This article defines productivity as how much work employees are doing. But we should also consider the timeframe in which they are doing the work and the value of the work. Would you consider an employee productive if he or she worked very hard for hours on something of little value?

Obviously we want employees to be productive—that is, to spend their time wisely, working efficiently. More valuable work will get done and your organization as a whole will improve.

And more often than not, a productive worker is a happy worker. In the hypothetical question I posed earlier, consider how the employee who spent hours poring over a project would feel having not accomplished much, or if their work is simply dismissed.

For employees to feel good about the work they do, it’s important for them to know why they’re doing it. Sometimes managers operate under a veil, only revealing information to employees on a need-to-know basis. However, shrouding the motivation behind work does little to encourage employees. Of course there are exceptions, but generally speaking, let your employees know why they are doing something and why it’s valuable. Even if the finished product doesn’t end up getting “used” (published, submitted, displayed, etc.)—explain the value in completing the task itself. For example, describe how the task helps the organization or the individual ultimately. A small explanation can increase a worker’s positivity significantly.

An important point this article makes is that productivity does not have to mean someone chained to his or her desk for hours on end; productivity can increase when workers are encouraged to take breaks and move around periodically. We all need breaks, and taking a breather from an especially difficult task can provide the refresher we need to complete it.

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