This post was updated Jan 4, 2022
Sometimes clients who are leaders in their organizations tell me they notice their team members are lagging in productivity, enthusiasm, and interest. These leaders want to help boost morale and performance. They are looking for suggestions for how to improve team productivity.
To improve team productivity, leaders must help team members manage distractions and provide clarity regarding roles and responsibilities. Leaders who empower their teams improve productivity by giving direct reports control over their technology and enabling them to set boundaries.
I’ve developed the strategies in this article during two decades of work as a productivity trainer and professional speaker. Using these strategies, I’ve been able to help thousands of companies improve team performance and create more satisfied employees.
11 Ways to Improve Team Productivity
Don’t feel like you need to try every strategy here to achieve results. Instead, try one or two. The important thing is to get started today.
1. Help Team Members Manage Distractions
Did you know that your company can save a huge amount of money — millions of dollars! — just by helping workers better manage distractions? Research shows that, not only is it possible, but it’s doable with a simple shift in perception.
Attention management, not time management, is the key.
When workers learn to manage their attention, they become more engaged in their work. As a result, they achieve more of their most significant results and become more satisfied with their workdays.
Focused workers tend to be happier, more committed to their jobs, more productive, and have better attitudes toward their work.
In fact, according to the Gallup report State of the Global Workplace: 2021 Report, it can cost $9,000 a year to keep an average disengaged worker and one-half to two times the employee’s annual salary to replace them.
So training employees to focus better not only improves team performance, it’s also much more cost-effective than dealing with burnout and turnover.
If you’d like to help your team practice attention management skills and prevent burnout, start with my 7-Day Restoration Handbook. Fill out the form below and I’ll send it to you for free.
2. Be Less Available
If you’re wondering how to improve team productivity, this advice may sound counter-productive, so bear with me here:
If you’re always available to your team — to answer questions, to guide their decisions, to find solutions to their problems—you may be undermining team productivity.
Be available less often. Your team will learn to figure things out on their own when you’re not around. This tactic helps to minimize interruptions you face while allowing employees to take more responsibility.
That said, you do want to be available sometimes. Set “office hours” and allow team members to contact you during that window.
This will also enable you to reclaim some of your own time to work uninterrupted, and accomplish tasks that require deep thought. The next two tips will help you with this.
3. Mentor in Hindsight
Although mentoring is an important part of leadership, the way you go about it makes a difference. Workers won’t learn as much when you give advice before they do a task than they will learn from their own successes and failures.
Instead of “advising” on the front end, schedule a meeting after a team member has done their own problem-solving. Start the discussion with, “How did you choose to deal with this problem? How did that solution work out for you?”
Allow them to learn through their own mistakes by debriefing on the situation. Once you’ve heard about the challenge they faced, how they handled it, and their ideas for similar situations in the future, then offer your own advice as another option for them to consider.
4. Clarify Roles and Responsibilities
Sometimes employees find it difficult to separate which tasks they should handle on their own, and which tasks they need to defer to a manager.
Help team members by clarifying their decision-making power. Make sure they understand their roles in the company and know when it’s acceptable for them to make decisions within that role.
Instead of always solving problems for your team members, try a phrase like, “I trust your judgment.” This allows them to grow in their positions. They’ll feel more confident, and more willing to try to find solutions on their own.
5. Give Employees Permission to Set Boundaries
The definition of productivity I use in my work is the progress we make in a given time frame on the results that are most significant to us, personally and professionally.
If you use this definition with your team members, they’ll begin to realize that allowing colleagues to interrupt them is unproductive. Give them permission to set boundaries with others who interrupt.
When employees are able to set boundaries for themselves, they are able to focus on achieving their significant results. Remember why you hired them to begin with — for their unique skills and talents that will help your company grow and achieve its goals. They need uninterrupted time to unleash their genius.
6. Encourage Team Members to Work Proactively
Requiring your team members to actively monitor all incoming communication so they can respond immediately undermines the effectiveness of your team.
First, it requires workers to monitor incoming messages constantly. This constant distraction actually sabotages their ability to get meaningful work done, and interferes with their ability to achieve their significant results.
Secondly, it undermines your team members’ quality of response, because the emphasis is on speed.
Allow your team the time to be focused and thoughtful in their responses, instead of simply offering a quick reaction. Consider if you want your client success metric to be speed. Because you may have created this without intention.
7. Set a Team or Corporate Email Policy
One strategy to improve team productivity and performance is to set clear communication guidelines. Workers need to “unplug” on evenings and weekends to get the full benefit of their time away from the office.
