Work Efficiency: How To Increase It, and Why It Matters
Few things keep a business owner up at night more than work efficiency.
How do we know? Well, if you’re a business owner getting night sweats about problems such as:
- Missed deadlines
- Budget overspends
- Digital document disasters
- Or burnt-out, frustrated employees who blame each other and point fingers
…then you might have an efficiency problem.
Perhaps you even struggle to work efficiently yourself. You might fill your calendar with meetings and have to catch up on core work in your free time. Or maybe you spend your days dealing with emergencies and never find time for strategy.
Work efficiency starts with efficient leadership, which leads to an efficiency “trickle-down” effect. This article will explain what work efficiency is (and isn’t), why it matters, and 10 ways you and your team can work more efficiently.
What is work efficiency?
Efficiency at work means completing tasks using the least amount of material and human resources to help the business meet its goals.
Think of it this way. If Team A can produce the same amount of work in less time than Team B, Team A is the more efficient of the two.
So what makes an efficient team?
Employee efficiency depends on many factors, including their skills, experience, energy levels, and physical and mental wellbeing. Tired, grumpy employees will be less efficient than happy, well-rested ones. For a start, they’re going to take a lot more coffee breaks!
Organization also plays a key role in work efficiency. Shockingly, over 54% of office workers say they spend more time searching for documents, files, and other information than doing their jobs. This is an inefficient use of their time caused by poor digital management.
Having high employee turnover can also make a business run less efficiently as resources are lost on recruiting, onboarding, and training new employees before they can perform their jobs efficiently. So by keeping employees engaged, you can help reduce turnover and boost efficiency.
Efficient vs. effective — what’s the difference?
Is it possible to be an efficient employee without being effective? And can you be effective without being efficient?
The answer to both is: yes.
According to the “father of modern management,” Peter Drucker, “Efficiency is doing things right; effectiveness is doing the right things.”
Therefore, team efficiency is about process, while effectiveness is about how relevant an action is to achieving business objectives.
To work effectively, you and your team must focus on the tasks that contribute to your company’s overarching goals. But to work efficiently, you need to find the best ways to execute them. It’s about working smarter, not harder.
Why work efficiency matters
If you think being more efficient at work isn’t that important, think again — businesses lose up to 20–30% of their annual revenue due to inefficiencies. Here are three ways increasing efficiency makes your business run better.
1. It boosts your bottom line
Are you in business to make money? Then you need to start thinking about efficiency.
Business professionals often get complacent when it comes to thinking about process and efficiency. There’s a tendency to keep doing things the same way because that’s how they’ve always been done. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” becomes the mantra.
But being in business is a constant evolution, and processes that may have been efficient in the past might now be costing you money.
Regularly optimizing your work processes for efficiency will help you make sure you do more with less, which will save your business money and increase your profit margins.
2. It increases productivity
When you improve the efficiency of your business, your productivity — or output — should automatically increase, too. You’ll be able to achieve more in the same amount of time and with the same or fewer resources.
However, pursuing efficiency at all costs can put too much emphasis on the process without factoring in the human element. Your employees are people, after all.
So make sure to provide the conditions that help them stay productive, such as:
- Incentives and rewards like branded merchandise for a job well done.
- Flexible hours and remote work options
- Learning and career development
- Regular breaks
- Mental health days
3. It reduces employee turnover
Business professionals working for an inefficient company are likely to grow frustrated and move on to a new opportunity that challenges them to grow and make use of their talents.
Efficient workplaces have more engaged employees and are able to attract and retain top talent.
10 ways you and your team can work more efficiently
Ready to start improving team efficiency at work? Follow these ten steps to running a more efficient business.
1. Set clear goals
Work efficiency starts with setting clear goals — if you don’t know where you’re going, you could end up anywhere.
Goal setting should take place at every level of your business — from your big-picture business objectives down to monthly, weekly, and daily targets.
Involve team members in this process and find ways to connect business objectives with their personal and professional goals. When everyone is on the same page and employees have aspirations within the organization, your business will run much more efficiently.
Revisit your goals at least once a quarter to ensure they’re still relevant and keep your strategy aligned with them.
Once you’re clear on your business goals, you’ll be able to prioritize the projects and tasks that will be most efficient at moving the needle toward them.
If you often get sidetracked by less urgent tasks, keep to-do lists and write things down as they pop into your head. This will prevent them from distracting you so you can focus on the activities that maximize efficiency.
3. Learn to delegate
If you’re a founder, CEO, or other high-level exec, getting bogged down in the day-to-day tasks is an inefficient use of your time.
You hired your people for a reason, and you have to trust them to carry out their work, giving you time to focus on the high-level stuff.
