Singaporeans are known for their hard work. But a 2017 study has found that they’re the least productive office employees among 11 countries. It turns out that Singaporean office workers only spend 60% of their time on their main duties. That was comparatively lower than the poll average of 72%.

The main reason points to excessive administrative tasks. According to the study, Singaporean office workers render approximately 380 hours a year for administrative or repetitive tasks.

That’s equivalent to about two months of a working year.

As of the time of the study, the Singapore service industry was losing more than SG$36.5 billion annually to low productivity. But in defense of the workers, their administrative workload prevents them from focusing on their main duties. Examples of this workload include manually collating and entering data, tracking a project’s status, handling invoices, and submitting travel expenses.

Clearly, this needs to change; SMRT Chairman, Seah Moon Ming issued a statement during a press conference that can be related to this productivity problem. He’d said that it is crucial in today’s world, especially for young workers, to know more than just a “what” and “how” to get their jobs done. They now ask for a “why” as well. As such, managers and other business leaders should provide their employees purposes to charge them up.

And they can do that by making changes to their workplace itself. Below are the five ways to inspire higher productivity in your workplace:

1. Invest in Technology

To reduce your employees’ administrative tasks, automation may be the answer. Many human tasks can be replaced by computers these days. Digitalizing papers, for instance, will eliminate the task of sorting and filing paperwork. Not to mention cut down the time employees spend looking for a particular document. If physical documents are important for your business, at least invest in the latest printers. That way, you can reduce printing time to seconds.

2. Remove Desk Clutter

A cluttered desk may appear to be the desk of a hard-working employee, but that’s not always the case. While a bit of clutter may encourage productivity, it poses a distraction all the same. Like a messy house, a messy workplace can also trigger anxiety and disrupt focus.

Clutter makes looking for specific things more time-consuming. Are the post-it notes all over an employee’s monitor? They look like solid reminders, but post-it notes can be prone to loss.

What if an important phone number is written on it? Though you may allow your employees to set reminders for themselves however they want to, discourage desk clutter as much as you can. The neater all workstations look, the more relaxed and inspiring the whole space becomes.

3. Create Ideal Workplace Conditions

The word “ideal” may sound “impossible to achieve in real life,” but it doesn’t necessarily mean perfect, so you can definitely achieve it. Creating ideal workplace conditions will make your space more comfortable. Imagine working on a hot office versus working on a cool one. You’ll choose the cool office without question.

It’s not hard to create an ideal physical environment. Adjust your AC’s thermostat to recommended levels, provide adequate lighting (and natural lighting if it’s possible), and use ergonomic office furniture. And since we’re still in a pandemic, place air purifiers and offer disinfectants to your employees as well. Don’t forget the restrooms and pantry, too; ensure that they’re clean, well-lit, and germ-free at all times.

4. Use Calm But Inspiring Colors

A typical office is dreary in design and decor. Business owners often don’t give thought to aesthetics. But aesthetics do more than act as eye candies. Colors alone can already alter moods; what more if you used certain decorations or a beautiful color palette?

Red can stimulate energy, so it suits workplaces where physical labor is done. Blue and green, meanwhile, are calming colors, so they suit offices where concentration is needed. Determine what traits are crucial to get work done in your company, and use the colors that promote those traits.

5. Use Plants and Artwork

Lastly, give your workplace a more homely atmosphere through plants and artwork. Homes aren’t the only places for those. And contrary to what some people may believe, a homely environment doesn’t necessarily cause laziness. In fact, research shows that plants can reduce stress, improve attention capacity, and help employees recover from taxing duties.
If your employees want to raise their own plants at their desks, let them. It’s also important to allow them some control over their workspaces. If employees can “own” their space, they will feel more inspired to work.

However, remember that productivity should be based on output, not hours rendered. Hence, these five productivity drivers aren’t meant to result in overtime. Instead, they should create happier, more motivated, and more satisfied employees. Those qualities will make them more productive of their own accord.