Charlotte Rush (main photo) is an organisational psychologist and head of new product development at behavioural science consultancy Inventium. In this guest post, Rush offers expert tips to something we all need – a happier workplace and happier colleagues…
When was the last time you spoke with your team about how they work, as opposed to what they work on? As teams adjust to a remote or hybrid approach, managers everywhere should rethink how to support their people to do their best work. And while increasing outputs while making your people happier seems paradoxical, there are plenty of strategies that managers can use to boost productivity and happiness at the same time.
Here are just three you can try today:
Create a shut-down ritual
How does the workday end for your team? If the answer is “It doesn’t” or “It’s random, depending on what they are working on”, then you and your team are missing out on an opportunity to structure your days to achieve more and boost motivation.
A ‘shut-down ritual’ will help your team to create a clear delineation between their work and non-work life. It will also increase their motivation to work on what really matters the following day.
A shut-down ritual consists of answering the two following questions at the end of each workday: “Today I made progress on…” and “If I get X done tomorrow, it will be a great day.” The company I work for, Inventium, ran an experiment with over 100 participants across a fortnight and found that people who completed this ritual at least twice a week experienced a 46% increase in productivity and a 23% increase in wellbeing. Try creating a shared spreadsheet where team members can complete this ritual daily.
Schedule regular and predictable time-off
Many of us ‘pool’ our annual leave for one or two significant holidays per year. The assumption is that in doing so, we can get more bang for buck – top up our sleep reserves and engage in ample relaxation, so that we can come back to work ready to perform at our peak. While it is true that your health and wellbeing increases while on vacation, unfortunately, these improvements do not persist once we return to the daily grind.
Research suggests that supporting your team to take regular and predictable time off is instead a better way to improve happiness and productivity. Four years of research at Boston Consulting Group found that consulting teams who took regular and predictable time off each week (e.g. one day) experienced greater job satisfaction, improved work/life balance and a better product delivered to the client.
Inventium has recently completed a six month trial of a four-day-week (4DW). The 4DW allows employees to work four days and get paid for five. Each week, we default to taking Friday off as a team. In reality, it’s a weekly choice by all team members as to whether they will pick up some work that week. We’ve seen great results by defaulting to this regular and predictable time-off – a 26% increase in productivity and a 22% increase in wellbeing across the team. Could your team bring some predictability to the time they take off, on a more regular basis?
Support your people to be untouchable
It takes about 23 minutes to refocus on a task after an interruption, according to Professor Gloria Mark. If you consider how many notifications and interruptions you receive on a daily basis, it is easy to see how quickly our days can get away from us.
To combat this, author of The Happiness Equation, Neil Pasricha schedules “Untouchable Days” 16 weeks in advance in his diary. On these days, Pasricha is unreachable by anyone in any way. His productivity typically increases tenfold on these days.
If this seems extreme, teams can agree to make their mornings ‘untouchable’, or at least free of meetings. Companies such as Asana and Shopify have “No Meeting Wednesdays”. Creating this ‘interruption-free’ time for your employees is important given research that indicates students working in an environment with constant interruptions tend to complete their work faster but also experience greater levels of stress and frustration.
Supporting your team with the tools to reinvent how they work can boost productivity as well as happiness. The question is – what strategies will you put into practice to better serve your team today?
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