We Should Raise Productivity, But Are Bosses Ready?

[Giveaway worth S$82 at the end of this post: WIN one of two Limited Edition Moleskine notebooks!]

There has been so much talk about “Productivity” – how some industries are productivity laggards, how we should bring mature women back into the workforce, etc. But what exactly do bosses THINK productivity is all about? And are they ready to implement changes which may not necessarily be comfortable?

In my previous job, my manager did not allow sales people to work from home. He wanted us to physically “check in” every single day, even though our jobs could be done at home, as only a phone is required. I detest the train commute to work (and back) as trains are always packed and I get to the office not in the best of moods. Also, there are distractions aplenty, such as colleagues stopping by my desk for a chat, or worse still, an invitation to an overly-long lunch or coffee break. Lunch or a break can last as long as 2 hours sometimes, and ironically, it’s perfectly fine. As long as your laptop’s on your desk, your bag is on your seat and people know you have come into the office today, all’s fine.

In some ways, yes, it does sound like a dream job, but I could most certainly have done more if I could work from home. I could have made more calls (in my PJs), taken shorter breaks, and had a healthier work-life balance by investing more time in reading and exercise, for instance. I wouldn’t need so many days of annual leave just to “recharge” too!

But the strange thing is, the manager needed to ‘see’ his people in the office to think they are at work. (Of course, they could be checking their facebook feeds)

Here’s a quote from the (really quite fabulous) book ‘Lean In’ by Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook: “Still, the traditional practice of judging employees by face time rather than results unfortunately persists. Because of this, many employees focus on hours clocked in the office rather than on achieving their goals as efficiently as possible.”


And when one employee quits, they don’t hire another immediately, and just let the remaining employee(s) take over the person’s job. Same thing happens when someone goes on maternity leave, or a holiday. The other employees cover the person’s duties. They think that is productivity, I guess.

I think this whole notion about raising Productivity deserves more attention, especially since even coffeeshops are harping on Productivity!

Last weekend, I had lunch at a coffeeshop in Pasir Ris Drive 6. Pasted on the pillars were notices like this one:

productivity poster in coffeeshop

“Please support our productivity drive. It will be faster if you order and collect your drinks at our counter, thank you.”

I believe this to be a lie. Will I get my drink FASTER if I order and collect it from the drinks counter? If everyone starts ordering AT the drinks counter, a queue will form and I will spend more time waiting in the queue! This is why I sometimes forego drinks altogether – just eat my food and leave. Usually what happens is I’ll just get my food and if the drinks uncle or auntie comes by to take my order, I’ll place it with him/her and eat my food while waiting for my drink, which usually is served before the end of the meal!

I am worried that this coffeeshop’s “productivity drive” might mean the coffeeshop staff who come round to our tables to take our orders might lose their jobs. Of course, it could be that their enlightened employers give them other tasks to do, such as collecting the glasses or serving those customers who don’t wish to place their orders at the counter. But I highly doubt it.

I don’t know what they think “productivity” is. Perhaps it means “more profits” for them, but waiting in line at the drinks counter is not a productive use of my time.

And what can employers do if they DO want to raise productivity levels?

In The Straits Times on Wednesday last week, I noticed two almost-full-page ads about productivity:

Straits Times ad on productivity

Polar Puffs & Cakes has found that their pastries can be heated up 10 times quicker using a microwaveable bag. I’m not a fan of microwaved food (I got Mom to dump the family’s microwave oven some time back) but I guess this is an instance of how more food can be prepared in a shorter period of time so as to serve more customers, without necessarily reducing the number of service staff.

The Way To Go site is pretty informative too. And the case studies are pretty cool, such as this one about Han’s (F&B) Pte Ltd, which had a compliment to complaint ratio at 1:10 back in 2006, and by 2009 managed to improve this to 1:1.5! I applaud Han’s incentive programme: “Han’s also implemented an incentive programme, which distributes 15 per cent of the group’s profit as staff bonuses and provides comprehensive insurance coverage and staff benefits. In addition, cash grants received under the Jobs Credit Scheme are paid back to employees.”

