The Professional’s Guide to Workplace Productivity

As the world becomes ever more interconnected and businesses struggle to compete, the pressure is on for employees to put in more hours and stay productive. In this guide, we look at ten simple ways that you can reduce stress in your office or workspace, and reduce workflow interruptions to a minimum.

Stress in the workplace is a daily reality for many workers throughout the UK, and  recent study by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that extreme stress makes up for 40% of all work-related illness. Stress is the great killer of productivity, so it’s small wonder that most scientific studies about staying productive also focus on ways business owners can reduce stress in the workplace.

co-workers taking a break and discussing work

In this guide, we’ve compiled five simple tips to help you manage stress and stay on task:

1. Get started

One of the biggest obstacles to productivity is the fear of starting a new project. Getting on track might be simpler than you think though, according to study by Greist-Bousquet and Schiffman. Their research found that most people experience “a tendency or ‘need’ to complete a task once it has been initiated”— meaning that the first step might be all it takes to kick your productivity into gear.

2. Take Short Breaks

While the 9-5 work life is familiar to many workers in the UK, Peretz Lavie’s research on ultradian rhythms found that the most productive employees work for long stints (90 minutes) followed by short rests (no more than 15-20 minutes). While it might feel more productive to work straight through an 8-hour workday, you might actually be hurting your productivity.

3. Set Goals

When Anders Ericsson examined the work habits of the world’s top violinists, he found that they weren’t actually practicing more, but they were practicing more productively. Their secret? Deliberate practice sessions designed to improve specific skills. In the office, working deliberately is as simple as defining the small goals you can accomplish each session that will bring you closer to completing your project.

4. Adjust the Thermostat

There’s a common misconception in many offices that keeping workers cool means more productive environments. But one study actually found the opposite to be true — employees in a 20oC work environment were only half as productive and made 44% more mistakes than those in working under 25oC.

5. Brighten Up Your Workspace

Staring out the window and looking forward to the end of the workday? It turns out that longing for nature is hardwired into us, and simple hacks like introducing plants into the office and working in natural light make us more productive. In fact, one study of two large commercial offices in the UK and the Netherlands found that introducing some plant life into your workspace can boost productivity by as much as 15%.

About the author

Mike Stephens FCII is a respected senior industry professional and Fellow of the Chartered Insurance Institute (CII) with well over 40 years’ varied experience in the commercial insurance sector as a director, underwriter, and operational improvement manager.