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For today’s workforce, “productivity” has often become synonymous with long hours, and always being “on” for clients and coworkers. The global pandemic forced employees to adapt to remote work overnight, immediately blurring the lines between work and personal life, which added even more work for some. Because of this, many companies are increasingly struggling with employee attrition, prompted by workers leaving jobs en masse to reevaluate their careers, improve their mental health, and find new options that provide the flexibility and support they crave.
The Great Resignation and the adoption of modern ways of working are driving fundamental shifts in how businesses recruit and retain staff. New employees today are demanding more flexibility from their workplaces, including a reduction in the number of hours they work and how their days are structured both in and out of the office.
As organizations look to transform their workplace in an effort to deliver this flexibility and increase retention, the idea of a four-day work week has been brought to center stage. The shortened week is already gaining traction in the U.S. and Europe, with many employees prepared to quit their jobs in favor of companies that offer more flexible work schedules to accommodate that shift. Organizations worldwide have begun implementing four-day work weeks, including the governments of Iceland, Japan, Scotland, and Spain, and companies like Unilever New Zealand, Microsoft Japan, Elephant Ventures, and Kickstarter, among others.
It is clear that organizations must adopt modern ways of working in order to attract and maintain talent. Here are some areas for business leaders to explore when determining what approach to take in modernizing your businesses and meeting demand for flexibility.
Related: The Great Resignation
Master the art of communication
For companies with fewer than 100 employees, miscommunication can be costly. The financial impact grows significantly for larger organizations, with workplace communication issues running into the millions per year, so companies naturally spend a lot of time trying to communicate effectively. Maintaining effective communication is key for productivity and collaboration, yet employees can be burdened by so much daily communication that their actual tasks never seem to be completed.
As workers are already feeling overwhelmed, companies should adapt by sometimes taking a less is more approach. Reducing the number of emails, scheduling fewer meetings, and streamlining the number of communication applications will greatly relieve some of the pressure from employees, who are often buckling from searching through multiple documents, spreadsheets, emails, and chat messages to find the information they need.
Automate repetitive and routine tasks
Every business has tons of repetitive or routine tasks, including simple data entry or daily status updates. While many tasks can be easily automated with technology, most businesses continue to ask their employees to manually perform these tasks. Not only does this result in wasted time and resources, but manually performing repetitive and routine tasks can lead to more human error and compliance risks, and certainly leads to boredom, lower employee morale, and lower employee productivity.
If an employee is disengaged, they will care less about the quality of their work. As a result, they’ll naturally be unproductive. There are many ways to foster employee engagement, but it starts with proper onboarding, ongoing training opportunities, and clearly defined roles and responsibilities. It’s also important to reiterate company values with employees to ensure they feel included and part of the mission. The ultimate goal is creating a culture where all employees are working toward the company’s long-term vision and feel supported and included along the way.
Establish goals and set expectations
Setting clear, measurable goals improves communication and employee engagement. Ensure these goals are clearly outlined throughout the organization so that employees can gain clarity on what they are trying to accomplish, and so that they feel like they are part of the bigger picture. Clarity is also important in prioritizing tasks to help teams tackle urgent items first, which leads to fewer strategic fumbles and longer-term employee success ratios, building to a more fulfilling employee engagement.
To ensure that everyone is on the same page, clear process documentation is essential. Sharing information across a common platform not only increases an organization’s efficiency but also fosters autonomy among employees. Providing all employees access to the same documents gives them the ability to make updates and check the status of things in real time, eliminating unproductive email chains and meetings.
Workplace modernization is coming, whether we’re ready or not. Recent trends like the 4-day work week may have a positive impact on work-life balance, and while I’m not convinced that rolling out a 4-day work week will actually lead to increased productivity, putting many of these other suggestions into practice to remain competitive in today’s current climate is a must.