Workplace Efficiency: How To Make Your Team More Effective
Everything you need to know about leveraging smart office technology to succeed with your business
These days, flexible working is more popular than ever before.
After all, we're living through the biggest economic transformation of our lifetime. And successful companies know it's more important than ever to operate efficiently.
Streamlined costs and optimized business processes are essential to an efficient workplace. But that only gets you so far.
To take your organization to the next level, you'll need to create an environment that supports employee well-being — one where your team can do their best work every day.
In this guide we'll share everything you need to create an efficient workplace:
- What workplace efficiency is
- How to streamline your operating costs
- Steps you can take right now to improve workplace efficiency
And much more.
Ready? Let's get started.
What is workplace efficiency?
Workplace efficiency is all about getting the greatest possible output from the smallest amount of input. Efficient workplaces excel at cutting down on the money, resources, and labor needed to create their product or service while maximizing the amount that they produce.
Many workplaces use the concepts of efficiency and productivity interchangeably. But the reality is that they're very different.
Workplaces that prioritize productivity focus on outcomes. The goal is to do as much as possible with what you have. Being more productive means using all the resources at your disposal to produce the largest possible amount of your product or service.
Workplaces that prioritize efficiency, on the other hand, are focused on the input side of the equation. The goal is to do the same with less. Being more efficient is all about reducing the excess time, energy, raw materials, and costs on the front end, while still offering the same great product or service.
What makes an efficient workplace?
The key to improving workplace efficiency is removing the barriers that keep your team from consistently doing effective, high-impact work.
Poor communication, insufficient training, stressed-out employees, outdated systems, pointless meetings can all drain time and energy from your team—leading to a far less productive workforce.
Companies that prioritize workplace efficiency see a wide range of benefits, including better use of their resources, reduced costs, and stronger workplace culture.
Far too many companies have failed because they couldn't prevent their costs from spiraling out of control. Excess headcount, outdated processes, and inefficient use of resources are just a few of the ways that costs can balloon. Reducing operating costs while maintaining revenue is a key priority for any company looking to build a more efficient workplace.
Use time effectively
Ruthlessly cutting inefficiencies out of your systems and processes is one of the fastest ways to build a more effective workplace. Repetitive tasks, pointless meetings, and manual processes can drain away your team's time and cut down on productivity. Eliminate these inefficiencies wherever you can, and you'll see your team's engagement rise.
Get the best from your team
Creating an efficient workplace builds a positive feedback loop. As employees spend more time doing their best work, they start racking up more wins—and feeling more motivated about the work they do. One of the best ways for any company to build an engaged, efficient workforce is to focus on making sure that your people are doing productive, meaningful work every day.
How can an efficient workplace reduce your operating costs?
Running a successful business comes with costs. A lot of costs. Operating expenses like employee salaries, health insurance, real estate, and equipment can quickly eat up a huge chunk of your budget.
Measuring these costs is the best way to keep them under control and position your business for greater profitability. Let’s look at how you can do that.
Assess your operating expenses
One of the easiest ways to measure your efficiency is to monitor your operating expense ratio.
Start by calculating your operating expenses. This includes all the expenses you incur to run your business, such as leasing, payroll, insurance, IT, and marketing.
Your operating expense ratio is simply your total operating expenses as a percentage of your total revenue:
Operating Expense Ratio = Operating Expenses ÷ Revenue
For example, suppose your business brings in $10,380,000 in revenue—and you spend $1,550,000 on operating expenses. Your operating expense ratio would be 14.9%.
So what's a healthy operating expense ratio? It all depends on your business. Companies with a lot of physical inventory, like car dealerships, often have very high OERs. But those that have minimal overhead, like online marketing agencies, often have OERs that are close to zero.
Calculating your OER gives you a clear picture of your workplace efficiency by showing exactly how much of your revenue you’re spending on workplace expenses. And that gives you the data you need to start streamlining your operations.
Find ways to streamline your businesses
If you're ready to improve your efficiency, start by examining your operating costs.
There are two ways to improve your operating expense ratio: increasing revenue or reducing expenses. For most businesses, streamlining expenses is the fastest, most direct way to eliminate inefficiencies and improve your profit margin.
Look at everything you're spending money on. Laying out all your costs will help you to pinpoint unnecessary expenses and build a leaner, more effective business operation.
For example, consider your use of technology. Using tech tools is a terrific way to reduce your expenses. For instance, most hybrid and remote teams use a variety of tools to stay in touch: video conferencing tools like Zoom, collaboration platforms like Slack, email messages, and calls on their cell phones. With all these ways to stay connected, you may find it's not necessary to spring for landlines in the office. Looking at your expenses holistically will make it easier for you to decide what you want to keep — and what you can cut.
