Productivity

How leaders can increase productivity – Fast Company

Summary

When the pandemic hit and millions of white-collar workers suddenly began working from home, leaders expected productivity to plummet. So it came as a pleasant surprise when productivity, unshackled by the structures of the office, actually increased 5% in 2020, according to Bloomberg News.

Was that increase in productivity the result of a decrease in commutes from across town to across the hall?

Not exactly. Research shows a bigger factor at play: autonomy.

A sense of control, or the power to decide, is a key human need. If you’ve ever tried to dress a two-year-old, yo…….

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When the pandemic hit and millions of white-collar workers suddenly began working from home, leaders expected productivity to plummet. So it came as a pleasant surprise when productivity, unshackled by the structures of the office, actually increased 5% in 2020, according to Bloomberg News.

Was that increase in productivity the result of a decrease in commutes from across town to across the hall?

Not exactly. Research shows a bigger factor at play: autonomy.

A sense of control, or the power to decide, is a key human need. If you’ve ever tried to dress a two-year-old, you’ve observed the innate human craving for autonomy. If you haven’t, imagine a teary-eyed, red-faced little person angrily insisting on wearing their snow boots even though it’s 80 degrees outside.

As we grow up, we eventually learn to dress ourselves appropriately, but we never outgrow that desire to exert control over our own lives.

It’s no surprise, then, that when people feel like they have a choice in the way they carry out their work, studies show they’re more engaged, committed, and productive. According to neuroscientist Amy Arnsten, Ph.D. professor of neuroscience and psychology at Yale University, even mild, uncontrollable stress can cause a decline in cognitive functions such as problem-solving. But when we even have “the illusion that we are in control, our cognitive functions are preserved.”

Indeed, according to several studies published in the Journal of Experimental Psychiatry, when employees in three commercial offices in the U.K. and the Netherlands were granted the freedom to decorate their austere workspaces, their productivity rose 25%. The researchers concluded that when employees are allowed to choose their own environment, they’re more productive.

Knowing this, there are several ways leaders can increase workers’ sense of autonomy and maximize employee engagement and performance.

Value input from employees

When people have the chance to make small decisions, they feel like they have “skin in the game,” a feeling that keeps them engaged and striving toward a collective outcome.

Take James, a supervisor at a device manufacturing company. James was tasked with developing packaging to protect a slimmed-down version of a device. Ordinarily, he would just have told his team how to proceed. But James recognized the opportunity to give them some unexpected autonomy, so instead of giving them instructions, he decided to ask for their input.

Excited to contribute, the team tossed ideas around and James kept quiet until it was time to approve a plan.  Within a month of James asking his team to develop new packaging to protect the device, they had designed and tested new packaging that protected their product, and cost less to ship. With the autonomy to solve the problem, the team developed a solution that was better than what James would have instructed: reconfigured form inserts in a smaller, lighter box that …….

Source: https://www.fastcompany.com/90696038/this-science-backed-powerful-productivity-tool-is-within-every-leaders-reach