LMS Login ManagementDirect Login LEAP Login

8 Warning Signs of An Unproductive, Unhappy Office

8 Warning Signs of An Unproductive, Unhappy Office
6 January 2020 John Moore

You know and I know that a productive workplace is critical for the success of any business and now research proves it – a happy workforce is a productive workforce. But how do you spot the signs of an unhappy and unproductive workforce?

Happy Teams = Productive Teams

A recent study by economists at the University of Warwick found that happiness led to a 12% spike in productivity, while unhappy workers proved 10% less productive.

In his book, The Happiness Advantage, Shawn Anchor, explains that the brain works much better when a person is feeling positive (check out Shawn’s very funny TED TALK). He explains that people tend to be more creative and better at solving problems when they are happy and feeling positive. And additional research has shown that when employees are happy they are more effective collaborators working toward common goals. Shawn tells us that the incentive for organisations is clear – “happiness leads to greater levels of profits” therefore as managers we need identify and eliminate unproductive working environments.

What are the warning signs?

Spotting the warning signs is the first step to addressing low happiness and poor productivity. The signs are:

# 1: Fatigue

The main factor in low productivity is fatigue. Tired employees cannot give 100 per cent no matter how much you try to motivate them. They might be fatigued because of problems sleeping and resting caused by a bad night’s sleep, feeling over-worked, dealing with stress, or suffering from chronic illnesses.

Of course, your job is not to diagnose the causes, but finding ways to address fatigue is important since it costs you in time, manpower and productivity. Fatigued employees work slower, find it harder to solve problems and to be creative and to focus.

What you can do is to look at the ergonomics in your workplace. This means checking out how office is laid out, how equipment is set-up and if people are spending too long staring at computer screens without regular breaks.

You can check out the lighting and heating – dim lighting or hot environments make us feel sleepy and ‘dopey’. Introduce natural light, bright bulbs and turn down the thermostat.

# 2: Messy desks

I know there will always be messy people (I am one of them), but a messy desk could be a sign that your team is over-worked. While this may not sound like a bad thing when it comes to productivity, it could be causing them to feel fatigue. Even worse, it could mean they are juggling too many tasks at once and not doing all of them effectively.

It could also be a sign that work is piling up and contributing to increased stress and sleepless nights. You need to identify the reason why work is piling up – often it is caused by a work process that is not working!

Talk to them and find out the reason and then design a modified work process and find ways to help your team to manage – TALKING works as it usually leads to solutions!

#3: Complaining

When people spend time moaning about their job or tasks they do not enjoy, they are wasting time. Often it is a form of procrastination. What is even worse is if your team members are moaning to and with other team members, thereby infecting them with their mood and negativity.

It is important to listen to people’s concerns otherwise they will engage in unproductive behaviours and you could also risk losing them if they do not feel valued. However, do not indulge them, but instead engage them in finding solutions and improvements.

#4: Micromanagement

Do you like to be micromanaged? I am guessing not, so why would your team? If you feel the need to micromanage then the chances are your team needs more training and coaching to give them the skills, knowledge and confidence to work without you ‘breathing down their necks’.

# 5: Ineffective teams

We all know that effective teamwork leads to better overall performance. However, this is only the case if the team is focused on achieving its objectives, possesses the right skills and competences and is supported by solid task management structures and effective communication. When like-minded, motivated and competent people work together great things can happen – likewise people can work effectively as a team to sabotage, moan and work against the achievement of team objectives if they are not well supported by their managers.

# 6: Silence

Often silence can be deafening. Often when people are not talking and interacting, it can be a sign of underlying problems and tensions. Silent working environments are often linked to a sterile, unfriendly and an unproductive working environment. In our office, we always have some background music on and encourage banter and chat. It is like working with friends rather than teammates!

# 7: Structure is important

A productive office will have a clearly structured plan in place for the workflow management, how tasks are assigned and implemented, and who oversees each role. Without structure, people do not know exactly what is required of them. Structure enables strong and effective leadership, effective delegation and communication.

At Exponential Training, we have a structure for our meetings. We know exactly why, when and where we have our Communication and Business meetings (C&B) – the last Friday morning of each month for one hour. We have a standing agenda, produce a standard set minutes in the form of action points – people come prepared, informed and with ideas.

# 8: Drab decor

I believe you can often spot an unproductive office simply by how it looks. Our office has lots of bright colours, fresh plants, artwork on the walls which help to create a ‘buzz’. We often ‘shake things up’ with a couple of simple changes to the office layout or some new artwork.

Having been part of the Erasmus+ Fit4BusinessGrowth project, I now appreciate more now than ever before the importance of a happy, healthy and vibrant working environment. Wellbeing at work plays a key role in creating an atmosphere and a working environment in which team members can be creative, productive and fully engaged in their work.

What three simple changes could you make today?


To keep up to date, why not subscribe to In the Loop:


John Moore has over 20 years experience of training and developing Managers, Coaches, Consultants and businesses. As Managing Director of Exponential Training, John researches, speaks, blogs and writes about how to improve performance. He also designs and delivers engaging, fun and interactive learning programmes. John is a Fellow Chartered Manager and has worked with managers and organisations in over 20 different countries.