The e2i site also has a Sakae Sushi case study: The lack of communication between service staff and the kitchen caused long waiting times for food. With the use of equipment like walkie-talkies and cameras to improve communications and monitor operations, waiting time has been reduced and productivity increased, with 1 staff serving 33 customers instead of the original 25.

And here’s the other ad:

Straits Times productivity ad

The EnterpriseOne site will put you in touch with business advisors so you can get all the help you need with regard to raising productivity levels.


In the Budget Debate speech by Minister Lim Swee Say, he notes that many industries have embraced the move towards higher productivity.

“For example, in conservancy cleaning, with ride-on sweeper, cleaners can now clean pavements, drains and grass patches easier, smarter and safer. Much faster and at the same time, save labour and earn higher wages.

ride-on sweeper

In landscaping, workers can now cut grass using a remote control grass-cutting robot. Again, faster with less labour and higher salary.

In hotel, hydraulic pumps under the bed helps the mature worker to clean the hotel room easier, smarter, safer, and faster too. Being able to clean more rooms means more pay for the workers and at the same time, it means less need for manpower for the hotels…

In food factories, installation of packaging machines has improved productivity by many times. Again, higher wages with fewer workers.

In F&B, the use of mobile ordering, installation of up-to-date kitchen equipment, nurturing of management trainees are helping some F&Bs to grow faster and more profitable too. Workers are, at the same time, paid better…

Lim Swee Say fb

An F&B outlet, Eighteen Chefs, has recently installed a machine [that] will produce eggs after eggs at 64 degrees Celsius, and it will always turn up eggs that are perfect every time. It makes the jobs of the workers easier, faster, safer, and yet at the same time, because of higher productivity, they are paid more too.”

Eighteen Chefs

I think it is great that the companies and industries mentioned in the speech have raised the wages of workers even after investing money in machinery and all. It is my hope that more (if not, all) employers will follow suit.


WIN one of two *limited edition* Moleskine notebooks worth S$41 each! 😀 Take your pick: The Hobbit notebook OR Star Wars notebook! To take part, provide ONE TIP for raising productivity in your workplace.

Moleskine Notebook giveaway

One great tip I like sharing with friends is to come up with a list of 5 things you MUST accomplish in each particular day, and don’t head home till you complete all 5. This To-Do List will help you get through your day with laser-sharp focus. One of the items on my list could be “Call 40 customers” when I was in my sales job previously. 😀 This is why the prizes for this giveaway are moleskine notebooks – for you to craft your to-do lists every single day! 😀

How To Win:

Step 1: ‘Like’ my Moleskine giveaway on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/thegracetan

Step 2: ‘Share’ my Moleskine giveaway post on Facebook

Step 3: Comment on THIS blogpost and provide one tip for raising productivity in your workplace, e.g. “Log out of Facebook during office hours / Schedule a power nap during lunchtime”. I’ll pick my favorite 2 comments/tips! 🙂

Results: 22nd April, 2014.


55 thoughts on “We Should Raise Productivity, But Are Bosses Ready?

  1. the best way to increase productivity these day is to simple “block access to Facebook and other social media website” during office hours. these site can only be access before/after office hours and during lunch time 🙂 Human tends to abuse what is given to us, these site is suppose to be for research but everyone spend so much time doing “other” stuff on it (yes, i’m guilty also). Just look at google launch pokemon hunt on 1st apr. all my friends are hunting pokemon during office hours 😛

  2. To be honest, as much as I love my iPhone, I think smart phone is a huge distraction at work! I realized that I work more efficiently when I put my phone aside.

  3. I feel that the best way to raise productivity in work comes from within ourselves!

    That is to say, we have to focus on our 3 fundamentals – (1) Get enough sleep, (2) Exercise
    and (3) Eat healthy.

