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Productivity

Work Productivity: 2013 in review

This year has been the year where we’ve talked about work productivity like never before. It’s also the year of where the motto “work smarter, not harder” seems to have been on everybody’s lips and blogs. Let’s take a look at the main work productivity events of 2013.

January

The year started off with a bang when it comes to BYOD (bring your own device). According to a December 2012 Gartner survey, 33 percent of surveyed businesses had BYOD policies at the end of 2012. The number was expected to grow to 70% by the end of this year.

This discussion around whether employees should be able to use their own laptops, notebooks, smartphones and tablets in the office is definitely multifaceted. While a BYOD policy can enhance productivity and responsiveness, it also has a flip side when it comes to employees’ health and well being. Not surprisingly, some companies are adopting policies to wean employees off their electronic devices.

This includes the CEO of Empower Public Relations in Chicago, Sam Chapman, who has implemented BlackBerry blackout policy: he and his staff turn off their devices from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. on weekdays and completely during weekends. He says that this has increased company productivity by allowing employees to come to work well-rested and ready to go.

February

Charles Duhigg publishes The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business, one of the best books of 2013. The Power of Habit can show you how cornerstone habits can make the difference between failure and success in your life, and as the title suggest, your business. By focusing on patterns that shape our lives, Duhigg helps us understand how habits work.

March

In March, Prerna Gupta challenged the view that workers are most productive in the office in her controversial article in The New York Times. She claims that regardless of company size, smart people still work the same: they work best when they are able to choose their own place and schedule of work. This doesn’t only offer much valued flexibility to employees, but cuts out a lot of the distractions present in office environments.

The youngest professor at Wharton and one of the most prolific academics in organizational psychology makes waves with his research on work relationships. He claims that the greatest overlooked source of motivation is a sense of service to others. We can all become more productive, he argues, if we focus on what our work will contribute to others’ lives. His findings were published for a popular audience back in April in his book Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success.

April

After a Yahoo! memo was leaked earlier in February, Marissa Mayer finally breaks the silence about the company-wide telecommuting ban. She defended her decision in the closing keynote at the Great Place to Work conference in Los Angeles. In Mayer’s own words:

“People are more productive when they’re alone, but they’re more collaborative and innovative when they’re together. Some of the best ideas come from pulling two different ideas together.”

May

May saw a very interesting discussion around why billing by the hour doesn’t work for knowledge workers. In his article What’s an idea worth? Adam Davidson writes:

“It’s relatively easy to figure out if steel companies can make a ton of steel more efficiently than in the past (they can, by a lot), but we have no idea how to measure the financial value of ideas and the people who come up with them.”

June

Gary Klein’s Seeing what others don’t: The Remarkable Ways We Gain Insights is published. While the book might not at first seem to directly relate to productivity, it actually does. Klein takes a look at where insights come from, and what blocks them.

What do some people see that others miss, and how do they see it? This is the question that seems to guide Seeing What Others Don’t.

Klein also takes an in-depth look into the obstacles to insight. For example, companies that claim to value employee creativity but in fact block disruptive ideas (as any truly innovative idea will be) and place more importance on the avoidance of mistakes.

July

Task-management app Astrid announces that it will shut down following its buyout by Yahoo! back in May. The Android app had more than 4 million downloads. It was the 7th acquisition by Yahoo! to be shut down since Marisa Meyer took the helm.

August

A new fitness trend takes over – and it doesn’t involve going to the gym. Neuroscience PhD candidate Sheida Rabipour published a review showing that brain gyms such as CogniFit or Lumosity can actually advance certain cognitive functions. These programs usually target the prefrontal cortex, associated with problem solving, attention, memory and strategic thinking. Rabipour suggests that by improving these cognitive functions you can also improve other aspects of mental function that use the same network.

September

In September, Unroll.me (probably the best thing that your email inbox has ever known) adds a new blocking feature to keep spam out of your inbox. Aside from keeping your inbox clean by rolling all your newsletters, notifications or other subscriptions into a daily digest, and letting you unsubscribe with one click, Unroll.me also lets you block senders easily, no matter what your email provider is.

September also sees the rise of the Bullet Journal, an analog productivity method created by NYC-based designer Ryder Caroll.

October

The announcement that the task manager Do.com will be shutting down as of January 31st comes as a surprise to thousand of businesses. Do had been acquired by Salesforce two years ago, back when the service was called Manymoon. Salesforce dished out between 25 to 35 million for Manymoon.

New findings from the London School of Economics and Political Science suggest that employees who work from home are happier and more productive. The reason is that they are less distracted and grateful for the flexibility – especially if they work best at night, for example. They are also likely to put the time saved on commuting back into their work.

November

The first annual Employee Happiness Index from Keas comes out, revealing something that shouldn’t surprise many business owners: healthy employees are more productive employees. According to Josh Stevens, CEO of Keas:

“Employers are starting to recognize that the key to a productive workforce is taking a 360-degree approach to engagement. Health, happiness and productivity are intrinsically linked. Employers have a huge opportunity to boost the health and happiness of employees through meaningful engagement programs, and reap the rewards of the increased workplace satisfaction and productivity that result.”

December

The year ends with good news for the U.S. economy, as worker productivity rises 3% in the third quarter. From July to September, worker output increased 4.7% compared to the April-to-June quarter. Hours worked also increased by 1.7%, and compensation by 1.6%.While this means good news for economic growth, it might be indicative of more hiring, but less growth in wages.

Looking back, 2013 was not a bad year at all for productivity. It was a pretty eventful year across the board. Here’s to 2014 being even better! Happy New Year to all!

What are the productivity moments of 2013 that we’ve missed? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below.