Running a small business or a solo venture is challenging, so it’s key to make every hour at work as productive as possible. Especially when things are busy, you can easily find yourself letting business hours bleed into your personal life in an effort to do it all—but the more hours you spend working, the less seems to get done. The best way to boost your business’s productivity is to make things more efficient. Read on for five easy tips to help you and your employees get the most out of work hours.
Create a Productivity-Friendly Environment
If you’re the boss, you have an opportunity to make work hours relaxed, even when the pressure is on. Offer ergonomic desk and chair setups to minimize discomfort-fueled fidgeting and set the office thermostat somewhere between 68 and 70 F to ensure that no one is distracted by being too hot or too cold, and remind employees working from home to audit their workspaces for comfort.
Consider unconventional approaches to shaping the environment, too, like scent; researchers have discovered that smell connects to higher-order cognitive abilities like learning and remembering. Fragrances like rosemary and cinnamon have been shown to improve memory and creativity in lab tests, so think about building a scent profile for the office. For work-from-home companies, you can pass out a fragrance blend as an employee gift. Essential oils are an easy way to get started with fragrance. Some brands, like Young Living Essential Oils, even offer ready-to-use blends that evoke creativity, energy, and motivation.
Improve Your Digital Toolkit
Technology is a critical part of making sure even small operations can keep pace with big demands on their productivity. With fewer people to complete each task, it’s more important to automate where you can and create reminders and schedules for important objectives. Unfortunately, many enterprise-level software solutions are too expensive or cumbersome for small businesses. You can strike a balance by seeking out tools that are targeted to, or popular with, small businesses and solopreneurs. If your tech budget is limited, start with just the essentials, like file management and collaboration or scheduling tools.
Motivate, Reward, and Encourage Autonomy
Rewarding employees for a job well done can improve motivation, since it ensures that employees feel like their efforts are appreciated. However, rewards work best under certain circumstances: They can improve performance on tasks that your workforce experiences as dull, and they’re great to boost energy in short bursts. But if you’re inconsistent with rewards or rely on them for everything, you can damage performance over the long haul.
Social psychologists have found that a combination of autonomy and rewards work best. When you trust your employees to get the job done on their own schedule and reward them intermittently for exceptional performance, you’ll take advantage of the natural human desire to feel independent and confident, and make top performers feel recognized.
Continue Your Business Education
If you want to be successful, it’s important to expand your skills and learn new things about both your market and the business world. You may not have time to head back to school for an MBA, but you would be wise to schedule some professional reading time into your calendar. Becoming a lifelong reader and learner will make you more likely to develop innovative insights and solutions that make your business more fruitful. Bonus: If you have employees, you can ask them for some reading suggestions and develop a startup book club to build camaraderie.
Enforce—and Model—Work Hours
Business ownership has consumed many entrepreneurs’ lives and schedules, and it’s easy to fall into the trap of working endless but unproductive hours. If you have employees, modeling this attitude will communicate to them that they should be behaving the same way, and while it may lead to a short-term increase in hours worked, ultimately you and your team will be spending many hours at the office while accomplishing very little.
To counteract this, promulgate a “business hours only” model of productivity. Except for truly essential, last-minute pushes—which should be few and far between—keep your emails and Slack presence to an approximation of 8 AM to 5 PM. Don’t send or reply to emails after hours, and don’t expect your team or partners to do so, either. By structuring work hours, you’ll allow yourself and your employees time to rest and attend to their personal lives, ensuring that they come to work focused each day.
Running a business is hard, but it doesn’t have to be painful. Being your own boss shouldn’t mean spending hours doing unproductive work, so make sure you’re encouraging yourself and your team to be at peak performance during work hours—and once the day is over, everyone can feel free to relax.