Similarly, team leaders should focus on facilitating work for their team members rather than trying to do it for them.
4. Keep employees engaged
Disengaged employees are likely to spend a lot of time trying to look busy while secretly browsing social media, taking extra-long lunch breaks, and sharing the latest gossip by the water cooler.
By contrast, engaged employees are motivated and driven. They don’t need you breathing down their necks all the time — they just get on with what needs to be done.
So how do you keep employees engaged? A few suggestions include:
- Making sure their work aligns with their skills and career aspirations
- Recognizing and rewarding good work
- Offering incentives
5. Provide time management training
In the age of information, distractions are everywhere. Social media, in particular, is designed to grab and hold our attention by stimulating the reward centers of our brains.
Does that mean you should monitor your employees, take away their smartphones, or limit their access to social media? Probably not, as they’ll end up resenting you.
Once again, it comes down to trust. Teach them the principles of personal time management, and trust them to do it on their own — after all, you’re not their mom.
6. Minimize distractions
Distractions come in all shapes and sizes, and social media is just one of them. In the remote work age, the lines between work and personal life are becoming blurred, creating more distractions.
You won’t be surprised to know all these interruptions kill our efficiency. One study found that it takes up to 20 minutes to regain focus after a single distraction.
If you work from home, ask the people around you not to disturb you while you’re working and try keeping your phone in another room.
7. Use tools that increase efficiency
Say your team is working on a pitch that involves team members from various departments, such as sales, finance, and marketing.
An inefficient way to do this would be through long “reply all” email chains that clog up inboxes like a blocked sink. Multiple versions and copies of the pitch deck fly around, resulting in chaos and confusion.
To make the process more efficient, invest in collaboration software that enables employees to edit, comment, and instant message one another in real-time, eliminating the need for emails and multiple copies. You could also use project management software to automate workflows and repetitive administrative tasks.
8. Allow employees to work remotely
Back in the day, we used to think “remote work” was just an excuse to lie around in your pajamas, watching daytime TV and occasionally responding to emails.
But it turns out remote work is actually great for work efficiency — 90% of office workers say they are as productive or more working remotely as they are in the office, and 55% say they work more hours remotely than they do in the office.
9. Manage your physical space
It’s official — too much clutter is linked to procrastination, so it’s time to clear that desk!
Clearing away clutter doesn’t just help you focus — it also means you can find the things you need more easily, so it’s a win-win for work efficiency. You’ll feel less stressed and more capable of completing your work in the required time frame.
10. Manage your virtual space
Just as physical clutter can impact efficiency, so can digital clutter. If you have hundreds of apps and browser tabs open at any given time, you know what we’re talking about.
When you spend a lot of time clicking around looking for things, it’s easy to get distracted from the task at hand. You might end up responding to emails or reading a particularly click-worthy article instead of working on that important presentation.
How Stack can boost your work efficiency
Speaking of managing your virtual space…that’s exactly what Stack does. As the world’s first spatial browser, it allows you to manage your files and apps so you can work with maximum efficiency. Let’s take a look at three ways it can do this.
1. It helps you organize your digital environment
First up, our Spaces feature allows you to separate your work documents and apps from your personal ones. You can even create different Spaces for different work projects to keep relevant apps together.
Within each Space, you can add Saved Cards — they’re kind of like bookmarks, but you can save more than just links.
And what about when you need to refer to a website but don’t want it cluttering up your digital space? That’s where Ghost Cards come in. With just one click, you can close any windows you no longer need.
2. It minimizes distractions
Getting rid of virtual clutter helps you feel less stressed and more focused. But it doesn’t stop there. Stack has other features designed to help you focus, including the aptly-named Focus mode. It lets you mute all your notifications completely or batch them together so you can respond later.
And if you’ve ever ended up watching cat videos on YouTube without remembering how you got there, you’ll love Switch. It lets you jump between apps without getting distracted along the way.
3. It lets you multitask like a pro
Most people think multitasking is bad for efficiency. At Stack, we believe it’s not as simple as that. There is a “right” way to multitask, and it’s grouping similar tasks together so you can easily transition from one to the next.
With our Spaces feature, you can organize tasks into separate workspaces to help you stay focused on one thing at a time while ticking multiple items off your to-do list.
Get a good night’s sleep with a more efficient business
When you improve the efficiency of your business, you can sleep easy knowing your team has everything under control.
Optimizing efficiency — along with effectiveness and productivity — will not only make you a better leader. It will also boost employee engagement and, ultimately, your profits.
One of the best ways to increase efficiency is by using the right software tools — such as Stack Next.
It enables you to organize your virtual workspace in a way that makes sense and maximizes efficiency. Join the waitlist to unleash your most efficient self.