Managing & Motivating Productivity in Our New World of Work

When we talk about economic and business success, we tend to refer to concepts that people readily understand — return on investment, growth, profits, etc. Productivity is another factor that impacts success in a hugely significant way, but it can be difficult to measure for some roles, especially in the virtual and hybrid world of work. Thankfully, we live in a world in which the data is now available, and it is no longer as difficult as it once was to understand and improve individual and overall team productivity.

As a leader within your organization, it is your job to motivate people for higher levels of productivity. In fact, you have much more influence and control over what happens in your specific workplace, whether that is in the office or a virtual setting. Obviously, the landscape is completely different now than it’s ever been, so new strategies need to be considered. It’s also important for leaders like you to be aware of the misconceptions about productivity, so you can focus on what really matters in today’s business landscape.

Common Productivity Myths

Myth #1 - Productivity is improved by working longer hours.

With work life balance being a priority in today’s world, expecting your people to work long hours in order to be more productive, is a detractor for new talent and retaining your existing employees.

Really think about it. Are all those extra hours really helping to increase productivity and, ultimately, bottom-line results? Do you value your employees more because they appear to be more productive while they are working longer hours? 

Working more leads to decreases in concentration and decline in overall wellness. If you measure the habits of employees with the highest levels of productivity, what you find is that they do not work longer hours than anyone else. 

The difference between the most productive people and everyone else is that they take breaks to refresh and renew themselves. In other words, they practice self-care. It’s not about the hours people put in. It’s about being more efficient, focused and avoiding burnout. 

Myth #2 - Messiness and disorganization are signs of high productivity.

This is a controversial myth as there is research that shows messiness equates to being more creative. Here is the brutal reality, from a young age we are taught to clean up our rooms and to always clean up after ourselves. When we grow up, society tells us a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind. We are made to feel bad about ourselves for being disorganized or messy. 

According to the National Association of Professional Organizations, paper clutter is the number one problem for most businesses. Studies show the average person wastes 4.3 hours per week searching for papers, which creates stress and frustration while reducing concentration and creative thinking. The average executive loses one hour of productivity per day searching for missing information. Being disorganized has a direct bottom-line impact to your business and the overall health and well-being of your employees.  

Myth #3 - Working from home decreases productivity.

With the onset of the pandemic and shift to remote work, this myth has been proven wrong on many fronts. These days, people lead lives that do not require them to be based in a specific office location, yet some organizations are pushing their people back to bricks and mortar thinking that will drive up productivity and engagement.  

Research from Owl Labs found that remote and hybrid employees were 22% happier than workers in an onsite office environment and stayed in their jobs longer. Plus, remote workers had less stress, more focus and were more productive than when they were in the office. Working from home led to better work life balance and was more beneficial for the physical and mental well-being of employees.

They also learned in their study that productivity didn’t suffer, with 90% of employees who worked from home during the pandemic saying that they were as productive -- or more -- working remotely when compared to the office. 

There are endless studies that show that allowing the flexibility to work from home increases productivity. Certainly, working from home isn’t ideal for everyone. But the assumption that you need employees to share the same physical space to improve productivity is not necessarily true.

Myth #4 - Working faster increases productivity.

It’s easy to understand why people would assume that speeding through tasks would lead to productivity improvements. But the truth is that rushing through work and relying too heavily on multitasking decreases the quality of work and has a negative impact on productivity. 

Productivity is enhanced by focused, methodical and deliberate work. Racing through tasks only leads to stress, poor performance, and a negative impact on an individual’s mindset.

Boosting Productivity — What Actually Works?

Now that you know the conventional wisdom about productivity isn’t all that wise, it’s time to learn some techniques and leadership approaches that will improve productivity within your organization. 

Here is some simple advice:

  • Happy employees are productive employees — Instead of working to keep people busy, you should focus on keeping them happy and experiencing high levels of well-being. Doing so creates a positive spiral, as well — happiness increases productivity, and when productivity is high, happiness increases inside and outside of the office. It’s not just good for business. It’s good for your people.
  • Connect the dots — You can motivate your people and inspire greater productivity by taking the time to remind them how their role contributes to the organization’s success.  Explain the value they bring in their respective role and how that contributes to the company’s goals, objectives and bottom line. Create “emotional connectedness” for your people and you may observe more productivity and pride in their work as we have written about in previous blogs.
  • Leverage biology to enhance productivity — The ability to be productive is largely influenced by the chemistry of the human body. The presence of dopamine, according to researchers, is strongly related to productivity. It is possible to increase dopamine levels thanks to the brain’s “reward circuit.” Rewarding employees for good work and productivity trains their brains to remember positive experiences, which, in turn, causes them to perform more productively.

How Are You Managing and Motivating for Increased Productivity?

Improving productivity will require leaders like you to challenge assumptions and employ new techniques and approaches. The advice we outline here works, and we are merely scratching the surface in this week’s blog.

I’d love to hear about your thoughts regarding productivity: What have you done that motivates your people? Are there any pieces of conventional wisdom around productivity that you’ve been able to debunk? How are you leveraging technology? Does it seem to help or hinder productivity?

We would love to hear from you, so let me know your thoughts by reaching out. You can email me at or call me at 1.855.871.3374.

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