Have you ever finished a work week, looked back on your progress, and felt like you didn't accomplish as much as you wanted to? Sure, we probably all have this experience at some point. It doesn't feel very good. In fact, it can make us downright unhappy, especially if it happens regularly.
But when we finish a work week with a strong set of accomplishments, we reflect back on it with pleasure. It seems like it makes us feel happy, energizes us, and empowers us.
Not only does it seem that way, but it is really so. Research from Wrike, Wharton, and Microsoft's WorkLab have touched on how feeling productive connects to overall happiness. The research indicates that employees do feel happier when they feel like they are getting a lot done. Being happier is linked to many other positive effects on workers, including lower turnover, better workplace reputation, and better connections between leaders and employees.
Sad to say, a lot of employees report feeling like they are not productive. In one measurement, nearly half (48%) of employees reported feeling unproductive most of the time. Employees feeling unproductive is a widespread issue.
How do we find some strategies and insights to make things better for these workers and their workplaces? Let's pull in some pointers from the research!
Key Takeaway from Wrike: Give Employees the Right Tools and Resources
Wrike is a company that makes project management software, and they have done a lot of research about employee productivity. They noted in their research that employees lose up to 21 hours per week in:
- Searching for documentation
- Handling repetitive administrative tasks
- Missing or trying to find the right tools
To reduce this productivity drain, have team leaders review their teams' work processes and resources that teams have available. Look for the time-wasters noted above. Where possible:
- Centralize all documentation and make sure each team member knows how to get to it (and can get to it)
- Track down all of the administrative tasks that are stealing time, find technology that can automate as much of it as possible
- Use staff and leader one-on-one time to ask whether employees have the tools they need, and take feedback on ideas for helpful tools
Key Takeaway from Wharton: Ensure Variety in Work
Wharton is the world-class business school at the University of Pennsylvania. Their behavioral lab assisted in a study on whether people are happier when their work has more variety or less variety. The results were conclusive: people are happier if their work has more variety through the course of a workday. An interesting catch was that this only applies to variety over several hours—too many different tasks in a shorter period (an hour) can actually reduce happiness.
Take advantage of this insight. Avoid having teams or individuals who repeat the same task (or fewer than four different tasks) over and over again. 1 or 2 hours is fine to continuously do or repeat a single task, but workers should have a chance to break up their day where possible.
Key Takeaway from WorkLab: Measure Results, Open Communication
Microsoft WorkLab is a resource for businesses that Microsoft created. It leverages Microsoft's own wealth of data about software users—as well as its own large pool of employees—to create evidence-based research about how people work. WorkLab's article on productivity and happiness focuses on the need to support employees and open up communication. It warns that leaders and managers are increasingly worrying about the productivity of their workers, especially where remote work is involved. WorkLab endorses using outcome-based productivity measurement (what an employee got done) instead of time measurement (how long an employee worked). It also encourages more frequent check-ins and regular feedback (surveys) to ensure employees feel supported to get things done.
Amazing Workplace's surveys measure how productive employees feel along with dozens of other feelings and thoughts that drive workplace happiness. Want to have these insights for your workplace? Reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or jump right in with our Employee Happiness Survey here.