Every SME has one goal: growth.

But, in order to grow, your productivity needs to be healthy. This translates to the amount of resources put into the business vs. the amount of output/the amount of work produced.

But how do you go about improving your business productivity? In this blog we’ll talk about 8 different ways you can tackle productivity issues, boost output and – ultimately – help your small business flourish.

8 ways to boost productivity in an SME

1. Assess your current productivity

In order to boost your productivity, you need to take some time to assess your current situation.

How productive is your business right now? What do you have in place to encourage productivity? Where is there room for improvement?

You’ll also need to calculate your current productivity rate. We’ve created a free, intuitive Productivity Calculator to help businesses like yours benchmark their productivity and identify room for improvement. 

2. Automate your processes

It’s so easy to cling on to manual, time consuming processes if you’re used to them. We get it.

But, embracing technological advances and exploring software alternatives can do wonders for your overall productivity.

HR software is a great example of this. Swapping out spreadsheets for people-management software can give SME CEOs, directors and HR Managers back valuable time, that can then be spent on other important people-related tasks.

And the numbers speak from themselves: research told us that most Breathe users save between 200-400 hours per year. That’s up to 7 hours a week – almost a whole working day.

 

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3. Set reasonable deadlines

While it’s important to not overload your employees with work, it’s just as important to ensure their deadlines aren’t too lax and that you don’t allocate too many people to one task.

In fact, observations were made back in the 50s about how ‘work expands to fill the time available for its completion’. So, basically, if you’re given a report to write but are given a slack deadline, the work will expand to fill this time and you won’t be as productive as if you only had a few days to complete it. This idea is known as Parkinson’s Law.

If you’re looking to boost productivity, ensure deadlines are kept tight but reasonable. You’ll soon notice an increase in output – and, even better – an energised, motivated working culture.

4. Encourage a work-life balance

Having (and maintaining) a work-life balance is a tricky one to nail. And research tells us that this is a wide-spread problem: more than half (55%) of employees admit to having worked through their lunch hour in the last month, and a quarter (24%) say they worked outside of their normal working pattern.

But the consequences can’t be ignored: burning the candle at both ends can have a detrimental impact on both mental and physical health and can ultimately lead to burnout.

And it’s no good for productivity, either, since working less hours can actually be more productive.

Encourage employees to use their full holiday allowance, take regular breaks away from their desk and get headspace when they need it. Advise them against checking their emails outside of working hours; these can definitely wait until when they’re back in the office.

5. Introduce flexible working

More and more small UK businesses are adopting flexible working as part of their company culture. This includes flexi-hours, working from home and job-sharing, among other arrangements.

And it definitely has its benefits – it gives parents and carers that extra flexibility, makes employees feel fully trusted, encourages autonomy and is an attractive benefit for prospective candidates, to name just a few. And all of these are natural drivers for business productivity.

Flexible working may not be ideal for every small business. For example, you can’t run a dental practice remotely. But, for the businesses that are able to provide flexibility, try it – your business may just thank you later.

6. Extinguish micro-management

Micro-management can have a huge impact on productivity, wellbeing, employee retention and your company culture. Constantly having someone looking over your shoulder is incredibly demoralising and can lead to an employee dreading coming into work.

But, as a business leader, it can sometimes be tricky to identify micro-management if employees are keeping it under wraps. If you’re wondering what the symptoms of micro-management are, head over to our recent blog article.

There are a variety of reasons why people micro-manage, ranging from not trusting anyone else to do the job as well as them and always wanting overall control over projects.

Whatever it might be, it’s important to tackle the problem at the root and provide advice and training to turn things around.

7. Communicate

There’s no doubt about it – maintaining regular communication within your team will help to streamline projects and drive progress forward.

There are plenty of tools out there to help you do this. Take messaging software, Slack, for example. It’s certainly been a game-changer for us at Breathe.

Ensure you check in with your team regularly, too. Getting weekly 1-2-1s in the diary will ensure that you have frequent opportunities to catch up on an individual basis, eliminate any niggling issues and make sure they’re okay in themselves, too.

HR software like Breathe can help you make sure you never miss a 1-2-1 with its handy performance management tool. Try it out for 14 days and see how the easy-to-use system could help your business.

8. Be social

Make an effort to get to know your people on a personal level. They’ll get to know you as a human (rather than a manager, director or CEO) and it will benefit your working relationship – and therefore productivity – in the long run.

If your colleagues get together for a drink after work on Fridays, why not go along with them every now and then? If not, you could consider arranging an evening out for your team.

It’s important to reward your employees, too. Make sure a Christmas Do is on your festive to-do list each year. You could even throw an annual year-end office party too to thank them for their hard work.

Be generous – your overall productivity will thank you for it.

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