    With that, we will handle work and stress optimally and positively. 🙂

  4. Have a regular Checking on employee’s performance, issues and requirements.

    Just interacting with the clients will decline the performance within the organization, so you need have an eye on employee’s efficiency and problems too. Employees may start to resign, if you are not showing proper concern towards them. So, you need identify the employee’s problem and resolve it without any delay. Reward them frequently for their dedication and hard work which ultimately boosts their performance and brings a good impression about your administration.

    I love the Starwars Yoda Version, hope I get to win. (:

  5. The best way to increase work productivity in a workplace is to give job description and work assignment. Just like here in my work, my office mates and I spend most our time in the internet or just bubbling around because we do not have something to do. Of course at the start of the day the usual routine shall be perform but after that…nothing else until the boss gave orders and commands. So I think a proper job description and work assignment is the best start of all.

    • Marizza, if I may add, perhaps employees could also take the initiative of asking their bosses for assignments, and the bosses can continually seek feedback on whether those tasks are manageable or overly taxing. 🙂

    • You have a point there but sometimes even the boss doesn’t know what assignment to give to us because we have already finish our task. What I do is in my free time is clean the office like emptying the trash can, cleaning the comfort room and sweep the floor. Even if it is not my job as an Admin I still do it because I have else to do.

  6. 1) Always get enough sleep so that you can be focused on the job at hand the next day
    2) Write tasks on a post-its and arrange them in order of importance.
    3) Clear your mind and take a quick 5min shut-eye when you are tired to reorganize your thoughts

    • Hi Alexial, I like tip #2 ‘cos I practise it myself! 🙂 Prioritizing items on our to-do list is extremely important. Helps us get the most crucial tasks done first. 🙂

  7. 1) Always get enough sleep and rest well in order to be focused on the job at hand the next day
    2) Write tasks on a post-its and arrange them in order of importance to do everyday.

  8. 1. Organize your things especially files nicely in office so that you will find your things more easily.
    2. Stay away from your handphone as many people like to Wechat, whatapps and checking FB during office hour so only allow yourself to use handphone to call.
    3. Take frequent short breaks such as take a brisk walk, do some stretching exercise, talk to someone. It will make you relax your body and rejuvenate in mind.

  9. Provide free-flow coffee! *Just joking!*

    Have a small gym within company premises for employees to utilize before start of the work day or during lunch. This can help keep employees fit as well as to combat lethargy at work, thus improving employees’ energy levels at work.

    Hoping to win The Hobbit notebook 🙂

  10. I will try to tackle the most important tasks during early in the morning when I am the most alert. I will schedule the tasks according to different times of the days. I realise that this will help to increase my productivity as I can work faster when I am more alert and when I have higher energy levels.

    The Star Wars. I like. 🙂

  11. I have always 3 things in mind:
    1. I’d like moveable furniture (even tables) and seize opportunity to stand while working if possible. Sitting at one place all the time kills me and most importantly, it blurs my head.
    2. I’d suggest a proper tools (software) whenever needed to complete the job effectively (even if it means much money spent).
    3. I keep meetings brief and to the point so time is spent on action, realistic targets, not words and theory.

    Thanks for the giveaway. Greetings from Finland.

  12. Reward or even a Small Token for a Job Well done doesn’t only boost employees morale but also enhance their productivity. Being a previous employee, I am very much aware, how employees gets inspired to work better every time they know that a Rewards awaits them after finishing a task before it’s due date.

  13. If i have many works to do at my office,i usually focus on what to do first or the things that need to be done as soon as possible. And then the next, the next, the next and the next one,just a simple work management and time management. But sometimes we can’t avoid to be interrupt sometimes, well that’s part of life 🙂 just keep in good vibes..ajah 🙂 🙂 🙂 good vibes+positive attitude = productive in working place…

  14. Make the coffee machine and or pantry visible to everyone in the work area, to discourage time-wasting in the pantry.

  15. the tip i could give to raise productivity is to have a positive harmony with your co workers,wok as a team always and set goals to reach it!

