In this fast-paced and ever-evolving professional landscape, the concept of productivity has become a cornerstone of success for businesses and individuals alike. But what exactly is productivity, and why does it hold such paramount importance in the modern work environment?
In this article, we’ll discuss how productivity in the workplace is defined, and what employee productivity means. Furthermore, we’ll look at some other key research that’s been done on the topic of productivity.
What is productivity in the workplace, exactly?
Workplace productivity is the efficiency with which tasks and goals are accomplished at an organization.
Workplace productivity answers the question, “How good is your company at taking a pile of raw materials, a bunch of machines, stacks of paperwork, and groups of employees, and turning out useful goods and services?”
To make that determination, workplace productivity is typically calculated using the following formula:
Productivity = Units of Output / Units of Input
As an example, let’s say that a company manufactured $150,000 worth of goods over the course of 750 hours. Labor productivity would be calculated as $150,000 / 750 hours. This works out to $200 worth of goods per hour of work.
If we wanted to, we could take this example even further by calculating how productive our hypothetical company is per employee. Let’s say that in addition to the numbers we’re already working with, we know this manufacturer has 50 employees.
In this case, we’d calculate labor productivity as $150,000 / 50 employees. This works out to $3,000 worth of goods per employee per week.
Having explained how these figures are calculated, let’s look in greater depth at what we mean when we discuss employee productivity.
What is employee productivity?
Employee productivity refers to the output employees produce on an individual basis. So, if someone works an 8-hour day, you might expect them to be productive somewhere in the range of 6-7 hours a day.
Actually, that’s generous, because employees who put forth that much effort are few and far between. In fact, the research shows that US employees are only productive about 3 hours a day.
Instead of diligently tackling work-related tasks, people are more likely to spend time reading the news, on social media, talking to coworkers, job hunting, on smoke breaks, and so on.
To complicate matters, employee productivity is especially difficult to determine in a knowledge economy. After all, most companies aren’t measuring the number of bushels that employees are picking per hour.
Instead, they’re often trying to measure the intangible. For example, take computer programming. How do you truly measure the productivity of a software developer?
Do you make that determination by calculating how many lines of code someone’s written? Well, you could, but you’re likely to run into problems.
Computer programming leaves room for a lot of flexibility, so lines of code can vary tremendously from programmer to programmer. Worse, once programmers realize their productivity is being measured by lines of code, they’re incentivized to create long, confusing blocks of code, rather than doing things as simply as they can.
While traditional methods of measuring productivity don’t take quality into account, there’s no denying that productivity can make or break an organization. We’ll delve into that in greater detail in the next section.