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You don’t want to end up with a warehouse full of things that end up going out of date or out of fashion.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

Mark Boulter is responsible for the efficient running of the firm’s infrastructure, and ensuring that THP delivers the best client service. Promoting the vision and culture across all branches, people are the key: “I like people who have a fresh approach and I’m happy for them to run with their ideas,” he says.

Communication across departments is crucial and Mark pioneers this. He ensure that people and departments not only talk to each other, but that they share ideas– whether they’re about marketing, finance, sales, strategy or any other topic that can result in us offering a better service. “I think helping to develop the next generation of THP people is essential to our success,” Mark adds. “We’ve a lot of talented people and our way of doing things increasingly attracts ambitious newcomers who are looking for a fresh approach. That’s good for us and even better news for our clients.”

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