Work can be a place of chaos and frustration. You can sort through piles of paperwork that never seem to end and answer a constant flow of emails. But you don't have to endure this frustration every day. You can easily enhance your office workflow and make it much easier and less stressful to get your work done.
Below are 13 ways you can improve your workflow and watch your office productivity grow.
1. Clearly communicate tasks and processes.
Communication is key for any business to run smoothly. It is critical for everyone in the office to understand the rules and processes. A successful business encourages employees to let each other know what they are working on, answer any questions others may have and frequently report to their managers. Without proper communication and discussion, it is easy to think others are accomplishing tasks or working on a project when in reality nobody has touched the project. Communication is critical to ensure all tasks are accomplished and all work is completed. [Read related article: The Most Effective Apps for Internal Communication]
2. Separate duties.
Make sure each individual has their own assigned tasks so there is no confusion as to who is working on what. Communication only goes so far, and you can't rely on others to communicate which projects are being tackled by whom. As the leader, the responsibility falls on you to hand out tasks to specific people, and to then communicate with those individuals on their assigned tasks, as suggested by Martin Luenendonk, CEO at FounderJar.
3. Encourage employees to take breaks.
Staying on task seems to be a challenge for many employees. They face many distractions in a workday, such as Facebook, text messages and social interactions. When employees lose focus on their work, it takes significant time to bring their attention back to their current task. If you provide frequent breaks for employees and encourage them to take advantage of designated breaks, they can let themselves forget about work for a short time and clear their minds. When the break is complete, they'll be more apt to concentrate and accomplish work at a faster pace.
4. Conduct frequent training.
When employees are intimidated by their workload or a current project, they tend to procrastinate, losing efficiency and productivity. When they are thoroughly trained in the processes of your company, they will feel more comfortable and less intimidated by their work. Even if they receive the same employee training more than once, it may calm any worries they have and make them more willing to tackle large and difficult projects.
5. Remove all unnecessary stress.
Don't spend your day worrying about unnecessary items. Remove all excess tasks, thoughts, feelings and so on. They will only bog you down and distract you from maintaining a continual flow of work. When you come to work each day, leave your problems from home at the door. Concentrate on the most important project you face and get that done before worrying about something new.
6. Do not multitask.
Although it may seem like you can complete more tasks if you work on more than one at a time, multitasking could be obstructing your daily workflow. When you work on several tasks at once, your brain goes into overload from switching back and forth between projects, which ultimately slows down your productivity on everything. Instead, try to focus on only one task at a time and do not let other tasks distract you.
7. Get organized.
Being organized has many benefits, including a less stressful environment and less time wasted on looking for items. Getting and staying organized often sounds like an overwhelming undertaking, but if you work on it a little each day, you will be amazed at how easy it becomes.
At the end of each day, spend 10 to 15 minutes sorting through the day's papers, file them as needed and toss everything you no longer need. Delete all resolved emails, and prioritize the tasks for the next day in your to-do list. Decluttering from the day will allow you to be better organized the following day, and you won't feel overwhelmed first thing in the morning.
8. Use collaboration tools.
One of the most common sources of productivity interference is email. Your email may be a source of collaboration with your employees and clients, but being interrupted by your email every few minutes will slow down productivity and end up costing you time and money. There is also a higher risk of making poor decisions, because if you are overwhelmed with emails that require immediate decisions, you may rush to a decision that you will later regret.
Instead of constantly checking your email or responding to each alert, consider using a cloud-based tool, such as SaneBox, that separates your email by moving important things to one place and less important things to another place. You can schedule when to check your email instead of spending a lot of accumulated time reading and sorting through massive volumes of email notifications.
9. Attack difficult tasks first.
You cannot do every task at the same time, so it's important to prioritize. Doing the most difficult tasks first will allow you to focus on smaller, less difficult tasks later. At the start of your day, consider ranking each task in a to-do list according to importance and urgency. Put the most important projects at the top of your list, checking them off as you complete them. If a task seems overwhelming, getting rid of it as soon as possible will ease your mind and reduce that feeling of being consumed by numerous tasks.
10. Don't take work home with you.
The easiest and most important thing you can do to improve your daily workflow is to leave your work at work. Taking your work home with you because you think getting extra work done at home will make the following day go smoother does not improve workflow; it causes restlessness at home, limits your breaks, and tends to increase your exhaustion throughout the following workday. Instead, remind yourself of your original goals for the day and then clear your mind when you leave. You will be more effective the next day, and it will improve your work-life balance as well as your workflow.
11. Set clear expectations.
To improve workflow, your staff must know what is expected out of them for each task. This could be project deadlines, word length, research requirements, and more. If an employee isn't aware of what they're aiming for, their workflow could suffer because they have no clear guidelines. Employers should want laser-focused employees, and employee’s knowing the end goal will help get them there.
"An effective way to manage the workload of your employees is to give them an estimation at the start of the week. While this may not always be possible, and for some jobs impractical, letting employees know the output that is expected from them gives them a chance to brace themselves for the week," said Ben Wallington, CEO of Designerwear. "They can prepare and segment their time according to their estimated workflow."
12. Understand individual employee needs.
Assign tasks based on employee strengths and the work produced is bound to be organized and of high quality. Assigning a task that is outside of an employee's area of expertise might cause them to shut down and not feel motivated to do the work. People succeed when they feel their knowledge is used properly, so assigning individual tasks based on what employees are good at will yield better results.
13. Let employees grow.
Ryan Rottman, co-founder and CEO at OSDB Sports, suggests paying close attention to each employee's performance and regularly monitoring whether they are still successful in the same role.
"As people learn and grow within a company, they can also outgrow the initial role for which they were hired. A sure way to raise employee morale and streamline your workflow is to regularly promote from within, or even add new tasks to a job description to freshen things up," Rottman said. "Team members will be proud of their jobs and it will show in their work."