Should We Focus on Increasing Individual Productivity?

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It’s long been established that productivity is important. But as I sat writing something the other day, I realised I’d never stopped to ask myself why that’s the case. Or, indeed, whether focusing on individual productivity is the best way to gauge success. My curiosity was ignited.

Let’s answer the question. 

Not primarily. With the introduction of flexible working— and its subsequent expansion— traditional ways of measuring individual productivity have become increasingly ill-fit for purpose and more prone to inaccuracy. Individual productivity is no longer the key measure of professional success. Streamlining systems and processes used every day seems more beneficial. Making productive investments and cultivating a highly motivational atmosphere would help ensure that more of employee’s working time is devoted to doing high-value work which will yield the best results. This would increase team efficiency and — by extension — may add value to your business.

Later, I’ll talk about the limits of looking at individual levels of productivity as the primary measure of success. First though, we need to look at why productivity matters in business.  

5 ways productivity matters

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on
  1. It’s vital to the economy.

Productivity levels in the economy of a country matter because they’re intricately connected to standards of living. Raising levels of productivity in the economy leads to increased wages.

Solution: Technology plays a crucial role in increasing efficiency levels.  So, to develop an economy that can support higher levels of consumption in future, its necessary to lower short-term consumption and make investments that are likely to increase productivity.

2. It’s good for the environment.

The environment suffers when people are inefficient. For example, If you’re disorganised and take 10 hours to complete work which could be finished in 5, you’re using 5 more hours of electricity than you would if you were working at maximum efficiency. In effect, you waste resources as well as time and money.

Solution: Put thought into your workplace or office design. Designing a space that makes the most of natural light, for instance,  can not only help improve your mood and thus boot productivity, you’ll also be optimising the way you use electricity. By doing your best to work more efficiently, you’re helping the planet out. Having a nice space to work in also makes it easier for people to focus on their work.

3. It helps improve job satisfaction.

When people lack job satisfaction, they have less motivation and are more likely to have a negative attitude to work. This will damage productivity.

Solution:  By taking steps to raise morale amongst the workforce, you help create a less stressful, happier, healthier, and more productive ambiance. The interesting thing is, just by creating this efficient, happy and motivational environment you can make people feel more valued.

4. It creates opportunities for business growth.

An uptick in efficiency presents you with a chance to further develop your business. If the rise in productivity creates more time for you and your employees, it’s important to decide how to spend that time. If you don’t give proper thought to this, the extra time could be whiled away doing unimportant tasks which could be automated.

Solution: Assign your co-workers high-value tasks that will give the best results in proportion to the effort expended. If a task wasn’t worth the time you spent on it before you invested in things that improved your efficiency, it’s not worth your time right now.

5. Makes you more competitive.

As you may imagine, anything you can do better than your competitors gives you an edge. Thus, if you become more productive, you also become more competitive.

Solution: One way you can be more competitive is by delivering your product or service faster than your professional rivals. If you streamline the way your company runs, you’ll soon be producing products faster, and will be able to charge less. Thereby, you’ll offer better value to customers. You’ll have more time to give to each customer too.

Soon, I’ll talk about ways you can boost productivity within your business as a whole.

Next though, let’s discuss individual efficiency.

Is assessing individual productivity the best way to gauge success?

The word productive has become a watchword in the office in recent years, so much so that you’re almost as likely to hear the word at a dinner party amongst friends as you are in a boardroom.

But maybe putting so much store by individual productivity is no longer the best way to assess the value of employees.

Let’s investigate.

  • Productivity often meant something in the past
    • Time cards made it easy to see an employee’s working hours and compare them.
    • Also many jobs involved manufacturing, so differences in output could also be easily observed.   
    • Nowadays — with the expansion of flexible working — lines between our home and work lives have become harder to distinguish.
  • Productivity measures can be inaccurate.
    • Timesheets are now commonly used to record hours. But even so, it’s hard to say exactly how much time is being spent doing work-related tasks.
    • This could include things like checking emails on the journey into work.
    • National measures of productivity, for example, often fail to account for key factors like unemployment levels.
    • It’s different for organisations of course, but that last shows you how focusing only on productivity levels can obscure the bigger picture.
  • Workers can fall into a ‘productivity trap.’
    • Many organisations go for broke where productivity is concerned. HR sniffs out areas in which they can increase efficiency. The seemingly endless search for a way to squeeze a tiny bit more out of the workforce is oft driven by employers wanting to find their co-workers more to do.  That’s an understandable but somewhat flawed attitude to take.
    • Instead it might be wiser to allow your staff to enjoy a bit more free time, so that they’ll be less susceptible to fatigue and burnout.
    • By always striving to find more for your employees to do, you run the risk of sacrificing quality for speed. That’s the so-called productivity trap.

We’ve discussed some limitations of focusing solely on individual productivity. Now it’s time to look at what you can do to improve the efficiency of your workforce as a whole.  

5 ways you can boost team productivity

Team productivity in action.

Over the last few years, there’s been a focus on how best to increase productivity levels in business.

Let’s look into 5 of those reasons.

  1. Improving Profitability

When people are working more efficiently, less labour is needed to make the same amount of any given product. This means you’ll benefit from an increased output if you retain the whole of your workforce.

2. Reducing Costs

There are a number of ways you can do this.

Encourage your employees to take steps to improve their personal workflows. You could ask them to try some workflow management tools, like Asana or Pipefy. This will help them produce the same amount in less time.

 Investing in technology to help streamline processes can be enormously helpful in reducing costs — particularly if you’re making physical products.

You could also consider the individual needs of your colleagues by bringing in flexitime. This may have the benefit of making people feel more engaged and valued. This, in turn,  may help lessen stress and increase motivation.

As we know, high motivation levels can increase productivity.  In practice, this might mean they can get as much done in three days as they used to do in a week.

3. Effective use of resources

As with reducing cost, there are a number of ways to do this.

  • By improving HR management you can create a great opportunity to increase productivity through effective staffing and a fairer distribution of roles.
  • You can use workflow management tools to help you spot places where roles may overlap. Thereby, you’ll have a much better idea of what practical steps you can take to ensure all of your employees are able to work to their full potential.

4. Decrease employee burnout

As you know, when you’ve got too much to do and not enough time to do it in, an atmosphere of stress and anxiety is created. If people experience stress and anxiety for too long without a break, they’re more likely to suffer from fatigue or burnout. I’ve talked about how fatigue can affect productivity before. Using time management software well can help you manage this problem so that, hopefully, neither you nor any of your colleagues fall prey to burnout.

5. Provide better customer service.

When you’re providing first-rate customer service, your customers are given more time and attention. In turn, systems run more effectively, customers feel more valued and appreciated. Your co-workers are likely to feel more engaged in the work they’re doing if they feel that by doing their work, they’re making others happy. When people are both happy and motivated, they’re sure to become more productive.


Individual productivity is still undeniably important. But I hope you’re now more aware of some of the ways of getting the best out of yourself and your colleagues,  that haven’t seized the public imagination in the same way as individual productivity. Why wait? Go forth and conquer the world of business through wise investment, first-rate management, and ever-improving team efficiency today!     

Published by Lizzie

Lizzie here. I'm a freelance copywriter and editor based in the UK. I'm also passionate about volunteering and hold a MA in History from the University of Warwick. I've written for a multitude of fantastic websites and companies, including a legal automation software company, a dog training site and more. Check out my reviews on Fiverr and Upwork for more info!

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