How To Get More Productivity From Employees On A Budget

How To Get More Productivity From Employees On A Budget

Every office has that dedicated person who’s always there when you arrive in the morning and always seems to be there when you leave. They must be so hard working and so dedicated. If you had an entire workforce like this, you wouldn’t be wondering how to get more productivity from employees.

But there’s more to this than meets the eye. If this person doesn’t have an extra amount of workload or a pressing deadline everyday, why are they spending so long at the office?

It’s more likely that they aren’t working as productively as they could be. And this is a problem.

Why Productivity Matters

The impact of productivity in the workplace is essentially twofold: higher productivity results in better performance and improved staff wellbeing.

Better productivity bringing better results is self-explanatory. The business operates better than if productivity was poor, which means tasks are completed more quickly and staff are more able to adapt to any problems which arise.

But mental wellbeing and morale can be helped by productivity too. A slow, cumbersome and stagnant atmosphere can develop in an unproductive workplace. Every task is a battle, every meeting is too long and every process is long-winded.

With improved productivity, however, the atmosphere is proactive and encouraging. This makes your office an enjoyable and satisfying place to work. Productivity can be a huge detractor of underlying, subconscious stress and frustration; the end result is happier employees.

And another by-product of happier employees is that it helps the business run better, retain staff more easily and attract better talent to work for you. These productive employees will then also help results and performance.

So, How To Get More Productivity From Your Employees

One method to try is to increase workloads and see how your staff fare. In an ideal world, all your team will have an awakening moment and realise that, “Oh, we actually can get a lot more done during the day!”

But the truth is that you will more likely annoy members of your team who think they are being singled out and there’s a good chance, either through ignorance or deliberate obstruction, some employees will claim they’re at full capacity already and cannot complete extra work.

This roadblock means a cultural change needs to take place. Cultural changes take  time and effort but the good news is that it’s very budget friendly, having almost no extra cost at all. We’ll explore the theory in a little more depth, but, in short, here’s how to boost productivity and make a cultural change.


How To Improve Productivity Without A Budget

  1. Promote the idea that each and every employee is working for the same business, towards the same shared goal: a successful and secure future.
  2. Involve employees in the planning and decision making process of their tasks as much as is possible. They will feel more invested and work more keenly.
  3. Understand that Millennials and Generation-Z aged employees operate differently to Baby Boomers and other older workers. They see work as part of life not just a job, they might work at a different pace, work through their lunch and stay late if it means they can spend other parts of the day off-task. Bear this in mind.
  4. Give staff different places to work in the office. People work at different paces and on different types of jobs, so why do all staff have to sit together in a noisy, open plan office? Letting staff choose where to work lets them own their working day more and feeds productivity.


As supported by this 2001 study from Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, higher productivity is not linked to employers who adopt a particular working practice but how a working practice is implemented instead.

“How working practice is implemented” means joint decision making, joint planning and more cohesiveness between manager and team members, rather than the traditional top-down avenue of dialogue. This theory is backed up by other studies, such as this piece, published in the Academy Of Management Journal, which links highly involved work practices with higher productivity.

Staff need to be happy in their work and actually want to work towards completing their responsibilities. Ownership and responsibility increases can be facilitated through financial rewards like bonuses or can be sowed in the mind of the workforce through proper explanation of why we are doing things this way and what we are all working towards.

An increased sense of why things are being done is what motivates Millennials and Generation-Z, so this is becoming more and more important every year as the former generation becomes the dominant demographic at work.

And Some Signs That Your Employees Are Unproductive

But how to spot if your employees are unproductive? The trouble with identifying this problem is that unproductive people generally do not realise they are being unproductive. It’s a habitual behaviour and largely subconscious.

It can soon become the norm to have routine tasks make your working hours stretch outside the traditional 9-5 (or contracted equivalent in your own business). Obviously, working outside your core hours is unavoidable when deadlines or problems need meeting, but staff who do this as a matter of course might benefit from some productivity lessons.

Even if it’s only getting in 10 minutes earlier to get a jump on emails or “just finishing something off” before heading home 15 minutes after scheduled finishing time, these expanded hours soon become the norm. It’s human nature to make whatever work you have fill the time you’re expected to be in the office.

Whilst, on the face of it, that reliable person staying late once again seems like dedication: why are his colleagues able to manage to leave on time?

Other signs include staff always having an excuse to avoid new tasks or putting off deadlines when you know they don’t have anything more pressing on their plate. This productivity problem is probably a little more sinister than the aforementioned “Always Stays Late” employee, because these staff tend to be the ones who still manage to leave on time but aren’t willing to help the team out by taking on extra one-off tasks.

Another sign, sometimes deliberate and sometimes accidental, that an employee is unproductive is the person who “thrives on last-minute pressure” and who “can’t get anything done until a deadline is due.” There may well be some truth in that sentiment and they most definitely may wholeheartedly believe what they’re saying, but think of it like this: if the deadline suddenly shifted to tomorrow, what would happen? They’d work on the now pressing task. So what were they going to work on in the meantime?

A theme which you can hopefully see emerging is that productivity of staff is very closely tied to workload as much as it is dedication. Whilst we’d all love our employees to be beating down the door to ask for extra work, it’s the manager’s role to spot who’s shirking, who’s coasting and who doesn’t realise they could just work a little sharper.

There are other more visual telltale signs that your employees are unproductive too. They’re in this summary list:

Recap Of How To Spot Unproductive Employees

  1. Look for employees who always work extra hours to complete routine tasks.
  2. There are people who always have an objection to ad-hoc requests.
  3. People who claim they produce their best work when a deadline is close.
  4. Look out for over-frequent, off-task chatter around the office. There’s a notable difference between a busy hum of productive activity and staff who are simply not working.
  5. Lots of mobile phone use. Even social media managers conduct most of their work on a computer, so why do some staff always have their phones handy?
  6. Preparation time and meeting length or frequency are too long. The time people spend talking rather than doing, the more unproductive they are.
  7. Doing anything but working. Don’t ignore the obvious signs such as: always brewing up for the entire office and frequently having to take a personal call.


If you can spot these or any other signs of low productivity in your office, it’s most likely time for a cultural change.

The modern offices needs to be a progressive, inclusive and collaborative environment in order for staff to be happy and satisfied. Without these things in place, you will find it hard to improve productivity over the long-term and without spending large amounts on frequent and costly short term rewards.

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