How you can improve workplace efficiency at your company
There's a lot more to creating an efficient workplace than just streamlining expenses.
Companies that are highly efficient focus on optimizing their operations and improving engagement — so they get the most out of every dollar they spend.
Here's how you can do it, too.
Build an office environment that supports great work
More than ever, top-performing companies are discovering that the office environment has a tremendous impact on employee productivity. Employees who work in a pleasant, aesthetically pleasing environment are up to 15% more productive than those who don't.
That's why leading companies are ditching cubicle farms and harsh fluorescent lighting for offices that help employees feel and work their best.
You don't have to spend a ton of money to create a more productive office environment. Even small changes can make a huge difference in your team's performance.
Traditional, open-plan offices are a constant source of distraction. Distractions like ringing phones and chatting coworkers make it harder for workers to focus on the tasks at hand.
Studies show that these noisy environments stress workers out, causing higher levels of anxiety and hypertension. And this cuts into your team's productivity: workers are up to 66 percent less productive in traditional office settings than when they work alone.
Instead, create an office space that lets your team choose where they work best. Flexible desk booking and quiet rooms give your people time and space for focused work. And meeting rooms and shared spaces are perfect when they’re ready to collaborate and chase new ideas.
Harsh artificial lighting is standard in most offices — but it's also a serious drain on the efficiency of your workforce. Office workers report that they find it difficult to focus while sitting under the glare of fluorescent lights all day long. To make matters worse, 80 percent of office workers experience negative symptoms like headaches and eye strain when they work in poor lighting conditions.
Bringing in natural light is a great way to create an office environment that helps your team be happy and productive. Natural light reduces stress and eye strain and makes your office a more pleasant place to be.
Here's how Danone brings in natural light to create a more pleasant office environment:
You can take things a step further by using smart office technology that lets workers control their lighting levels. Smart lighting lets your team can choose the lighting conditions that are best for them, helping them stay focused and do their best work.
Design for collaboration
Your office design may not seem that important. But it actually can have a huge impact on your team's productivity. In one well-known study, researchers found that when office layouts were designed to encourage chance encounters, teams performed better overall and generated more innovative ideas.
That's the idea behind collaborative workspaces like Google's New York headquarters. Google's office space is designed to encourage "casual collisions." Workers are always close to a restaurant, cafeteria, or kitchen — offering more opportunities for unplanned interactions that fuel greater innovation.
Improve employee well-being
Rethinking your office design is critical. But it's just a first step. In 2020, Gallup reported that only 36% of US workers were highly engaged and motivated at work.
One of the most powerful ways to drive greater workplace efficiency is simple: improve employee engagement.
At the world’s top-performing organizations, 70% of employees are engaged at work. Compared with businesses with low engagement, those with the highest engagement see 24% lower turnover, 17% higher productivity, 20% higher sales, and 21% higher profitability. (That’s according to Gallup.)
But how do you boost engagement? You'll need a clear focus on employee well-being.
Workers feel and work their best when they have control over what they do and how they do it.
One recent study followed 8500 white-collar workers in Sweden as they went through a reorganization process at their company. Those who had greater control and influence over the decision-making process reported lower levels of stress and depression, were less absent, and experienced lower levels of illness.
Start by looking at your company's leadership style. Many supervisors are inexperienced coaches who don't trust their team to do the job right and quibble needlessly over minor details. Micromanaging is a common problem -- and it's the fastest way to turn talented employees into disaffected workers looking for the exit.
Taking steps to increase autonomy starts with your leadership. Encourage managers to delegate more tasks to team members and resist the urge to do everything themselves. Install frequent check-ins so that employees can get fast feedback on their work. And teach your team to embrace mistakes as opportunities for coaching, not something to be feared.
You can design your workplace to support autonomy, with smart office technology that lets your teamwork their way. Smart office technology empowers workers to choose the environment that works best for them -- so one team member can talk through a project with others in a breakout space while another can book a quiet room for a few hours of focused work.
Provide social support
Helping your team build strong social connections is one of the best ways to improve employee performance. Having a strong social network reduces workplace stresses that can directly impact employee health. And yet social isolation is more widespread than ever. When American adults are asked how many close friends they have, the most common response is zero.
Helping your team build stronger social connections is a smart way to build greater emotional well-being and improve performance.
Look for ways to create genuine social interactions. The possibilities are truly endless:
- Offer a wellness day with yoga, fitness classes, and massages
- Encourage teams to spend a day volunteering at a local charity
- Plan a Halloween costume party or a Christmas ugly sweater party
Offer flexible working arrangements
Workers' expectations have changed dramatically over the last year. While commuting to the office daily was once the norm, more and more employees are seeking freedom to choose when and where they work. Employees want to choose how best to fit their work into their lives — instead of planning their lives around a traditional 9-to-5.
