impact on your team.

Consider if the workplace environment needs an upgrade, if your culture and work practices could use some change, or whether it’s time to update the equipment, processes and software to achieve greater efficiency, convenience and performance.