A decrease in productivity is very troubling and can be a sign of a serious problem with your employees, your equipment or the office environment. It’s important to investigate the cause of productivity problems promptly to avoid loss of revenue and possibly damage to your department’s reputation. Start the process by considering the common problems that can affect productivity.
It’s no secret that unhappy employees often don’t perform well and often share their negative opinions with their co-workers. If you suspect that morale is the cause of the decrease in productivity, it’s time to find out why your employees are unhappy. Long hours, insufficient training, management issues, low pay, lack of recognition and poor working conditions can lead to morale problems. Involving employees in the solution can help ensure that you’ve developed a workable plan that will increase both morale and productivity.
It’s hard to be productive when you’re physically uncomfortable. Anything that makes your employees uncomfortable, including chairs, desks, workstations, lighting, temperature and noise levels, can affect productivity. A 2009 study on office design published in the “Journal of Public Affairs, Administration and Management” discovered that a comfortable and ergonomic office design motivates employees and substantially increases performance. Before you buy new chairs or change the lighting, ask the employees for input. New chairs won’t help the situation if the employees don’t think they’re any better than the old chairs.
Your employees’ comfort level with equipment and software also can affect productivity. If employees don’t understand how to use equipment or software or use it incorrectly, performance and productivity suffers. Problems also occur when your existing equipment isn’t sufficient to handle your department's needs. Upgrading equipment and tools, and providing ongoing training to employees is expensive, but is essential in maintaining or improving productivity. Evaluate equipment and software yearly to catch problems before they affect performance.
Management can be a contributing factor to low productivity. The National Business Research Institute notes productivity suffers when managers don’t keep promises, give appropriate credit or blame others for their mistakes. Managers who are too controlling can unwittingly slow down work flow by requiring even the simplest task to have manager approval. A hands-off management style also can be a problem. When managers are uninvolved or unavailable, employees have no one to turn to for direction or guidance. Managers also set the tone for the department. Managers who adopt a positive attitude help foster the same attitude in their employees.