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Learning from Worker Productivity Studies

written by: Sylvia Cochran•edited by: Ronda Bowen•updated: 7/11/2010

A closer look at recent worker productivity studies shows that there are a number of elements, which easily translate into the home- or virtual office setting. What steps can today’s entrepreneur take to increase output and revenue without breaking the bank?

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    What Worker Productivity Studies Taught the Steel and Valve Industries

    Home Office by Thor/Wikimedia Commons Considered the definitive study in the field of worker productivity, Stanford Business Magazine(1) published the results of a long-term research project that examined various aspects of human output in 36 steel finishing lines. The results were as revealing as they were expected: companies that invested in the most modern human resources management schemes easily topped the productivity of those companies that still used the tried and true old-fashioned methods.

    A second set of worker productivity reports, which took place within the valve production industry, showcased how the integration of computer technology in daily production tasks actually led to a competitive advantage for the companies. Of course, this was only possible due to the extensive IT training that all workers received. With new abilities came new attitudes: flexibility, increased problem solving and a boost of personal identification -- which translated into taking personal responsibility -- for the finished product.

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    Ways to Improve Worker Productivity – In the Home Office

    Innovation is the key to increasing productivity in a workplace that employs hundreds of workers. It is also the central aspect of making the office with the staff of one hum along. Granted, there are some areas that may need to be reworked. For example, employee screening, work teams and employment security guarantees do not particularly apply within the home office setting.

    That being said, performance plans, information sharing, ongoing training and flexible job design are indeed all human resources aspects that translate quite easily. In fact, there is a clearly discernible three-pronged approach that lets the home office worker capitalize on the lessons learned from the aforementioned worker productivity studies.

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    Tweaking What Has an Impact on Worker Productivity in a Home Based Business

    1. Performance Plans: Goal-setting and gradual increases led to increased productivity within the study venues. It stands to reason that the creation of realistically achievable goals translates into the destination of an action plan. Within the home office, the goals may vary, depending on the small business. For example, a multi level marketer may increase the number of sales pitches from 12 a day to 24 within a two-week period. The piece-worker may seek to increase weekly output from five pieces to 10 over the course of a month. A set goal leads to a reworking of processes and also a lessening of the little time wasters – think social networking -- worker productivity can do without.
    2. Information Sharing and Ongoing Training: The steel mill study showed that workers performing their tasks inside a bubble with little outside communication actually showed less productivity than those who communicated extensively within their own teams and also with workers from other teams. Training and information sharing are both sides of the same coin, and for the home office worker the logical assumption is that networking with other entrepreneurs is a crucial aspect of heightened output. In fact, the outwardly focused worker is more likely to pick up time-saving and productivity enhancing tips and tricks than those who plod on the same way they have since starting their businesses.
    3. Flexible Job Design: Warning that “practices must fit the technology and the strategy,” the researchers determined early on how IT and job design work hand in hand. For the home office worker, this translates into the freedom to incorporate more computer technology if it allows for the creation of a productive and flexible job design. The flexibility makes it easier for the entrepreneur to meet changing market needs and perhaps even capitalize on new trends. For example, the freelance writer who might be caught up in preparing SEO web content now also has the opportunity of expanding into other areas of the field, such as grant writing, simply by adding a laptop to the home office IT setup. Making the home office mobile, the freelancer can travel to new clients and work together with their representatives on site to gather raw data.

    It is interesting to note that the impact of the worker productivity studies on the home office benefits not just the entrepreneur but also the virtual office worker who may be telecommuting for one or more established companies.

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    Source

    (1)http://www.gsb.stanford.edu/news/bmag/sbsm0411/feature_econometrics.shtml

    Photo Credit: Home Office by Thor/Wikimedia Commons at http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Home_Sweet_Studio.jpg