  16. A tip for raising productivity in the workplace would be to be time conscious and to focus on the goals that need to be accomplished each single day.

  17. Organize a non formal meeting over tea break tolo share difficulties when faced with different customers, sharing experience (sort of troubleshoot, so that others know how to deal with the same issue in future) as well as motivate colleagues by having company Happy Hour every week! 😉

  18. 1. Simplify work processes. If something is taking too long to complete, it may be because there are too many processes, so look at ways everyday in your workplace to keep things simple. A simple thing like a leave application could be so time consuming if it needs so many people to sign on it. Or even a log book if people are writing stories and not getting to the point. Design forms so that what you want is filled up as priority.
    2. Declutter. Many times there is just too many things on desks. Make it a point that personal stuff is kept to the minimum and as far as possible, compartmentalize or stack to give more space and good flow. Some people spend a long time just shifting papers around looking for things!

  19. A to do list works good for me. What I normally do is make a to-do list for a week or two when I have a lot of works. Keep the variety of work with certain amount for one day for small works, and not more than two big works (for me then its a research paper/report). However the list should be flexible and switchable with other days – since sometimes idea for another project came up during a stagnancy of working. either way I’d say tips depends on your workflow and your job. its best to match up to your own pace.

    Working environment has a good play for the mood too. I always keep my plush works nearby just to sooth myself down during tight deadlines. Though it may sound like I spent time during tight deadline, but I actually ended up finishing both with a good mood.

  20. 1) I think one of the best way is to get up early as you can planned the day ahead before many distractions get in. And of course, try to stick with the planned and not wasting these early hours checking emails or surfing internet.
    2) Then, you can also use Pomodoro Technique. It is a technique where you work on a single task for 25 minutes then take break for 5 minutes. You can close your office door if you have one or put up a sign, unplug the phone if you need to and sit down and get your work done. Or you can always modify the time according to your need. Maybe 15 min works, 10 min breaks etc. It just to make sure you don’t get sidetracked and to make you focus on what you really need to do. =)

  21. 1. Keep your smart phone away from your desk
    2. Set mid-day or even hourly targets for ourselves by writing it on notepad and minimise it on our desktop so that we can check it every now and then
    3. Once the hourly or mid-day target set is met, give yourself a pat on your shoulders and take a short break by walking to the washroom or pantry to ‘exercise & detress’ before we work on our next hour’s target.

  22. I think the best way is to set up a recreational / resting room and allow the employees to rest and relax inside once they have finished their tasks for the day.

    Hoping to win the star wars notebook 🙂

  23. Always starts your day with taking notes of what you have to do for the day and what is still pending. Use this list ensure you do not miss out anything. 🙂 the moleskin notebook is exactly just nice for this purpose.

  24. Making a to-do list at the start of the day is great but having a long to-do list is actually counter-productive. Hence, I like to start my day by listing down 5 things I want to achieve by end of the day. Only allow yourself 5 things so that you will have to prioritize your work. If everyone at work does the same, I’m sure it will increase the overall productivity at the workplace.

    DO. OR DO NOT.

  25. allocate a ‘production’ room to eliminate distractions from phone calls, emails and colleagues who just doesn’t stop talking ~ it can be 1 to 2 hours of pure productivity ~ breaks are important too for power naps or energy replenishment for the next productivity power push

  26. well,some tips work better in some job’s than others but i think that doing a little competition whit goals that involve getting work done,whit a public board and some simple prizes would stir things up!!!

  27. first, have to say, awesome point: I don’t know what they think “productivity” is. Perhaps it means “more profits” for them, but waiting in line at the drinks counter is not a productive use of my time. if we aren’t the same page about what it means to be productive, then we can’t really have a ‘productive’ conversation about it, can we? haha. anyhow, i know i could be more productive in my workplace if i worked alone [productive means accomplish more tasks]. i couldn’t cut out social media, because that’s my job, but the time it takes out of my day to develop positive relationships with the other people in my work environment is a bit consuming and, as such, can cause the day’s tasks to get away from me. when i’m left alone, i accomplish more, and am more productive.

    i really want to win the star wars notebook. really. badly. thanks for the giveaway!

