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Guidance on leadership development & strategic planning.

How Much Paid Time Off (PTO) is Good for Productivity?

By Leadership Resources 12/01/2019
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In the highly competitive business landscape, there seems to be little room for respite. As it turns out, though, working nonstop often stifles rather than stimulates a company’s output. Enough research has now been conducted to confidently conclude that paid time off (PTO) promotes productivity and long-term organizational success. 

Developed countries outside the U.S. seem to understand this, mandating a minimum number of days off for workers, usually somewhere between 20 and 30 days. No such regulation exists in the states, however, with the average American receiving about 10 paid days off per year (according to the Center for Economic and Policy Research). 

Some companies, embroiled in a culture of no compromises, might think that 10 days off is plenty, even generous. But, perhaps a better question is this: Are those 10 days of PTO enough to keep a business healthy, dynamic, and reputable? Even knowing that PTO is good for productivity, though, employers might have a hard time determining just how much vacation time to offer its employees, and how to best structure this policy. While no two businesses will devise the same PTO plan, a number of key considerations can inform their decision.

What to Know About Paid Time Off Policy

The Importance of Paid Time Off

Paid time off is crucial for promoting workers’ mental health, cultivating new ideas and leaders, and establishing a workplace culture that attracts and retains quality people.

Plenty of people love their work, but lacking a balance between work and the rest of one’s life tends to undermine both. Ironically enough, when individuals can’t seem to escape their working role, their work suffers as a result. Burnout and stress are major causes of performance management issues in organizations and can take a toll on one’s mental health. Taking time off allows employees and leaders to recharge and shift their thought processes, so when they finally return, they come back with an energetic, fresh perspective that can propel the organization forward.

Businesses who boast a superior PTO policy also benefit from acquiring a more impressive pool of candidates. Many of those entering the workforce actively seek opportunities that offer competitive benefits such as fair PTO. If a company wants to hire the best people out there, modernizing its PTO plan makes a powerful statement.

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How Much PTO Is Good for Productivity?

While it may be abundantly clear that offering reasonable PTO is beneficial for business, calculating the optimal amount of PTO is a bit blurry. This number will vary from one company to the next, based on its particular structure, number of employees, the regularity of workload, etc. 

For instance, a company that does most of its business in the summer might mostly hire temporary part-time workers, with only a few full-time staffers on hand. These full-time workers might still have work to do on the off-season, but it might not be as burdensome as the on-season, so their PTO might be extensive but limited to a certain time of year.

Businesses that operate year-round and hire predominantly full-time workers will likely have a different PTO system in place than the one outlined above. Many companies base their PTO offerings on the length of time an individual has served the organization. For example, a new employee might have 10-15 paid days off while someone who has been there for over a decade might have closer to 20-25 days off. This service-based policy both incentivizes employee retention while delivering more time off for those who may require it to cope with leadership stress.

Some newer companies, especially those in Silicon Valley, have actually begun experimenting with an “open PTO” plan. These policies essentially allow employees to take time off as much as they’d like, so long as they meet their deadlines. This system might seem ripe for abuse. However, the opposite may be true. As discovered by a 2017 study conducted by Namely, many employees under this open policy actually end up taking fewer days off than those under stricter PTO plans precisely because they don’t want to take advantage of it. That said, unlimited vacation policies show potential for cultivating high performance culture companies, as long as expectations are made clear and workers feel welcome to take a break when they need one.

Cultivating a Culture That Encourages Taking Time Off

There may be no one-size-fits-all PTO policy, but all businesses can benefit from making sure PTO is properly utilized by workers. According to a 2016 study by the U.S. Travel Association’s Project: Time Off, 54 percent of Americans neglect taking some of their earned vacation time, possibly for fear of losing their job, falling behind on project deadlines, or failing to meet expectations. To ensure that employees get the breaks they need and deserve, companies should clarify their PTO policy and actively encourage everyone to use it fully. 

Leaders within the business can set an example by committing to their vacation time and advocating its value. Additionally, workers should be reminded of how much PTO they’re entitled to, and if they must use it within a given timeframe. Businesses should also have a plan in place to prevent emails and messages from being sent to those using their PTO, so they never feel pressured to check in on work-related matters.