More than ever, workers want the best of both worlds: the connection that comes from being part of a team, and the freedom to work where and when they want. One recent Microsoft survey found that 67% of workers say they want more in-person time with people on their team. — while 73% say they want to continue working from home.
Flexible work arrangements are great for your company's performance, too. According to a study by Zenefits, 78% of employees agree that flexible work options would help them be more productive.
That's why a hybrid work arrangement can be a perfect fit for your people — and your business. Hybrid work offers more social interaction than going fully remote while providing more freedom and autonomy than a traditional in-office arrangement. And when workers have more social connections and autonomy, they're more motivated — and more likely to do their best work.
Train your team effectively
Without effective training, your team's efficiency will sink like a stone.
Training starts during onboarding. Don't throw new hires into their role without giving them the knowledge and skills they need to succeed. Most employees report that their company does not take the time to onboard new employees well. But research by Glassdoor shows that businesses that take time to train new hires successfully boost productivity by up to 70% and retention rates by as much as 82%.
To train your team to operate efficiently, it's critical to focus on time management.
Take BambooHR, a startup in the HR space. To improve employee performance, they asked employees to take the first five minutes of their day planning out tasks and reporting to an accountability partner. Taking a few minutes for daily planning helped employees stop spending their days in reactive mode and focus on the most important tasks. By taking time to lay out what they needed to get done, it became easier for employees to delegate tasks quickly when they needed to.
Communication breakdowns can quickly reduce efficiency — no matter how optimized your operations are.
According to a study by Slack, workers across all verticals rated poor communication as the top barrier standing in the way of effective collaboration.
Poor communication between team members leads to more mistakes, more conflict between team members, more time spent reworking completed deliverables, and more frustration.
An ideal place to start improving your communication is through employee feedback.
Many organizations don't have a clear feedback process. And without that, employees can fall into ineffective habits without even knowing they're doing it. Regular feedback is the key to making sure employees are performing at their best.
Start by looking at your performance review process. Annual performance reviews work well for compensation purposes — but they're terrible for giving employees the consistent feedback they need. Implementing monthly or quarterly reviews is an ideal way to help employees know what they need to do to continually improve.
Consider investing in performance management software. Today's platforms make it a breeze for company leaders to set goals, provide feedback, and elevate the performance of the entire team.
Providing regular feedback is helpful for your leadership, too. As you check in more often, you'll start to notice where each member of your team excels. (And where they don't.) Knowing team members' strengths will make it easier for supervisors to choose the right person for each assignment and get work done more efficiently.
Cut down on meetings
For many companies, meetings are the single biggest drain on efficiency.
In fact, according to Entrepreneur, US companies spend over $35 billion each year on meetings alone.
And in a study in the Harvard Business Review, 54% of managers agreed that most meetings are ineffective, poorly run, and a waste of their time — with 65% saying that these meetings prevent them from getting their work done.
You won't do away with meetings altogether. But with a few simple steps, you can cut down on time-wasters and ensure that your meetings are useful for everyone.
Ask yourself if you really need to have a meeting. Fun fact: the average worker spends a staggering 37% of their time in meetings. And every pointless meeting takes time away from work. Before you meet, be sure you really need to. If you just want to share a few updates, consider sending an email or memo to your team instead. And if you want a status check on an ongoing project, let your team send updates using your collaboration platform instead of pulling everyone into a meeting.
Have an agenda. If you decide to meet, make sure you send around an agenda. Meetings can easily get sidetracked if attendees don't know what you are (and aren't) trying to accomplish. Taking a few minutes to prepare an agenda might feel like a hassle at first, but it will be well worth it if it cuts down on pointless discussions that go nowhere.
Invite attendees selectively. You don't need to invite everyone on your team to every meeting. Resist the temptation to bring everyone involved in a project together if you just need to have a conversation with two or three people.
Take useful notes. Sending around notes after the meeting prevents team members from unnecessary follow-up conversations when they forget what was discussed. Designate one member of your team to take notes, and make sure that specific action items are captured with assignees and due dates.
Finally, innovative brands like Asana and Facebook have seen increased productivity and higher employee engagement by making a weekly no-meeting day part of the company culture. Consider designating at least one day a week as a meeting-free time when employees can focus on their most important projects, free of interruption.
Automate repetitive tasks
Most office workers spend part of their day on boring, repetitive tasks like checking email and approving timecards—activities that don't really create value for the organization.