TaskUs is one company that works hard to support work-life balance for their workers. The company operates across the United States, and in the Philippines and Latin America.
To promote employee wellness, TaskUs instituted a policy of “No chat weekends” to discourage workers from sending business emails and other communications during that time.
Here is a post with much more guidance on how to set an email policy for your company.
And be sure to fill out the form below for helpful strategies to help you regain an hour of productive time back into your day—every day—just by handling email right.
8. Shield Your Employees from Communication Overload
One way to develop team efficiency is to help your workers deal with the stress caused by “communication debt,” a term coined by Henry Poydar.
“Communication debt” is the feeling that you’re always owing return communication to someone. This backlog of communication can cause anxiety and interrupt your focus.
Work with your human resources and information technology teams to create “force fields” that protect your employees from unlimited communication. Take steps to filter out unnecessary communication before it distracts your team members.
Learn how to implement these strategies in order to improve your team’s performance.
9. Teach Leaders to Run Effective Meetings
Before you schedule a meeting, always ask yourself if a meeting is really necessary at all.
If so, think about how to make your meetings more meaningful and less “ho-hum,” whether you’re the host or an attendee. See this article for help running meetings that increase team productivity and don’t waste time.
Here are some meeting basics:
- Set a goal for the meeting, time limits and guidelines
- Create an agenda
- Assign a facilitator, time-keeper and someone to capture the important outcomes of the meeting including:
- The decisions that were made in the meeting
- The next steps that were identified
- Who specifically is responsible for those steps, and
- By when those actions will happen.
Publish those important outcomes in the body of an email,—not as an attachment where it can easily be overlooked. The minutes serve as a collection of all the ideas, comments and next steps that result from the meeting.
Another practice that may be helpful is to allow team members to prioritize their work by opting out of meetings they feel are less important than other items on their task list for a given day.
A culture where employees feel comfortable opting out of meetings when appropriate gives workers more control over their days. More control equals happier employees.
10. Take Vacation
Have you ever considered that the best thing you can do for your work is to work less? And the best thing you can do for team members is model work-life balance by taking your own vacation time seriously?
Downtime is often undervalued in the workplace. But it is exactly what our brains need to recharge. With downtime from work, our brains are free to be more creative, innovative, and inspired. Plus, research shows that after 50 hours of work a week our productivity decreases.
If you clearly define “work hours” for employees, you can help them unplug and recharge. Explain that vacation time is time away from work, and be specific about your expectations that team members on vacation need to completely disconnect from work.
Also, set specific policies to make sure that work is handled while the employee is on vacation, so work won’t just pile up and wait for them to return. There are many suggestions for creating a downtime-friendly culture where employees are less likely to burnout in my second book, Work Without Walls.
11. Use a Workflow Management System
A workflow management system is a collection of habits and behaviors for storing, organizing, prioritizing, managing, and executing all of your commitments, communication, and information. It allows you to have increased control over all of your responsibilities.
A good workflow management system gives you a systematic way to receive and deal with the information that bombards you all day – the emails, texts, social media posts, Zoom calls. Without an efficient system, all this information is often overwhelming and stressful to deal with.
Our work these days is dynamic. It’s constantly changing and flowing in different directions. A good workflow management system helps us adapt to these changes without feeling frantic and frazzled.
It’s useful when your entire team follows the same workflow management system, in order to improve team performance. Then you can be certain that you are all on the same page, working by the same rules, using the same technology and habits. When the team can improve their productivity, this often makes inefficient company processes more apparent, so the benefits are exponentially greater.
What Is Empowered Productivity?
Empowered Productivity™ is the workflow management system I’ve developed over the course of two decades. It’s not an app or software. Instead, it’s a collection of habits and behaviors that you learn to improve productivity.
Empowered Productivity is the workflow management system that will put you back in the driver’s seat of your work — and your life!
Empowered Productivity Training for Individuals
I offer an online, video-based Empowered Productivity training course for individuals.
Registration for online training for individuals is only open a few times a year and only for a few days. This way my team and I can provide the best support. If you’d like to be notified when registration opens, click here.
Empowered Productivity Training for Teams
How to Improve Team Productivity
As a leader, it’s your job to help team members be successful. You can do this by empowering them to avoid distractions, focus their attention, and use a team workflow management system to increase productivity.
By being clear on expectations and policies, and by teaching staff how to reverse the trend of constant distraction, you can help to boost team productivity.
The end result will benefit both your company and your employees. Your team members will be less stressed, more motivated and inspired, and happier in their jobs.