Secrets of a productive office

Kathleen Hall

Monday 1 December 2014

Is your management style getting the most out of your employees? Here are some tips to help you tread the line between firm and fair.

The concept of a workplace culture can be difficult to define – loosely, it tends to mean the group attitude, ideas and social behaviour of the people within your business. If an organisation has a late hours culture, employees may be in the habit of staying at their desks well beyond 9-5 hours as they don’t want to be seen to be the first to go home. But such a culture does not necessarily amount to a productive working environment.

An old joke sums up perfectly the problem of being unproductive at work: “You’ve never had a day off, have you?” “No.” “Why? Are you indispensable?” “No. I don’t want them to find out they can do without me.”  The key for creating a productive culture is having an outcomes-focused approach to your staff. Reward people on their ability to exceed their targets, rather than the time spent at their desk. Conversely, you must be firm but fair with employees not pulling their weight, otherwise, in the long-term they will drag others down too.

On that point, it is important employees have a clear brief of their role. If people do not understand how their position aligns with the overall goals of the organisation, how can they be expected to play a part in moving the business forward? As a leader, it is your job to clearly communicate your “vision” so everyone has an understanding of how you can collectively achieve it. Communication is a two-way street, so ensure that you are approachable and that people are comfortable speaking to you before any major performance problems arise.

While targets are important, taking too much of a “hands-on” management approach is counter-productive. Numerous studies have found that a sense of autonomy and agency are crucial to work-based happiness – and a team of robots following orders will not create a flexible, innovative environment. Also, micromanaging every small decision is rather a waste of your time, while also creating a culture where people feel unable to use their own initiative.

It is often said that the culture of a business is a reflection of the personality of its leadership. For example, if bullying is rife in an organisation, those characteristics can often be traced back to the top. So if you want a positive, motivated, productive workforce you must lead by example and regularly demonstrate those qualities yourself.