Productivity is often hailed as the silver bullet of success, especially in entrepreneurial and startup circles. It might not quite live up to that mark – but nevertheless, productivity is an incredibly important metric to track, a feat to strive towards, and a lifestyle that is worth pursuing.
But there’s a catch.
Excessive productivity can often lead to burnout, the archenemy of happiness, general well-being, and productivity itself.
To foster productivity without the burnout component, you need to take up some very specific practices as a business. Let’s take a look at some of them, and how you can best implement them.
Establish Wellness as a Core Company Value
Establishing a company culture that promotes employee wellness can be your first step towards establishing a no-burnout policy as well.
A lot of companies choose to write out some sort of company value system and then attempt to implement it. Unfortunately, a lot of them miss the mark, as they don’t quite believe in what they are preaching.
So, your first step should actually be to adopt wellness as a core value you truly believe in. It might help you to know that happy employees are more productive employees, and that wellness is one of the keys to happiness. That’s a fact we are all intrinsically aware of, but we like to see it validated from time to time, especially in a business setting.
Communicate This Often
It will take more than just stating that you are an advocate for employee wellness. You need to communicate this message often and clearly.
You can set up company-wide emails that cover a specific wellness and wellbeing topic at regular intervals. You can talk to your employees about how they are feeling (more about this later on). You can do a lot of small, and plenty of big things that will ensure your team is aware of the fact that you are there to help them prevent burnout.
When you notice someone has been running themselves into the ground, for whatever reason, talk to them and work out a solution. Encourage days off, allow for flexible working hours, working from home, and anything else your employees might need that will confirm to them that you are a firm believer in productivity without burnout.
Encourage Breaks throughout the Day
Some employees will simply forget to take a break. They will get caught up in their work, they will forget to eat, they will forgo walking and stretching in order to get more done, and they might not even see anything wrong with this practice.
However, as an employer who believes in being productive, you need to teach them the benefits of breaks.
Taking a break can significantly boost your performance. This is especially true of “sleeping on it.” But even just getting up, walking around for a bit, and chatting to someone about a non-work-related topic can improve your focus and creativity when you return to the task at hand.
Community breaks and joint meals or brainstorming or chit-chat sessions dispersed throughout the day can be a great way to encourage employees to take a breather – but you should also allow them the option of working through them if someone is feeling inspired and focused.
Set Up the Workplace for Health
A lot of our productivity depends on our environment. It’s much easier to focus and be creative when there is plenty of sunlight available, when the chair is comfortable, when the computer is fast enough, and when there are no interruptions.
Consider your employee’s needs.
- What kinds of desks and chairs do they need?
- How can you provide the most daylight?
- How can you ensure every space has a plant and some inspiring décor?
- How can you provide some community space too?
Focus on things like healthy snacks and healthy drink options as well. True, some employees will prefer to bring their own, but if you stock the office pantry with fruits and healthy munchies, they’re likely to tuck in every once in a while.
Lastly, make sure to provide a space for some light exercise – stretching, yoga, or just a bit of pacing and jiggling of those stiff joints. Hosting team walks around the block during lunchtime or walking meetings can also be a great contributor to both wellness and productivity.
Encourage Work-Life Balance
Work-life balance is certainly one of the most important pillars of both productivity and wellness. Achieving it, however, can be a bit of a challenge.
The important thing you need to remember is that this balance will be different for everyone. There are those who honestly like to work more than eight hours a day and who find a lot of joy in their work. You don’t need to “force” them to work less.
There are also those who benefit from more sleep, or more social hours, or more time spent on their hobbies.
Encourage your employees to figure out their own ideal combination, and work on helping them achieve it.
For example, if you have an employee who can get their job done in 6.5 hours and would prefer to spend the extra hour and a half at the gym, let them. If you have an employee who wants to stay at the office for 9 hours and take a nice long lunch break, let them do that.
Overstepped boundaries are the most common disruptor to healthy work-life balance. That includes boundaries of communication, deadlines, working hours, and so on.
To eliminate any potential misunderstandings and issues, establish clear boundaries and rules – and ensure your employees stick to them.
For example, define your communication channels well. When do you use email, when do you make calls, and when do you use a chat app? When is it okay to email a colleague after hours, and what is even after hours? When is it okay for someone to stop checking their email, and how much of a window is there for replying to emails?
Once you have set these rules up, don’t break them – for whatever reason. Even if you yourself would like to reach someone outside these boundaries because you want to get something done at a certain time – refrain from it, and wait for the appropriate time and use the appropriate channel.
Pay specific attention to things like weekends, vacations, and out-of-office emails.
Ask about Physical and Mental Health during Performance Reviews
Talking to your employees about their physical and mental health is incredibly important.
One of the best times where this topic can come up is during performance reviews – but not in the “you have not been doing a good job lately, what’s wrong” kind of way. It can be your conversation starter – do make sure you are actually 100% interested and ready to listen to what your team has to say.
Encourage everyone to be open about their health and any concerns they may have. The crucial part is that you enforce a policy of no stigmatization, where anyone can speak up about anything without fear of being fired or even just looked at differently.
This is especially true of mental health subjects. No matter how many strides we make in opening up the workplace to the mental health conversation, those who have mental health issues will always struggle to bring them up. Compassion and honesty will play a hugely important role here.
Show Your Appreciation
When productivity goes unrewarded, it can quickly evaporate. You don’t have to praise every single productive member of your team every single day, but showing your appreciation will help them keep it up, feel good about their effort, and know that they are valued.
You can set up official milestones and performance-based rewards, but there are even small things that go a long way. It’s things like a cup of coffee, a pat on the back, a friendly “thank you and keep up the good work” email. These are all simple gestures that will demonstrate to someone that you’ve noticed what they are doing and that you appreciate their effort.
Encourage everyone in your team to show appreciation for each other, as people who work together will often spot someone’s great performance better than you can. Also encourage them to let you and management know when they see someone excelling.
To Sum It Up
Productivity will sometimes be an effort, sometimes it will come naturally, but sustaining it at a sustainable level over a sustainable period of time will certainly take some significant effort.
By implementing some of the practices we’ve outlined, you will enable your employees to achieve their top productivity levels without risking the damages of burnout. Ultimately, you’ll be helping them to be more successful in what they do, as well as happier in their jobs and their lives. Which will, funnily enough, increase their productivity even further.