Everyone needs a vacation. No organization can succeed when its people are exhausted, stressed, and unhealthy. In this way, PTO is a major component of proper employee productivity management. As for how much PTO boosts productivity, it all depends on how your business operates. Regardless of the hard numbers, make sure your people use the time off they’re given.

At Leadership Resources, our purpose is making the impossible possible through people. We aim to do so by helping individuals develop patterns of success that will decrease stress levels and maximize productivity. Contact us here to learn more about what we do and how it can help your business succeed and grow.

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Open Floorplan or Cubes: Is One Better Than the Other?

By Leadership Resources 06/07/2019
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A workplace is more than just a collection of walls, chairs, desks, and employees. It’s an environment where several individuals must cooperate and focus on a number of tasks each day. The way your workplace is organized in large part determines how your staff members feel, how hard they work, and how they get along with one another. In other words, your office should be designed to improve and optimize your company’s unique workplace culture.

We’re all familiar with the proverbial office with sequestered cubicles and low ceilings. And while many work environments have inherited and maintained this design, plenty of modern offices have done away with the barriers and opened right up. Are these open floorplans better than cubes, though? Let’s run down the pros and cons of both set-ups and see if we can determine a winner.

Should You Get an Open Floor Plan or Cubicles?

Cubicles

Our modern sensibilities might shudder at the thought of cubicles. But that drab image in our heads is usually not representative of the real thing. Cubicles can range in size, shape, and design.

Pros:

  • Personal(ized) Space: Employees who work in an office spend a lot of their time there. Many of them enjoy having some space where they can put up photographs, artwork, and knick-knacks to make it their own. On top of that, most people benefit from some personal space where they can get away from others every now and then.
  • Limits Distractions: Cubicles are often a great way to reduce performance management issues caused by visual or auditory distractions. Their walls keep such unwanted stimuli out of sight and mind. This is especially important for jobs and roles that require serious focus or privacy.

Cons:

  • Detrimental to Teamwork: Cubicles might not be the best option for a team-driven business. These partitions keep everyone in their own little bubble for much of the day. Leaders may struggle with team management as a result.
  • Less Accountability: These enclosures may also tempt some employees to shirk some of their responsibilities. In this regard, cubicles might not make for the most effective performance management, even if they also encourage focus at times. It’s a double-edged sword.

Open Floorplans

This type of office configuration is becoming more and more popular. On paper, open floorplans sound great. However, they’re not without their flaws as well.

Pros:

  • Encourages Communication: The fewer barriers your office has, the more open it is to collaboration and communication. Staff members will get to know the faces and names of everyone else in the office. These open floorplans make it difficult to hide from your team.
  • Increases Accountability: An open floorplan makes it so every employee has an idea of what their team members are up to. In this way, your team will stay productive and accountable for their work.

Cons:

  • Less Privacy: All of that open space comes at the cost of privacy, of course. Without the comfort of a cubicle, employees have a harder time making their workplace their own. They also lack options when they want to take a break from socializing.
  • Increases Distractions: The more you can see and hear, the harder it may be to focus on the task at hand. Some employees can manage their attention better than others, but an open floorplan opens the door for all kinds of distractions. So, this configuration might not always be suited for proper employee productivity management.

Open Floor vs. Cubes? Which is the Better Option?

In a way, the pros and cons are flipped for each set-up. That means the “winner” depends on your specific needs, roles, and company culture. If your company relies heavily on teamwork, collaboration, and free expression, open floorplans are often ideal. If your business, on the other hand, requires more individual focus and privacy, cubicles might be the way to go. Some offices might even incorporate elements of both configurations. Do what’s best for your purposes.

At Leadership Resources, our purpose is making the impossible possible through people. We aim to do so by helping individuals develop patterns of success that will decrease stress levels and maximize productivity. Contact us here to learn more about what we do and how it can help your business succeed and grow.

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Sustainable Office Productivity: How to Get the Most out of Your Employees Without Creating Burnout

By Leadership Resources 12/03/2018
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When it comes to maximizing office productivity, leaders are faced with several challenges. On the one hand, you want to get the most out of your employees. On the other hand, you don’t want to push your team past the threshold of exhaustion. Burnout is a real problem in today’s workplace culture. Leaders must find a way to avoid burnout while still fostering sustainable office productivity. The question is: how?

