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5 Science-Backed Tips for a More Productive Workplace


If you’re in HR or management, employee engagement and workplace productivity will always be among your most important considerations. If you can get people fired up and buzzing away, half the battle to improve morale and reduce turnover will be won. But what can you do beyond making employees feel valued and offering bonuses and incentives?

You know about offering credit where it’s due, giving praise, and fostering an environment where employees feel valued. Right?

Here are five research-backed ideas for getting the most out of your team.

Hire good people

By “good,” we mean positive and virtuous, not “good” at what they do (though obviously that’s important too). A recent study at the University of Michigan found that, “When organizations institute positive, virtuous practices they achieve significantly higher levels of organizational effectiveness — including financial performance, customer satisfaction, and productivity … The more the virtuousness, the higher the performance in profitability, productivity, customer satisfaction, and employee engagement.” Such practices include providing support, avoiding blame, and forgiving mistakes. What does this mean? Take your time during the interviewing process to really gauge an applicant’s character.

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Open the blinds

A 2014 Northwestern study found that a lack of natural light during daytime work hours has detrimental effects on workers’ health and well-being. Most notable is the finding that a lack of light exposure during the day was correlated with lower sleep quality at night. Workers with windows averaged 46 more minutes of sleep per night than those without. Inadequate sleep is associated with poorer work performance. Inc also reported that those with less exposure to daylight at work scored less well on measures of vitality and were less active throughout the day.

Get some plants

A study at Exeter University found that workers were 15 percent more productive when houseplants were added to “lean” or bare workplaces. Study author Chris Knight said that plants were just one addition that could boost productivity. Photographs, changes in light, and even smells could be used to similar effect.

“If you put an ant into a ‘lean’ jam jar, or a gorilla in a zoo into a ‘lean’ cage – they’re miserable beasties. People in “lean” offices are no different,” Knight said.

Give people space

One of the inhibitors of productivity, a study by architecture firm Gentler found, is “too much co-operation.” The findings suggest that design trends adopted to foster collaboration, like open offices or low-partition cubicles, can actually inhibit production because they allow for too many distractions. “The company’s 2013 U.S. Workplace Study cites an inability to focus as the top factor limiting workplace productivity and says a lack of dedicated space contributes to the problem,” reported The Star. Diane Hoskins, co-CEO of Gensler, is quoted as saying, “When everybody’s collaborating around you, you can’t focus.”

Cubicle walls, noise guidelines, and quiet spaces are some ways to combat this issue.

Make healthy food available to employees

A 2012 study published in the journal Population Health Management found that unhealthy eating was linked with a 66 percent increased risk of loss of productivity.” If your office vending machines are filled with chips, candy and pop, consider switching these out for healthier choices. Too much of the wrong foods, like sugar and unhealthy fats, can have heavy health consequences that in turn will affect work performance. Infrequent exercise, meanwhile, was linked with a 50 percent increased risk of low productivity, reported the Huffington Post. A way around this? Offer your employees fruits and vegetables and snacks, and encourage exercise with workout clubs and gym membership subsidies.

Tell Us What You Think

Have you made changes to your office environment that made employees more productive? Tell us about it in the comments.

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