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How to improve efficiency in the workplace

Improve efficiency. The Oxford dictionary defines it as “achieving maximum productivity with minimum wasted effort or expense.”

Wouldn’t we all love to be more efficient? And yet, isn’t it so hard to achieve?

Here are our top five tips to improve efficiency in the workplace, gleaned from years of holding back the tide of emails, meetings and office politics … 

1.   Use Automation

There is a lot of software out there which can do everything from sending emails to keeping accounts for you.

Use it and see it as an investment.

Your time, and the time of everyone who works for you, is almost certainly not best spent performing facile and repetitive tasks but in using your skills to benefit your business – your creativity, your great ideas, your attention to detail.

Cloud-based software is usually the best option, as you can use it from any device with an internet connection, anywhere in the world.

2.   Take stock

You need to strike a balance between making sure you have enough stock so that you don’t run out of things customers want, without spending all your money on it and ending up with no cash.

You don’t want to end up with a warehouse full of things that end up going out of date or out of fashion.

Use effective stock management software which allows you to set minimum stock levels for each item you need and automatically orders replacements when these are reached.

These minimum stock levels should be higher than you think they need to be, so that you can cope with an unexpected influx of orders or a hold-up in the supply chain.

Cultivate good relationships with your suppliers, too – treat them reasonably and pay your invoices on time so when you need a favour they’re more likely to be willing to grant it.

3.   Avoid holding pointless meetings

Pointless, tedious meetings are the bane of many a worker’s life.

Before organising a meeting, ask yourself: is this really a better use of people’s time than leaving them to do their actual job?

Unless the answer is yes, don’t hold the meeting; likewise, as an individual, don’t accept meeting invites unless you are convinced that they are a better use of your time than the work you would otherwise be doing.

4.   Communicate effectively to improve efficiency

Emails, instant messages, phones; who needs to go and talk to someone?

Actually, if you’re in the same office, making the effort to get up from your desk and go over to someone else is so important.

It builds those relationships between colleagues that are vital to the business functioning as a whole, not a set of disparate teams each unable to see beyond their own function.

Effective communication at all levels is a really important part of business efficiency. How often do people complain that bosses have no idea of the difficulties and frustrations they face on the ground?

And have made arbitrary decisions that have made their jobs harder, either without consulting them, or by ignoring what they said?

A lot of employers see communication as a tick-box exercise; everyone has a one-to-one with their manager every week, whether or not they have anything particular to say and whether or not it is the best use of either party’s time.

Arguably, for a really good manager, structured feedback like this is unnecessary because they will have built such strong relationships with their team that they know everything that is going on anyway. Their team feel comfortable coming to them with feedback at any time, not just in a weekly slot.

Good communication with your customers is also crucial but this doesn’t mean bombarding them with requests for feedback every time they make a tiny purchase, or sending them pointless emails every day.

It means making it easy for them to speak with you if they want to, when they want to using their chosen method of communication. Most of all it means listening to what they say and acting on it.

5.   Avoid too much Multitasking

Multitasking is one of the worst trends in the modern workplace.

Studies have shown that people are more productive when they focus on one task at a time, instead of flitting between them; yet again and again managers ignore this.

Research by the American Psychological Association found that each time you shift focus from one task to another, the need for your brain to refocus can make you up to 40 per cent less efficient. Many people find this approach very stressful, further damaging their efficiency and job satisfaction.

Another equally ridiculous trend is generalism.

It’s no longer enough to hire a first-class writer and leave them to write; they’ll be asked to do some video and maybe some photography too.

After all, it’s all content, right?

Wrong; these are completely different skillsets and a writer is no more likely to be good at making videos than they are at the long jump.

If you want someone to make videos, hire a video expert. Assuming they have not indicated a preference for doing otherwise, leave your writer to do the thing which you hired him/her to do and is good at.

Your team will be most efficient if you understand that people are individuals who work in different ways, are motivated by different things and need to be handled in different ways.

Take the time to understand each person’s personality and desires and how they work best. And before you tell someone off for something small; think about the effect this is likely to have on their morale.

Is it really worth chastising someone for laughing or chatting with a colleague?

Are those lost five minutes really more important than the benefits to your business of having a team who feel happy and relaxed at work and who like and care about each other?

At THP Chartered Accountants, our tax advisors in Chelmsford,  Cheam, Wanstead, and Saffron Walden are helping businesses across the South East to keep their financial affairs running like clockwork. Whatever aspect of accounting, tax, finance, or figures you’re struggling with, we can help – just give us a call.

Avatar for Mark Ingle
About Mark Ingle

Owner-manager business specialist, Mark Ingle is key to building relationships with clients at the Chelmsford office. “I like to see clients enterprises grow and succeed.” Mark explains, “The team here has a lot to offer and I can see a lot of new businesses responding to that.”

Having worked for accountancy practices in London and Essex, Mark has worked with a range of companies varying in size. For Mark, THP stands out for its “local firm approach with the resources of a larger practice.”

Although a keen traveller, Mark is focused on giving his clients at THP the highest service, “Right now, I aim to help the clients we have to the best of my ability which will help me attract more of the right clients in the future.”

Mark’s specialist skills:

  • Annual and Management Accounts
  • Tax and VAT
  • Strategy and Business Planning
  • Marketing and Sales
  • Business Development
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