Architecture & Interior Design

Tips and tricks from our Architectural Intern

Methods for Increased Efficiency and Productivity

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Office habits and workflows are often established early in one’s career. Available technology and general office trends contribute to lasting personal habits and routines. It is imperative to maintain the most efficient and productive aspects of your daily operations while having an open mind regarding new technologies, amenities, and ideas emanating from other staff. Small tips and tricks can be adopted and inserted in everyday workflow to increase efficiency and productivity. Keyboard shortcuts, breaking up the day with breaks and exercise, and discerning between meeting-worthy and non-meeting-worthy agendas are just a few ways to elevate rates of production and overall quality of work. Follow a few of the suggestions below to increase your day-to-day workplace efficiency and productivity.

Staff should constantly be learning from one another on the best practices to achieve given tasks. One of the most important interactions is between young and established professionals. The old way may not be the most efficient and the new way may not be the most user friendly. Look for a compromise in style to achieve the most efficient method and share amongst your colleagues. When possible, research new or different methods of completing assignments, as well as contemporary office and industry trends. Tutorial meetings, either in-house or on-location, prove very valuable to continue education on imperative topics and processes within the profession. Take advantage of collaboration spaces or open office environments where provided. Suggest adding communal spaces or active design elements to improve office amenities and culture. The industry will continue to move forward. Do not get caught watching.

Increasing hours worked does not necessarily translate to increased efficiency or productivity. Although difficult, there are ways to be more efficient at work and walk out the door at five o’clock instead of spending hours working overtime. Inc.com has established some general tips and tricks regarding time management that can provide guidance to all employees. Start by tracking and gauging how much time you are spending on certain tasks. Establishing accurate time estimates for specific tasks can help plan out the day and provide important insight to management when creating project schedules and tracking time and budget. If you see a task or action that can be completed in two minutes or less, do it immediately. This is known as the “Two-Minute Rule”. Completing the task right away often takes less time than having to get back to it later.

Efficiency is relative to an employee’s responsibilities and expected production. One way for all employees to improve efficiency is to become an expert in the software used daily. Video tutorials, community forums, and in-person seminars are all excellent ways to develop skills in a frequently used software. The best thing to do is launch the program and start experimenting. Many programs have similar user interfaces which helps improve comfortability with the technology, and as a result, efficiency. Once comfortable, take steps toward proficiency. First, practice universal keyboard shortcuts like Print or Save (Ctrl + P and Ctrl + S). If you mess something up, select Ctrl + Z (Undo). Keep a list of keyboard shortcuts in a folder on your desktop for easy retrieval and reference. After mastering the universal shortcuts, focus on ones particular to daily software usage specific to your job. Do not be afraid to change program preferences to suit personal tendencies. Default settings are usually well-suited to most users but allow for custom alteration for increased efficiency. Increased productivity is sometimes halted by controllable or uncontrollable variables in typical office settings.

They are frequently scheduled, often attended, and almost equally complained about. We are talking about meetings. The average office worker spends over 30 hours each month in unproductive meetings! What can be done? The first thing to do is carefully vet if a meeting is needed. If the result is yes, then try to accomplish the same goals of a meeting without actually meeting in person. Can we set up a phone call, email chain, or web-based meeting? Remember to use all assets at hand to exchange information within the office. Many offices have messaging or chat software like Microsoft Teams, Google Hangouts, or Slack that can fill in for in-person meetings and allow for multitasking at one’s own workstation. Sometimes meetings need to take place. If so, be sure to stick to an agenda and conclude the meeting on time. Orderly standards for meeting protocol enhance the overall efficiency of offices.

Disciplined methods of time management are only a part of a wholistic approach to workplace productivity. It is equally imperative to tend to your mind and body. Longer assignments sometimes lead to a lack of focus or decreased productivity before completion. Taking short breaks during longer tasks helps maintain a consistent level of performance. Regimenting breaks to develop a routine is a bonus if your work schedule allows. Use one of your regularly scheduled breaks to exercise. This can be as easy as taking a walk around the office or making sure to go outside during lunch time. Some employees implement simple exercises that can be conducted at their desk. If you feel uncomfortable sitting for lengths of time stand up for five minutes and stretch. An adjustable standing desk is a great amenity to take advantage of if offered. Standing is better for circulation and provides stimulation to muscles that would otherwise go unused at a traditional desk. Elevating your heart rate might be exactly what is needed to clear your mind and re-establish focus.

Another important benefit of taking a break is giving your eyes and neck a much-needed rest from staring at the computer screen. An article by Business.com titled, “5 Daily Activities to Maintain Your Health at Work” states that headaches, dry eyes, blurred vision, and neck pain occur as a result of sitting in front of a computer screen. Adjust the level of your workstation, screen location, and chair placement to suit a comfortable working position. Make sure to keep your workstation organized and clean to reduce time spent on searching for documents. Keep frequently used items within an arm’s reach. An efficient desk setup will result in an efficient workflow. Make your workspace look like YOUR workspace. Surround yourself with images of family, friends, pets, or vacation destinations. In addition, ergonomic options for office chairs, keyboards, and mice exist and should be used to prevent both discomfort and potential injury. Small improvements to your workspace help boost morale and offer a semblance of an employee’s personal life, displaying the importance of a work-life balance.

Other improvements effecting company efficiency can be implemented office wide. Bring in plants to help with office aesthetics and air quality. The benefits of Biophilic Office Design regarding productivity are becoming more understood and more frequently adopted. Companies should also design spaces to take advantage of light. An abundance of natural light is one of the most sought-after workplace amenities. Natural light reduces stress, is easier on your eyes, and increases overall office aesthetic. If you are unsatisfied with the office lighting, ask for a lamp to supplement your work surface or suggest a softer, more natural bulb for work areas. If a lack of natural light exists, make sure to go outside for a bit during lunch. Heavy eyes and headaches take away from daily production. Make sure you, with the help of a well-designed office, take appropriate measures to alleviate these conditions.  

A few additional measures can be taken throughout the day to create a healthy work life. Drink a lot of water throughout the day. Water is integral to both physical and cognitive performance at work and can even replace a feeling of hunger in the late morning or early afternoon. Another way to appease that famished feeling around eleven o’clock is to keep a small stash of healthy snacks at your desk. A handful of almonds, an apple, or a cup of yogurt go a long way to bridging the gap between breakfast and lunch. Snacking can also prevent overeating at lunch, avoiding a heavy or tired feeling in the afternoon. Snacking is a great way to re-establish focus and re-fuel your body and mind for peak performance.  

Managing a healthy lifestyle in the office is very important. Between time spent commuting and time spent in the office, work comprises over half of our waking hours. It is important for both mental and physical health to ensure that work does not creep beyond the boundaries of normal office hours. Increasing efficiency and productivity will contribute to a more balanced and healthier lifestyle. Look to not simply emulate desirable workplace habits but build upon them in a way that works best for your own workflow and practice.