January 12, 2016

Productivity: How Time is the New Currency

Dr. Tracy Brower, PhD, MM, MCR Global Vice President of Workplace Vitality™ Mars Drinks

As we’ve researched Workplace Vitality™, we’ve found that one of the critical elements that is comprised within it is productivity. It’s not enough to accomplish engagement, collaboration, or well-being without also ensuring that productivity is achieved. Productivity, of course, comes down to time – how we spend it and what we accomplish as a result. This is true individually, for each of us, and also collectively, for organizations.

We approach this conversation about productivity through the lens of workplace beverages. Because of Mars Drinks 100% dedication to the workplace, we are studying how and where work gets done and how the workplace works for people. It turns out drinks have an important role to play. Let us tell you more.

First, a definition: while our definition of productivity isn’t particularly novel, it does describe its fundamental nature: based on our study, productivity is ‘work that is produced on time and to specification’. This is essential for any business of course, because what’s the value of an engaged workforce, a raft of effectively collaborating teams, or people that feel fantastic senses of well-being if these don’t translate into getting the work done? Herein lies the obvious importance of productivity.

But we also went beyond our top-line definition of productivity to understand what makes up productivity more specifically. We’ve done a deep dive analysis across social science and business literature and determined that productivity is made up of these elements:
• Quantity of work
• Quality of work
• Effectiveness
• Efficiency
• Exceeding standards
• Adding value for the organization
• Timeliness
• Pride in work produced

If we want to increase productivity, these are the levers to pull. For example: focus on both quality and quantity. Focus on standards and time. Ensure people know how they add value to the organization.

It is also useful to offer workers a cup of coffee. Our research also demonstrated that offering drinks in the workplace contributes to productivity. In our global survey of over 3800 people, 69% reported that having a cup of coffee or tea during their day contributed to their productivity. What’s more, they said that a day without coffee would make them disagreeable, lethargic, demotivated, or stressed. It wasn’t just about the caffeine, it was also about the way workplace beverages added a rhythm to the day, helped them connect with others in order to get the work done, and contributed to fueling their creativity. It was about what they were doing, but also about how they were doing it.

What we do is as important as how we do it. Dr. Carl Frost, a guru in management practices and leadership, used to say that efficiency was ‘doing the job right’ while effectiveness was ‘doing the right job’. The first and most important decision was deciding the priority and what was right to work on in the first place, because what was the point of doing something efficiently if it wasn’t really important anyway? It was all about the value being produced for customers – whether those customers were internal or external.

Figuring out what to do has everything to do with knowing who our customers are and serving them. “If you’re not serving the external customer, you better be serving someone who is,” goes the saying. And so this is how we should spend our limited time: by first determining whom we should serve, and then doing our best work – on time, on budget, on spec, with quality and quantity and exceeding standards – to delight that person or group.

How we spend our time is of course, how we spend our lives and this is where pride comes in as well. Because in our study, we determined that pride was a factor in productivity. Where we spend our time and the work we produce should make us feel good. That feeling at the end of the task where we step back, assess our efforts, and say to ourselves ‘Ah, I did that, and I did it well’ is an important component of our desire to come back the next day and contribute once again. Time is currency because it’s what we have to invest and give. Whether we’re fueling focused work with a cup of coffee or sharing tea with a colleague in order to connect. Or if we’re having a latte while we think through the next task we’ll tackle. Giving our best effort to our work, and being productive is finally about feeling good that we’ve made a meaningful contribution.

Tags: Workplace Vitality