Workplace: Time and energy are the anchors of productivity

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Switched-off staff costs the company due to low productivity. PHOTO | FOTOSEARCH

Time and energy are all there is in business. Productivity, that ability to get the right tasks done effectively is everything. With your artificial intelligence, ChatGPT-enabled slim smartphone, the world of knowledge is your oyster. But without switched-on staff, with fully charged long-life batteries and systems, your enterprise’s productivity will be severely in doubt.

It’s not uncommon to find two focused staff can run rings around 20 disengaged employees, just going through the motions. Despite being labelled a ‘cohesive dynamic team’, the group of 20 can easily get into their Mexican soap opera dysfunctional dramas and just self-destruct.

The constant of time can be relative. When you are unhappy and bored, one hour can seem like 10. When you are excited and on fire, time flies, there are not enough opportunities in the 24-hour day.

Look for hungry sponges

Engage staff with batteries included, you don’t want to have to spend time constantly motivating staff. Create a great working environment, where you would want to be. Once Sarah is oriented on the job, showing she can deliver, get out of the way, and let her produce her best work. Nothing is more demotivating than a mindless micro-managing boss.

Hire sponges, people who are hungry to absorb leading-edge practices and knowledge. Engage bright sparks who can reverse mentor older staff in ‘the medium is the message’ online world of social media. After all — How do you upload a corporate video clip on TikTok?

Just about everyone’s fancy resume will suggest they can do the corporate equivalent of ‘walk on water’. Test someone on their actual skills. People can be persuasive in interviews, and perform dismally on the job. Look at knowledge, skills and mindset, where it’s attitude that is critical. Paper qualifications can be deceptive, schooling does not always equal smartness.

In measuring productivity, the ability to produce tangible results, involves efficiency and effectiveness, two very different perspectives. Efficiency is simply a measure of output over input. It’s possible to be 90 percent efficient, but if the focus is on the wrong activity, then all one has is wasted time. Effectiveness is being efficient and zeroing in on the key leverage point task.

Work can be invisible

When you go to your Jua Kali car mechanic, it’s easy to see when they are super busy, with their lot packed with cars, in various states of repair. Most work in an office environment is invisible, buried in people’s computers, or in their brain. It’s difficult to know who is overloaded, stretched to breaking point, and who is just cruising, daydreaming, and pretending to be busy.

The 80/20 rule suggests the greatest impact can be achieved, with a focus on a small number of elements. The same goes for productivity, spending time in deep uninterrupted thought for two hours in the early morning can get mountains of work done in a short time.

W. Edwards Deming, one of the founders of the total quality movement that revolutionised the Japanese economy at the end of World War II, argued that most problems and possibilities for improvement belong to having effective systems in place, and not the level of the individual.

In chemistry, there are endothermic reactions that require energy. In contrast, an exothermic reaction releases energy in the form of light or heat. Look out for people who exude energy and drive, that don’t put a drain on the system.

Go to the beach

Want to be productive? Take time to chill, just stop. “Making downtime visible is equally helpful. In working with the Boston Consulting Group, Harvard Business School professor Leslie Perlow found that implementing “predictable time off” ie, afternoons or evenings disconnected from work and wireless devices, agreed-upon email blackout times, or uninterrupted work blocks—led to greater job satisfaction and better work-life balance without compromising client service,” writes Daniel Markovitz.

When you think about it, where does work get done? It happens, between your ears. Sometimes the best ideas can come to you in the most unexpected places. Long walks and watching the Ibis on the lawn can lead to astonishingly productive ‘eureka’ insights.

The writer is a director at aCatalyst Consulting. [email protected]

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