Expectations and Motivation

In any successful organization, its core values are defined for all its people from the very beginning. These values lay out what the business aims to achieve and how it aims to achieve it. As a result, clear expectations are set for all staff members. Employees will understand how to behave as well as the consequences of not meeting these expectations.

However, consequences alone won’t enhance employee performance management. People need motivation to work harder and feel good about their work. This motivation can come in many forms. Ideally, an employee will have flocked to the company because his/her core values align with the culture and values of the business. If this is the case, the employee will feel inherently motivated by contributing to the company’s success.

But staff members can always be motivated further. For some, receiving praise on a job well done is a strong motivating tool. For others, it’s compensation or promotion. Whatever the case, the best way to motivate employees is to appeal to their core values and encourage their great work.

11 Ways To Create Accountability And Increase Productivity At Your Organization. Download this whitepaper.

Encourage a Healthy Separation of Work and Home Life

Not feeling motivated can certainly lead to burnout. But the other leading cause stems from the inability to get away from work. Of course, some employees work from home and others enjoy collecting overtime as compensation for extra hours worked. Still, failing to find a healthy balance between work and life outside of work is bound to create burnout in most employees at some point.

When building office culture, leaders should keep this separation in mind and respect the private lives of all employees once the work day is done. Employees should also feel encouraged to take a reprieve from work every now and then, either for a personal day or a week-long vacation. These breaks for the day-to-day stresses of work actually benefit employee productivity management in the long-term.

Of course, every now and then you may have to call an employee after hours for clarification or to change plans on the spot. Aside from these litter interruptions, though, compartmentalizing work and life is usually for the best.

In business performance management, striking the balance between healthy productivity and burnout is challenging. As a leader, you want your employees to feel motivated on their own and know what’s expected of them. You also want the most work possible to get done, but you know that this will come at a cost of your team’s well-being and long-term success.

For more advice on how to maximize productivity and minimize burnout, visit Leadership Resources. Here you’ll find tools, worksheets, reading material, videos, and more, all designed to improve your leadership abilities and enhance your business. At Leadership Resources, our purpose is making the impossible possible through people. We aim to do so by helping individuals develop patterns of success that will decrease stress levels and maximize productivity. Contact us here to learn more.

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Increase Office Productivity: The Best Practices for Motivating Employees

By Leadership Resources 10/05/2018
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Employees are motivated to work for various reasons. For some, making money to support themselves or their family is enough. Others find meaning in the work itself and wish to advance their careers in order to accomplish even more. Of course, not every employee will feel motivated all the time. Stress, external responsibilities, and/or a feeling of stagnation can all significantly decrease office productivity. Let’s see how managers motivate employees and increase productivity.

Communication is Key

Communication is one of the most important leadership qualities. Nearly every problem in the office stems from poor communication. Without the proper channels for communication, information gets lost or misunderstood. Employees and managers struggle to see each other’s point of view, leading to further problems in the office.

Conversely, good communication (listening intently, sharing ideas, being honest) can resolve many issues between employees and managers. Better yet, proper communication can help generate ideas that push a business forward. When every employee feels open to sharing and receiving ideas, they will feel more motivated to do the best work.

Cultivate Collaboration

While some employees prefer working on their own, there is something to be said for a strong team. A business that promotes collaboration is bound to see an improvement in employee productivity. Of course, teamwork only works if every team member can work together. A bad matchup or poor communication can lead to arguments, passivity, or sloppy work. Managers should take the time to get to know employees to build the best teams within the company so that people build off each other’s strengths to promote more productivity.

Empower People

One of the reasons for decreased productivity is that employees don’t feel their actions or ideas make a difference. This lack of self-esteem, warranted or not, can become contagious, affecting the whole office. Effective leadership means empowering every employee, regardless of job title. Employees should feel that they have the right to speak up, be heard, and take action. Of course, guidelines should be set to delineate certain responsibilities. But within these guidelines, people should know that their work matters and that they have the ability to make changes that will benefit the whole office. This sense of empowerment will encourage productivity.

