A recent Harvard Business review post by John Coleman about “old-school” business practices worth bringing back highlighted several traditional office habits that still improve productivity.While I love posting about the cool new trends (growth vs marketing , lifetime value-driven ad spending, etc.) that can have a huge impact on your business, I agree with Coleman that you shouldn’t abandon everything from business pre-2005. The four suggestions from Coleman’s post that I most agree with (he had five but I was not sold on one of them) are:
- Make meetings distraction free. This to me is the most important practice Coleman highlights, and it’s not necessarily “old school.” Meetings are not as productive if half (or even one) attendee is looking at their phone or playing with their laptop. Getting rid of these distractions make meetings more focused and productive. Although those using their devices may be doing something productive, if they have something more important to do they should not be in the meeting in the first place. (This brings to mind another good practice: make sure everyone in a meeting needs to be there.)
- Be punctual. Over the last few years, people have become much less concerned with punctuality and it hurts everyone’s productivity. Meetings seldom start on time, Webinars rarely do and there’s a growing expectation that conference calls will start 5–10 minutes late. Although it is easy to let people know you are running late (email, text or Skype), it messes up their schedule and probably causes them to waste time. Being on time is also important because it keeps you focused and generates a perception that you are reliable.
- Lengthen lunch. These days many eat lunch at their desk, in the office or just skip lunch completely. Although that may be the best use of time many days, experts claim that people who take a lunch break are healthier (also a benefit for the company) and more productive. Going out to lunch with colleagues creates useful bonds across departments and increases collaboration, while networking benefits the company in exposing it to best practices in the area and potential easier recruiting.
- Dress well. Like it or not, people make judgments based on other people’s appearance. Even if it is sub-conscious, if you dress well, people will often think you are more intelligent or competent. It also shows a dedication to work, that you are willing to put extra effort.
While all of these suggestions should benefit you and your company, the first two (distraction-free meetings and punctuality) are extremely important and can yield major productivity gains. Start by understanding the value of time: If someone is making $75,000/year, one hour of their time is worth about $37.50 (and if they are making twice that, $75). If you have a meeting with 10 people for an hour, that meeting is costing your company $375. If everyone is playing on their phones, it’s like throwing that money away. Even if you just make everyone wait 10 minutes to start the meeting, you threw away money. Do that twice a week, twice a year, and you have wasted over $6,000 (which I am sure you can use for something else). If your salary structure is higher than in my example, those numbers increase significantly.
The bottom line: Do not waste time and productivity.