Increasing Employee Productivity Without Impacting Morale

Open office layouts were introduced a few decades back as a means to increase employee productivity. When employees come out of their designated cubicles and work alongside colleagues in a collaborative environment, they are likely to be more productive—or so was the objective.

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However, several studies in recent times have underlined the detrimental effects of open office plans. Among the biggest reasons cited for this are an increased level of distraction and loss of worker privacy. These studies also found that open office plans made workers more stressed, sicker, and thereby reduced job satisfaction.

The introduction of open office layouts is just one of the many strategies that have had a detrimental effect on employee morale and productivity. Start-up businesses take pride in long working hours. Many businesses also tend to throw their new employees at the deep end of the pool in order to train them better for their role. While these are strategies meant to improve employee outcome, they could also potentially increase stress levels, impact morale, and lower productivity.

So how do you make sure your HR strategies do not prove detrimental for your workers? Here are a few tips.

Intrusive Tracking

Employee time tracking is an absolute necessity either for payroll processing or compliance across many industries. Your tracking strategies could, however, make or break employee morale. Strategies like keylogging and webcam snapshots are highly intrusive and make the employee feel demoralized.

You can replace such technologies with passive monitoring systems like location tracking or letting employees actively set their timer on and off. Employee morale tends to be higher when employers trust them better or when time tracking is not intrusive.


It is not practical to create a homogeneous management strategy across your business. Each manager is unique and so is his or her management strategy. Managing employees at a micro level is not always wrong. Studies show that it works in some cases (called situational micromanagement) like when bringing a new employee on board or training your workers to adapt to a new work process or technology.

However, constant micromanagement tends to stress workers and is shown to bring morale down. While this may not always reflect in lower productivity, stressed employees tend to quit at a faster pace, and this can be expensive for your organization.

Performance Incentives

For decades, organizations have relied on monetary rewards and perks to motivate employees to do better. As a matter of fact, performance-linked incentives do tend to push people to give t their best. However, a slew of recent studies also show that performance incentives could backfire and bring overall productivity down.

One study found that employees who were rewarded for good performance tend to become more complacent while those who were not rewarded become demotivated and depressed. Consequently, productivity fell overall.

Off-Work Events

Businesses often require employees to contribute in tasks that go beyond job responsibilities. For example, requesting participation for corporate social responsibility (CSR) activities like charity runs or raising funds is not totally uncommon. Studies show that while CSR activities can help build team spirit and also improve productivity, it can backfire if not done right. One of the possible side effects of participating in CSR initiatives is what is called moral self-licensing.

Essentially, an improvement in performance in the CSR activities can contribute to cheating and bring down performance in other areas, including work. One way to bring down moral self-licensing is by not framing your CSR activities as a pro-social act. This is shown to result in the maximum amount of cheating among employees.

Has your organization faced a drop in morale or productivity due to your work policies? Share your experiences in the comments.

Anand Srinivasan is the founder of Hubbion, a suite of free business apps and resources.


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