Increasing team productivity is one of the most important challenges faced by any leader. This is especially true for those us working in the knowledge economy, where employees report being distracted from their work every 10 and a half minutes, on average.

While 24% of these interruptions come from email, even more alarming statistic reveals that 44% of workplace distractions come from employees switching from one task to the other without finishing the first one. This lack of focus should be alarming for everyone reading this post, as distracted workers are less productive and contribute less to the organization’s bottom line.

I’ve worked with many leaders who ask: “what can my employees do to increase team productivity?” and my answer is always the same: “what can you do to increase team productivity?”

Instead of placing all of the blame and responsibility for a dip in productivity, I suggest CEOs and other C-Suite executives look inward and assess what they can do to create a company culture that helps, not hinders, team productivity.

Why Should Leaders Care About Increasing Team Productivity?

We already know that employees who are less productive contribute less to the company’s bottom line, but research has found that workers who are distracted at work will compensate for those distractions by working faster, leading to “more stress, higher frustration, time pressure, and effort.”

If you’re a leader invested in building workplaces that enhance the employee experience and increases team productivity, follow these steps:

Set a Company-Wide Max Quote for Meeting Time

If your organization isn’t already using a tool like Toggl to track how and where you and your teams spend your time, now is the time to start.

Once everyone in your organization is using one of these tools you’ll gain valuable insight into which tasks take up the most time, and the average length of each meeting. Research has shown that productivity in meetings drops off after 30 minutes, so use this as your guide to determine the optimal meeting length for your organization and insist that team members stick to this guide whenever possible in order to prioritize team productivity over meetings.

Elevate the Status of ‘Deep Work’

‘Deep Work’ refers to time when a team member is deeply engaged in solving a particular problem or working on a specific project or task. Unless we have time to sit with a problem and work uninterrupted we can’t reach a state of “flow” (also known as being “in the zone”) when problem-solving.

When time is needed to delve deep into a problem have the employee or team block that time out in the calendar and insist that other team members respect the time block and do not interrupt others while they are in a state of ‘Deep Work.’ This single step can play a pivotal role in increasing team productivity within your organization by providing employees with the time needed to invest their full attention to solving a problem.

Have Team Members List Their Most Important Daily Task

One of the challenges of managing teams is that the most pressing work is often ill-defined, which leads to a lack of productivity as team members shift their focus to less-important tasks.

Resolve this issue by having a short, 5-minute meeting every morning where each team member identifies the one thing they can accomplish that day that will contribute the most to the organization’s goals, or to meeting a specific goal or deadline.

Limit Email and Group Chats Before a Certain Time Each Day

We already know that of the biggest productivity-killers is continuously checking our email, but many offices use messaging tools like Slack to stay connected and chat throughout the day which can also have a negative impact on our productivity.

Mornings tend to the time when we’re our most focused and productive, so consider implementing a company-wide policy where team members don’t send or receive emails, or check their Slack, until a set time.

Encourage Asynchronous Communication

Modern workplace cultures have normalized the culture of immediate responses, but if we prioritize replying over problem-solving we’ll soon slip back into a state of low productivity.

If this style of immediate communication – sending and receiving emails or messages and expecting an instant response –  is the norm within your organization, I recommend insisting on asynchronous communication.

Asynchronous communication, which is sending a message without the expectation of an immediate response, can free up your team’s focus and mental energy in order to allow them to prioritize their work over responding.

Take the time to make this expectation clear to your team, as they may feel pressured to respond regardless. Let them know that responding within 24 hours (or whichever time frame is best suited for your organization) is not only acceptable, but expected.

Start Increasing Team Productivity Today

Technology has been a boon to many businesses, but resisting the urge to communicate constantly can have significant benefits for your productivity. Give your team members the time and space to focus on creative problem-solving you can eliminate many of the barriers associated with low productivity and watch team productivity increase.

Looking for actionable resources to further increase productivity in your organization? Download our complementary Insights Article Collaboration and Team Effectiveness.

The East Tenth Group and I would love to hear from you and assist you with leveraging your leadership potential. I invite you to contact us today or connect via Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter.