How To Keep Up . . . And Get Ahead

Productivity is always a concern for business owners, especially during this time with rising gas and food prices, consumers tightening their belts, and the need to maintain a profit.

A few stories lately have discussed productivity and once again, the ideas aren't what you'd expect.

CNN talks about our "sleep-deprived nation" and points out that American employees work more than they sleep - a disturbing trend.

"One-third of those surveyed for the National Sleep Foundation's annual 'Sleep in America' poll had fallen asleep or become sleepy at work in the past month. The telephone survey questioned 1,000 adults in the continental United States and was conducted between September 25, 2007, and November 19, 2007.

The poll also found that Americans are working more and sleeping less. The average amount of sleep was six hours and 40 minutes a night. The average workday? Nine hours and 28 minutes."

The Chicago Tribune approaches productivity in a similar way.

"'To be honest, employers may not be aware of the impact the physical environment has on individuals,'" said Steve Schiavo, a Wellesley College psychology professor who has presented papers at the Environmental Design Research Association (EDRA). 'Employers may only think of financial compensation as contributing to morale, but clearly there's more than that.'"

PCWorld suggests that letting employees take breaks (even if only to view Facebook) can improve productivity.

"Feeling guilty about checking out Facebook when you should be working? Well, don't -- because according to PopCap Games research, taking a 10-minute break to surf the Net will reduce stress and sharpen your mind.

The games manufacturer claims 'electronic breaks' actually increase staff efficiency and morale, warning that by stopping workers surfing the web, businesses are contributing to a loss to of productivity worth up to US$8 billion every year.

The research will come as a blow to companies that have banned access to social networking sites. According to employment law firm Peninsula, seven out of 10 companies already prohibit workers from visiting sites such as Facebook and are even considering banning personal Internet access altogether."

I know. You're thinking why in this economy would I let my employees look at Facebook, sleep, or enjoy their surroundings?

Because it works. Productivity was up in the first quarter of 2008, even as companies cut jobs. Many industry analysts point out that our services-oriented workforce is more resilient to economic highs and lows than we were in the 1970s. And why not make a few tweaks geared toward the comfort of your employees? If productivity continues to keep up and surge ahead, the resulting strong economy will take care of high prices and job losses.

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