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The Ultimate Guide to Maximizing Productivity

The Ultimate Guide to Maximizing Productivity

8 minutes

July 6, 2022

The Ultimate Guide to Maximizing Productivity

Every manager wants their teams to be as productive as possible. After all, there’s a whole lot of stuff to get through — and agile companies looking to scale up need to demonstrate ambition in order to get the job done.

That’s why it’s worth calculating the productivity levels of your teams and individual employees to try and optimize your company’s processes.

Unfortunately, working out and analyzing all those metrics can take ages. But that’s where a work management platform can come to the rescue.

This guide explains what productivity is, which factors influence employee productivity, how to calculate productivity, and how you can track and optimize productivity using a work management tool like SmartSuite.

What is Productivity?

Before we dive straight into how you can calculate productivity, we’d better take a step back and talk about what productivity is.

In its most basic form, productivity is the rate at which you produce goods or services. But when people talk about productivity, they’re normally referring to one of two different types of productivity: either employee productivity or labor productivity.

Although they sound pretty similar at first glance, let’s quickly walk through the differences between these two types of productivity.

Employee Productivity

If you’re a project manager or a business manager responsible for a team of workers, it’s probably going to be employee productivity that you’re most interested in.

Employee productivity is basically just a ratio of output that expresses the total amount of tasks an employee completes over an amount of time. Translation: employee productivity tells you how many tasks an employee can complete during a given period.

Illustration that shows factors that go into productivity calculation.

Why is calculating employee productivity important?

As a manager, it’s absolutely critical that you understand how long it’s going to take everyone on your team to complete tasks, create a certain number of units, or achieve net sales.

By understanding each employee’s productivity levels, you can work to help them overcome any distractions or roadblocks preventing them from working more efficiently. In the long run, this increased efficiency can also lower your production costs.

That being said, it’s equally important for you to understand that employee productivity is a pretty relative term. For example, you might have one employee who’s incredibly productive in one role — but when you move them over to another project team, their overall productivity slows.

If you’re the manager of a larger team of employees — say in a busy factory — you may want to measure a company's productivity as an average rather than by individual employee.

But we’ll break down all the different ways to calculate productivity in just a minute. First, let’s talk about labor productivity.

Labor Productivity

A lot of people tend to confuse labor productivity with employee productivity, but the two are quite different.

Labor productivity (also known as “workforce productivity”) is real economic output per labor hour. In principle, that’s the same as how you’d calculate employee productivity. But labor productivity zooms way out to look at changes in economic output at a sector or industry level.

That’s not a weight any individual project manager or team can place on their own shoulders, which is why we're not going to focus on labor productivity for now. Instead, we’re going to focus on where you can really make a difference: employee productivity.

Which Factors Influence Productivity?

Most managers know that it’s important to monitor and optimize employee productivity — but what not every manager understands is the wide range of factors that have the power to influence a worker’s productivity.

Illustration of key factors that impact employee productivity

No two workers are alike, so the factors that influence an employee’s productivity levels are going to vary from person to person. But to help you get started, we’ll zip through a few of the key influencers when it comes to productivity dynamics.

Work Environment

The work environment can exert significant influence on employees. It has the power to affect their moods, health, and overall performance.

According to one recent survey conducted by Future Workplace, around half of all employees told researchers that poor air quality makes them sleepier during the day — and as a result, they reported losing up to an hour’s worth of productivity every day.

If you’ve got a team of 20 people in the office, and every one of them is losing an hour’s worth of work because their workspace isn’t well ventilated, those hours are going to start adding up pretty quickly.

But your company’s work environment isn’t just about material things you can fix by hiring a contractor. The work environment also includes things like work atmosphere, collaboration, office politics, and available support for staff.

If you have all the right building blocks in place to create a healthy work environment, you’ll be on your way toward optimizing your team’s productivity.

Company Processes

This is an obvious one, but it’s pretty staggering how big of an impact clear production processes can have on your organizational productivity.

By “processes,” we’re talking about anything from clear lines of reporting to how to call in sick, request annual leave, file a purchase order, clear an IT ticket, or what to do in the event of an emergency.

When you’re able to implement simple processes that everybody understands, it’s a whole lot easier to track a particular task across a predictable sequence of steps (like a checklist).

That predictability and consistency make it a lot simpler for employees to fly through tasks — enabling them to clear projects faster and move on to the next task.

Before you run off and start inventing all sorts of random processes for your team, it’s important to note that good processes take a lot of trial and error. You’ll need to consult your team about what works for them, what doesn’t, and what makes sense to do from an admin point of view.

The best processes aren’t created overnight. You’ll have to tinker with them and optimize those processes over time before you’re running a well-oiled machine.


Without goals, it can be pretty tricky to keep your eye on the ball. That’s why it’s important for high-performance teams to define and establish goals for each employee to achieve.

When you set goals for your team, it keeps them focused and engaged. But it also keeps workers motivated to maintain discipline and make choices that are ultimately going to better align with your company’s strategic direction.

