Germany is studying whether to ban late night work emails based on the theory that “constant availability” contributes to mental illness. Some labor agreements in France have similar provisions to ban emails after 6 pm. However, if the German proposal were adopted, it would be the first legally enforceable prohibition of after-hours work email.
It’s a stretch to think that such government edicts might become widespread, let alone practical. But it might be a good idea for your business to institute certain similar bans on email and other productivity-killing activities to ease worker stress and boost productivity.
Related Article: 12 Productivity Hacks for Entrepreneurs
Ban Email and Boost Collaboration
All Western Mortgage Inc. determined that email—particularly long threads that develop as multiple employees contribute to the discussion—was actually hampering intra-office communication. So the company eliminated email entirely.
All Western Mortgage replaced email with Unison, a collaborative software program designed to drastically reduce reliance on internal email. According to company executives, work is now completed more quickly and efficiently.
This result is in line with a report from McKinsey & Company that use of such email alternatives raises employee interaction and productivity by 20 to 25 percent. The same report noted that using collaborative software in place of email could contribute as much as $1.3 trillion in annual value to the economy.
Ban Meetings (Or at Least Most of Them)
A survey of 2000 managers reported in Psychology Today found that they felt at least 30 percent of their time was wasted in meetings. Everybody hates meetings, in part because they are typically poorly structured. Another problem is that when people are in face-to-face social situations they tend to get, well, social. Conversations tend to go off-topic.
Aren’t there times when you actually need to have a meeting? Well, yes, but there are a few ways to reduce the time they take and improve workplace productivity:
- Encourage use of collaborative software
- Make meetings short: 15 minutes is ideal
- Limit meeting participants to those who really need to be involved
- Require participants to turn their cellphones off so as to fully concentrate on the topic at hand
- No PowerPoint presentations
- No chairs in the meeting room provides an incentive for people to make their points quickly
- Don’t delay a meeting for people who are late; everyone’s time is valuable and latecomers can use their own time to catch up
Related Article: 11 Tools for Tracking Your Remote Staff's Productivity
Ban Desk Lunching
Develop a company culture where taking a break is not equivalent to goofing off. Entrepreneur reports a University of Toronto study that a proper lunch break actually reduces fatigue and improves productivity.
In addition to affecting your ability to work, the habit of lunching at your desk associates work with eating. The result is that you start to crave snacks while working, which means extra calories that can add unnecessary pounds and potential health issues.
Ban Sitting (at Least without Regular Breaks)
While standing desks are becoming more popular, you probably can’t ban sitting altogether. Fast Company reports that five or more hours of sedentary sitting is the health equivalent of smoking a pack and a quarter of cigarettes.
So for the same reason that smoking is banned in the workplace, institute a “Stand Every 20 Minutes” policy. According to Forbes, employees at New Balance who performed some kind of physical activity at their desk, even if just standing up, reported heightened engagement and concentration to do their work.