5 Ways to Make Your Workplace More Efficient

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Workdays have become longer than they used to be. Time in the office may extend well into the evening, or you likely bring work home to finish after the kids go to bed. Technology is partly to blame for the ability to do work after the daily grind is over, which is something you need to fight against personally. But how can you make your workday and work environment more efficient to avoid having a lot of work to do in the evening hours?

Contrary to what you might think, the culprit is typically not a large workload. Often, your time is taken up by external forces that can be difficult (but not impossible) to control. How often do you complain about being overscheduled in meetings, or about the co-worker who chats with you incessantly about his problems?Here are some ways to make your workplace more efficient and help lower frustration levels for everyone. These recommendations are not only for managers; entry- to mid-level staff can make concrete suggestions to leadership to improve efficiency in their office.

1. Assign a task to the person with the right skills. When a new assignment arises, managers tend to think: "Who on my staff has time to take this on?" This is not an effective way to make a decision.

The right way to approach this question – even when time is of the essence – is to ask: "Who is the right person to take this on?" That is, who has the right skills, knowledge, and/or connections to get the work done? This will save your colleagues time and hopefully cause less frustration and explaining as to why Jane got the assignment instead of Bob.

2. Limit meetings. Let's face it: Unless it's a necessary client meeting or important brainstorm session, nine times out of 10, meetings don't accomplish what they were meant to achieve. Some matters can be settled over email and others over the phone. Meetings draw people away from their regular work and disrupt workflow.

3. Systematize processes to save people time. There may be old ways of doing things in your company that take up a lot of time. When you ask managers why you do things that way, they may say: "Well, that's just how we've always done it."

While there's not always a better solution, there are options out there that can save employees significant amounts of time and free them up to complete other assignments. It could be as small as shortening the chain in a review process or as big as implementing a new software or database solution.

4. Provide quiet, uninterrupted spaces to work. This goes back to those colleagues disrupting your work to discuss personal issues. Most people work better in an environment without a lot of noise. Cubicle farms make it hard to accomplish meaningful work. The open physical layout of many offices today, as well as "open-door" policies establish an open invitation for co-workers to interrupt others.

You may put on headphones or post a "do not disturb" sign, but those do not seem to do the trick. Managers need to provide environments that are conducive to producing quality work. This may mean having a room or area of the office designated as a quiet zone.

5. Determine where people need to be located. Companies are beginning to realize that telework saves them money and greatly increases productivity. Employees working from home tend to accomplish more than their counterparts sitting in an office. This is mainly due to the lack of office distractions listed above and the extra time people can put into work since they can start and end their day during typical commute times. Also, business travel is not always a necessity, as it is both a high monetary and time cost to incur.

Technology now enables seemingly in-person communications, which often eliminate the need for traveling to a location to be physically present.

There are many challenges that employees face today in an office. No one seems to have enough time to get his or her work done, and there are a multitude of forces preventing that from happening. These disruptions can be limited if managers make some basic operational changes.

Not only will these tactics decrease frustration levels and raise morale among employees, they will also likely increase efficiency and lower costs, directly impacting a company's bottom line.

Marcelle Yeager is the president of Career Valet, which delivers personalized career navigation services. Her goal is to enable people to recognize skills and job possibilities they didn't know they had to make a career change or progress in their current career. She worked for more than 10 years as a strategic communications consultant, including four years overseas. Marcelle holds an MBA from the University of Maryland.
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