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Annie Hayes

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Untapped potential trapped by inflexible working patterns

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Workplace potential is not being fully realised according to findings from a poll of 500 workers carried out by the The Survey Shop on behalf of the Department of Trade and Industry.

Over half, 54% of respondents said they wanted to be more productive but felt too overloaded with day-to-day tasks to ever be given the chance to demonstrate their full potential.

Work-life balance was cited as the key factor affecting workers productivity. Nearly half, 46% said they would be more productive in getting work done if they had greater control and choice in their working patterns. Two-thirds, 62% admitted that the opportunity for flexible working would incline them towards applying for a job.

This link between a better work-life balance and productivity has been recognised by employers. In fact, 94% of employers agree that ‘people work best when they can balance their work and other aspects of their lives’, with the level of flexible working opportunities offered by employers approximately doubling since the first work-life balance study in 2000.

Achieving the perfect working pattern wasn’t the only motivator for employees who ranked ‘full and fulfilling work’ as a crucial commitment factor. Eight in ten workers, 83% said they would be more committed to their company if it helped them realise their full potential in the workplace.

Basic work issues were also highlighted as hindering productivity.

Productivity drains include meetings that don’t start on time and irrelevant emails.

Demonstrating that old-fashioned motivators still win, nearly three quarters or 74% said that receiving regular feedback and praise from the boss motivates them more than anything else.

While seven in ten (70%) consider that being asked for their opinion and having a sense of what is going on in the business helps to create a motivated workforce. A high proportion, 75% also recognised that training and development are important factors in creating a committed and motivated workforce.

Management development experts, The Mind Gym, said:

“The great news from these findings is that there are plenty of simple things that both employers and employees can do to make working life more enjoyable and more productive. And they needn’t cost anything either.

“High on the list is praise. If we all agreed to congratulate someone at least five times a day (it doesn’t have to be the same person), ideally explaining what specifically they did well and the impact it had, everyone would feel much more motivated. On top of that, psychological research suggests that positive feedback is one of the most effective ways of changing behaviour for the better, and that applies to bosses just as much as the rest of us.”

The Mind Gym offers tips for employees and employers on how to release untapped potential:

Advice for employers:

* Help your people become better at what matters most to them – you will find they pick up new skills faster when they see it as in their best interest (rather than just yours)
* Ask people for their views and be clear what is and isn’t fixed in advance. When you do change your plans as a result, tell people – this is a sign of strength rather than weakness
* When you praise (and promote people) explain specifically what they did to deserve it – stories of success will spread fast and motivate many
* Agree objectives collaboratively – the most motivating goals stretch but don’t strain and are decided together
* Training is also vital but needn’t be a big song and dance: bite-size beats whole days; opt-in wins over compulsory; position learning as a personal rather than a company benefit to get maximum impact

Advice for employees:

* Remember your time is more your own than you imagine. Arrange to do admin and other regular tasks at the times of the day when your energy is at its lowest, for example after lunch
* Tell your boss what he or she does that makes your life easier (and how). They are likely to repeat this if they know it helps and will appreciate being appreciated
* Arrive at meetings on time no matter how important you are, but bring something to do while you are waiting for others to arrive. This shows courtesy and that your time is too precious to waste
* Don’t just focus on what you do but also how you do it. Often we fall into auto-pilot and fail to notice that there is a cleverer and more efficient way of achieving the same outcome


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Annie Hayes

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