How can you optimize employee goals to increase productivity?

One of the best ways to help your workers set reasonable goals is by using the SMART formula.

This ensures goals are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-Bound.

By ticking all of these boxes for each goal, it’s easier to measure and support your team on their journey toward achieving each goal over a given period of time.

Employee Well-Being

This one overlaps with work environment a little bit — but at the end of the day, a healthy employee is far more likely to have the physical and mental ability to be productive at work.

Think about it: if you’re feeling a lot of anxiety or pressure to be logged in working on projects when you’ve got a crippling migraine, how much are you realistically going to get done?

Sick or stressed-out employees might be able to finish their work, sure. But they’re going to have to work a whole lot harder and longer, which will mean a far lower productivity level. This could then go on to cause missed deadlines and employee burnout.


The amount of training you offer employees is also going to play a big role in their productivity. After all, the more training they’ve had, the more prepared they’re going to be to get their job done.

An untrained employee can exert all the effort they want to. But if they don’t understand your team’s processes or what’s expected of them, they’re not going to know where to direct all that effort and enthusiasm. That’s going to mean a super-low output.

If you want to optimize productivity, you’ve got to provide your employees with simple, role-based tutorials to help them complete tasks.

And you should also consider offering company-level training that will give employees a holistic understanding of what the team, organization, and industry are looking to achieve.

How to Calculate Productivity

When it comes to calculating productivity, it’s worth noting there are loads of external factors that could affect your organization’s productivity — from recessions and inflation to competition, the national GDP, or even stock market performance.

To calculate labor productivity, all you need to do is divide total output by total input. But again: from a management point of view, calculating labor productivity by looking at inflation or a nation’s overall economic performance isn’t going to be particularly helpful.

Instead, you’ve got to hone in and calculate your employee or team productivity.

Fortunately, the employee productivity formula is just as simple as the labor productivity formula: simply divide your worker’s total output by their total input.

Illustration showing productivity formula

Let’s walk you through a quick example of this formula.

Let’s say your team generated $75,000 worth of goods or services (output) utilizing 1,000 labor hours (input). To calculate your team’s productivity, you’d divide 75,000 by 1,000, which equals 75. This means that your company generates $75 per hour of work.

If you want to hone in on an individual team member’s productivity, you can apply the same formula using metrics that are unique to their workload.

For example, let’s say you want to calculate the productivity of a web developer on your team. You could take the total number of help desk tickets per day that the developer completes as your input. Then, you’d divide that by the number of hours spent completing those daily tickets.

As an example, that could be: total tickets completed (16) divided by total hours worked (8), which creates a productivity rate of two tickets per hour. Calculating that will require accurate time tracking.

But from there, you can help that developer optimize their productivity or use that as a benchmark or baseline to make sure they’re performing to the best of their ability moving forward.

Unfortunately, if you’ve got a big team or a lot of different productivity rates you’d like to calculate, keeping tabs on this can be incredibly time-consuming. That's where a dynamic work management platform comes in handy.

Using Work Management Software to Calculate Productivity

If you want to calculate and optimize productivity levels for a number of employees, the best way to do it is by using work management software.

Work management software is a fancy term for a platform that has all the tools you need to plan, coordinate, execute, and report on all the tasks and projects your team has at any one time.

There are loads of reasons a manager would want work management software — but it’s this ability to report and analyze task and subtask completion that makes it a lot easier to gauge the productivity levels of your team (and individual members).

But not all work management platforms are created equally. The market is littered with software that’s missing key features, doesn’t have the analytical capabilities managers need, or fails to connect the right team members — which is especially critical in the post-pandemic age.

That’s where SmartSuite really comes to the rescue.

Screenshot of SmartSuite dashboards

SmartSuite helps you calculate productivity using its dynamic and customizable dashboards that place everything you want to know about your team in one place. You can:

  • Use dynamic widgets to embed charts, calculate and track metrics, or summarize in tables
  • Aggregate data across any and all of your SmartSuite solutions in a single view
  • Create dashboards to visualize information at each “layer” of the organization — executive leaders, departments, teams, programs, projects, and even personal dashboards

The end result: you can calculate productivity on a number of metrics or teams simultaneously and automatically — making sure you’re always in the loop and that every productivity calculation is available at the drop of a hat on an easy-to-use dashboard.

You can then get a bird’s eye view of how your team is doing using a timeline view, Kanban view, grid view, or any number of other options.

Make Calculating Productivity Simple

At the end of the day, working out and analyzing all those performance metrics is a full-time job in and of itself. That’s where a work management platform can really come to the rescue — and if you’re looking for a work management platform that ticks all the boxes, you can’t do any better than SmartSuite.

SmartSuite helps you calculate productivity using its dynamic and customizable dashboards that place everything you want to know about your team in one place.

So, are you ready to start calculating productivity? Start your 14-day free trial now and supercharge your workflows.

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