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5 Small Productivity Changes That Make a Major Impact

Everyone has an off day in the office, but do you regularly find it hard to get work done? Do you leave every day feeling unaccomplished? Are your to-do lists endless? And—are your employees all feeling the same pain?

While more time or resources might be the answer, there are also small cultural changes you can make to transform an overworked, overwhelmed office—changes that don't cost you much at all. If your team or company could use a boost, consider these strategies, shown to increase both productivity and happiness.

1. Implement No Meeting Wednesdays (or Tuesdays or Thursdays)

Practiced by companies like Facebook, Kiva, and Asana, a weekly day off from meetings ensures that everyone has the invaluable tool of contiguous (and guilt-free) time to work on bigger tasks and projects. And this can be a serious productivity boost, especially if you work with writers, designers, or other professionals who can benefit from large chunks of focused work. As Silicon Valley VC Paul Graham explains, "I find one meeting can sometimes affect a whole day. A meeting commonly blows at least half a day, by breaking up a morning or afternoon. But in addition there's sometimes a cascading effect. If I know the afternoon is going to be broken up, I'm slightly less likely to start something ambitious in the morning."

2. Try Walking Meetings

First made popular by Nilofer Merchant's TED talk, these small group meetings taken out of the office have been shown to increase employees' creativity and focus. As we recently reported: “‘Being inside the construct of a conference room shuts down your openness to new ideas,' explains frequent walk-and-talker Kristen Galliani. 'Walking meetings are great for brainstorming, giving feedback, and hashing through tough problems.'” Not to mention your health.

3. Share the Pain

Every job has its less-than-fun parts, and just knowing they have to come in and spend time on those boring, tough, or tedious tasks can be a motivation-killer for your employees. Here at The Muse, we prefer to divide and conquer rather than let anyone suffer solitarily. Coming together each week for a lovingly named “Things That Suck Meeting,” our team spreads the burden of boring and tackles everything from fixing broken site links to rounding up lists of contact info for a new marketing push. The grunt work gets done (probably faster than it would otherwise), and everyone's (at least a little bit) happier.

4. Switch Up the Work

You don't have to go so far as to implement Google's (recently cracked down upon) rule that gives employees 20% of their time to try their own pet projects, but letting people get involved in tasks outside of their day jobs can help them break out of their routine and boost creativity. Try assigning a smaller task or two to people based on their interests in learning a new skill or finding out more about another part of the business—like giving a Photoshop project to a salesperson or a copywriting task to an engineer. (Fun fact: One of our developers wrote the copy on our error page.)

5. Ensure Diverse Working Conditions

Study after study has shown that open floor plans can actually decrease productivity and satisfaction—and a sea of cubicles isn't the best approach, either. In fact, the best workspaces are ones that offer people a bit of freedom to move around and get a change of scenery. While it's not exactly easy to rebuild an office, having some flex spaces where people can work other than their desks—like couch areas, pods, kitchen nooks, standing desks, or even co-working conference rooms—can make a big difference.

Has your team made a change for the better? Tell us about it in the comments section!

Image of productive man courtesy of Shutterstock.