11 Ways To Create Accountability And Increase Productivity At Your Organization. Download this whitepaper.

Highlight Good Performance

Recognition is a key element of employee productivity management. Employees who work hard, try new things, and treat others well deserve to be recognized. These accolades can be inputted into an employee management system. Complimenting people regularly has major positive effects that go beyond the individual. Not only does the person feel good for this recognition, but others will also see that hard work and decency doesn’t go unnoticed. While most people do good deeds altruistically, this added incentive creates a more positive atmosphere all around. Employees will feel that their work really does matter.

Build a Culture and Community

Work isn’t always fun, but a workplace can promote fun activities both inside and outside of the office. Friendly competitions, group lunches, parties for milestones or holidays, and voluntary programs all contribute to establishing a stronger office culture and community. Employees and managers will find new ways to bond beyond office duties. Strengthening this work culture promotes productivity, as each staff member feels a sense of obligation to everyone else. In this way, the whole office becomes a team where every individual plays an important role.

No two people are motivated by the same exact set of things. However, these five practices tend to increase employee productivity across the board. In the end, it’s all about communication, collaboration, empowerment, recognition, and culture. People who work in environments that promote these things will be happier, have higher self-esteem, and be more productive.

If you’re a leader, you should focus on developing these practices. At Leadership Resources, our purpose is making the impossible possible through people. We aim to do so by helping individuals develop patterns of success that will decrease stress levels and maximize productivity. Contact us here to learn more.

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It's Not the Money: Why Compensation Models Have Limits in Motivating Workers

By Leadership Resources 09/26/2018

Everyone wants to earn more. No surprise there. Money can certainly incentivize employees to work harder, seek promotions, and clinch more commission-based sales. However, compensation has its limitations when it comes to how managers motivate employees. Why is this? And what else can managers do to encourage hard work and participation?

Why More Money Loses its Appeal

One might feel extremely motivated when first getting a promotion or a new higher-paying job. Over time, however, things change. It doesn’t take long for most people to begin getting used to their new wage or salary. Once a huge perk, this pay raise becomes normal and perhaps feels as restrictive as a previously lower pay rate. In this scenario, the worker might attempt to earn another raise by working harder – but even then the cycle tends to repeat. Eventually, money becomes secondary to a worker’s overall happiness and sense of meaning in the workplace.

If you’re a manager in charge of employee productivity management, this should raise alarm bells. But if more money doesn’t equate to more productivity, what does?

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Reward Systems in the Brain

The human brain is wired with reward systems. These systems help humans learn, interact with others, and behave in certain ways. Money certainly ties in to these reward systems. The human brain lights up when receiving rewards with perceived value (such as cash, gift cards, rare items, etc.). But money alone doesn’t trigger this response. Something as simple as receiving a compliment or affirmation can yield similar results. Hearing a “Good job,” or “I appreciate you” can go a long way in motivating employees. In this way, creating a positive work environment might be one of the best employee management tools available.

Finding Meaning in Work

Cash and kind gestures feed the brain’s reward system to a certain extent, but humans also want meaning in their lives. Since so many people spend the majority of their time at work, they often seek meaning there. If they can’t find it there, they’ll look to their family, friends, hobbies, or other interests. Meaning can be found in any and all of these places. Still, work can begin to feel like a drag if an employee lacks a sense of purpose in the office or at the job site.

A good employee management system should incorporate information on every employee’s interests, goals, preferences, and unique abilities. This way managers can get to know their people more personally and better find ways to make their work more meaningful, even if it’s just a small way. This might mean creating events for employees with shared interests, asking employees for feedback on how certain tasks get accomplished, or simply utilizing each person’s unique capabilities in the workplace if applicable.

People want to do a good job, but more than that, they want to be recognized for their hard work and feel their work is purposeful. Financial compensation can and should reflect an employee’s value to a company, but without the sense of meaning and gratitude behind it, the money will feel cold and worthless. Managers tasked with overseeing performance management should know that employees will feel more motivated when they feel valued as people.

Leadership Resources focuses on people and how a single person can make a massive difference in the workplace and the world. We offer videos, worksheets, and more to help develop powerful leadership skills and patterns of success that will decrease stress levels and maximize productivity. For more information and resources, contact us here!

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