  28. I will make 10 min breaks every hour mandatory for all employees, because sitting too much infront of the monitor is SUPER bad for the health!

  29. Amazing giveaway,so generous of you,thank you for the chance to win it.Friendly people,friendly talking,casual friday,coziness,plants,fresh flowers.

  30. I think the best way to raise productivity in the work place is to make the employees proud of what they are making and make them happy to do their jobs 🙂
    I have followed and shared on FB: Judy Thomas

  31. 1. make a to do list .. for me i rate them into starts just like a review to witch one i should done first
    2. if i don’t get enough sleep i drink mineral water more than coffee.. i’m a coffee holic but when it comes about lack of sleeping, you need oxygen more..ah i also take some vitamin c
    3. whenever i do some homework or study for exam , i leave my phone silent.. really silent no vibrate no notification no LED.. i use iphone so i activated my ‘do not disturb’ feature

    also one more tip, well i read this from another blog and try it and it works
    every night i evaluated my to do list wether i did them right or no and punish my self if i did some mistake *not in negative meaning just teach my mind not to repeat the same mistake.. by the way u realized it, u’ll decreased the mount of your wasting time

    if i win i’d like to have the star wash one ❤

  32. I think one of the best tips for raising productivity in our workplaces is when bosses make employees feel happy and assign proper roles. Wellpaid and happy employees give to the firms good benefits because this role makes you feel the company as yours as an owner. It doesn’t mean bosses must allow you to do wahatever you want, just came from you, from inside and you have the capacity to leave attitudes that are not fair regarding to the trust placed in ourselves, such as talk to your mates, use social media etc.

    Happinnes rules everywhere and can change the world in so many ways.


  33. 1. Give incentives for work done well.
    2. Appreciate the work done by employees through recognition – the names of the employees who arrived on time for the whole month , those without absences, those who met their targets/quota could be posted on a bulletin board
    3. Discourage social media networking during office hours.
    4. Limit coffee breaks to 20 minutes in the morning and another 20 minutes in the afternoon.
    5. Company outings for the employees to get closer ties.

  34. 1.take care of yourself-sleep well,eat well…
    2.don’t do things that are not connected to work in work.

  35. Sorry ah, I’m a bit kiasu. And I try to implement these ’10 laws of productivity’ at work everyday so can’t decide on one that triumphs over the rest.
    Also since this notebook costs $41 then I think I should give an answer that justifies for the price.

    1. Tidy up your workplace so that you’ll focus on the tasks on hand rather than the mess.
    2. Start off the day by completing the bigger/difficult tasks first and the rest will be a breeze.
    3. Have standing meetings or set a time limit so that everyone will be brief, straight to the point and more effective.
    4. Check emails at specific times instead of wasting time checking throughout the entire day.
    5. Don’t be afraid to shut your door or use noise-cancelling headphones so that you can concentrate better.
    6. Don’t multitask. Give your best to do an awesome job for one project, or complete multiple but poorly executed projects? Your call.
    7. Give yourself a reward if you managed to complete your goal(s) for the day.
    8. Allocate fixed chunks of time to do work. After every hour of work done, give yourself a 10 min break to rest your eyes, renew energy and recharge creativity.
    9. Make two lists. A To-Do list to prepare for a smooth day tomorrow, and a To-NOT-Do list for things that will distract you – “Do not log into Facebook. Do not check emails more than 3 times a day” etc.
    10. Be self-disciplined, prioritize your time properly and kill/limit distractions.

    Most importantly, do not post 10 tips to boost productivity for a contest when you should be working in the office. (In my defense, doing this to win a notebook which I’ll use at work, gives me the i̶l̶l̶u̶s̶i̶o̶n̶ feel of productivity)

    I hope to win the hobbit notebook, thanks.

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