So it's no surprise that according to McKinsey, 51% of the activities workers spend their day on can be handled with automation.
But these days, technology is completely changing the game. With the right software in your tech stack, you can automate menial tasks and free up employee time to focus on innovative, creative work that moves your company forward.
Here are some tasks you can consider automating.
Hiring. he recruiting process typically follows a clearly defined series of steps — which makes it an ideal target for automation. Adopting an applicant tracking system is an ideal way to quickly surface the best candidates. With today's hiring platforms, you can send pre-hire assessments and offer on-demand video interviews to streamline the recruiting process and speed up your time to hire.
Customer support. Support teams are among the busiest functions in any organization. Using automation can streamline the process and reduce your dependence on one-on-one interactions. 51 percent of customers say that a business should be available 24/7 — and chatbots make it simple for customers to quickly get answers to the most common questions, day or night.
Payroll. Payroll is a tedious, repetitive process. And with an advanced payroll system, you can handle almost all of it automatically — from collecting timesheets and approving them, to sending electronic payments and completing tax filings.
The key is to invest in technology that will make a real impact. That's why it's critical to invest in smart office technology that can help your team do their best work.
Build a habit of building efficiency
We've looked at some key areas where many companies can operate more efficiently. But once you get started, you'll see opportunities to improve your efficiency everywhere you look.
Look for opportunities like these:
Incentivize efficient performance. Everyone likes to feel appreciated. Offering rewards for strong work performance is a natural way to motivate employees to raise their game. And as many studies have shown, it also helps workers feel more valued and appreciated.
Implement time tracking. If you're relying on your team to know how much time they're spending on tasks, you're just guessing: only 17% of employees can correctly estimate the amount of time they spend on work-related tasks. Using time tracking solutions will enable you to understand how long employees are spending on specific tasks — so you can cut down on inefficiencies that are draining your team’s productivity.
Identify and map your processes. Chances are, your business uses lots of processes to do everything from bringing in new business to producing your service. And if they're not documented, you could be left holding the bag when the stakeholder suddenly leaves and takes years of accumulated institutional knowledge with them. Mapping your business processes creates a clear step-by-step visual map of all the steps needed to create a product or accomplish a task. And that empowers your team members to get up to speed in a new area fast.
How to create an efficient workplace with smart office technology
Building an efficient workplace is all about optimizing your processes and systems while offering a flexible work environment that enables your team to do their best work. Smart office technology makes it easy for you to do both.
Schedule in-office days
With smart office technology, you can adopt a hybrid working arrangement that offers the freedom of working remotely and the social connection of working in the office. And with smart office technology, it's a snap for workers to see when their colleagues will be in the office, so they can make sure their in-office days are well spent (and avoid that awkward feeling of being the only one in the office).
Reserve desk space
In a hybrid work arrangement, your employees won't have an assigned desk. With desk booking, they'll have the option to reserve a desk in advance. And as your team starts working from different locations in the office, they'll start to encounter people they weren't running into previously, spurring more of the casual collisions that spark innovative new ideas.
Hot desking is more than just a way to offer flexibility. It also helps your organization cut costs and use space efficiently. Flexible desk booking lets you convert unused desk space into social areas or meeting rooms, enabling you to do more with less.
Find meeting rooms
With room booking, your team can stop filling their calendar with meetings, and start finding meeting space when they need it in real-time. Room booking makes it simple for your team to find meeting spaces to touch base about a project or talk through a new idea at a moment's notice... and finally break the cycle of pointless meetings.
Control light and temperature
Working in an uncomfortable environment isn't just unpleasant. It can have long-term effects on your employees' health. With smart office technology, your team can control lighting and temperature right from their smartphones — so they can customize their environment, feel their best, and work their best.
Analyze workplace performance
Determining office capacity is an enormous challenge. Just getting an estimate of your building utilization requires hours spent sifting through email surveys and endless back-and-forth with your organization's leaders. And after all that, you still have no idea if your information is accurate.
With smart office technology, you can stop guessing your office utilization and start measuring it in real-time. Mapiq's smart office tools let you view real-time data on office usage, flexibly adjust every area of your office, scale your total capacity, and more.
To build a thriving business in 2021, operating efficiently is critical. That's why leading organizations are improving their processes to cut down on repetitive tasks and building flexible office environments that help employees perform at their best.
Creating an efficient workplace is about more than streamlining costs and getting the most bang for your buck. It's about creating a productive environment that helps your teamwork at their best. And with smart office technology, you can improve your team's performance... and make the office a place they'll love to be.
Want to learn more about smart office technology for your organization?
Learn how Mapiq can transform your workday.