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5 minute read

Work Efficiency vs Productivity: What’s The Difference?

Efficiency and productivity aren’t the same thing. Here, we explore how to maximise both quality and quantity to deliver a higher standard of work and performance.

Every business requires efficiency and productivity in the workplace to achieve its goals. However, many people incorrectly view these concepts as one and the same. While they are related in some ways, developing the most beneficial business outcomes demands an in-depth understanding of the differences.

Whether you’re an employer looking to get the most from your team, or an employee striving to skyrocket their performance, appreciating the distinct nature of both efficiency and productivity is essential. We break these concepts down to help you maximise your time and resources.

The difference between efficiency and productivity in the workplace

The easiest way to understand the difference between efficiency and productivity is through quality and quantity.

  • Productivity looks at the quantity of work produced per unit of time, regardless of quality. If you increase the amount of work produced in an hour, productivity has been increased.
  • Efficiency considers the quality of work produced per unit of time. It is the ability to produce the most amount of work with the least amount of waste. If you produce the best quality output for each unit of time, you are at 100% efficiency.

The distinction might seem small, but how productivity and efficiency are considered in the workplace can significantly affect success. Although every business wants to maximise both elements, most workplaces should focus on efficiency. Because by improving efficiency, you inevitably improve productivity.

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Consider a simple example. A copywriter sets out to write 10,000 words instead of 5,000 each day. To meet the word count, they do less research for their work to speed up their writing. On the surface, it may look like the copywriter has increased their productivity. However, if writing more leads to a loss in quality, the work done may result in unhappy clients and time-consuming revisions, which is undesirable for the company.

Alternatively, if the copywriter leverages an AI tool to help do the research, they might be able to complete 10,000 words within a day at a quality expected. Productivity has increased, since they are writing more words per day. This time, since the quality of work has been maintained and the clients are happy, efficiency has also improved.

How to increase productivity and efficiency at work

Simply working faster doesn’t mean you’re producing something better. However, you can level up productivity and efficiency in the workplace with a detailed understanding of time management and organisation. Here are some tips to increase your performance.

1. Get organised

Jobs with shifting priorities and tasks can make it hard to determine where you’re on the right path with productivity and efficiency. However, organising your day with a personalised approach can help you focus on the right activity at the right time. Consider your daily routine and how it might be adjusted to drive improvements.

For example, getting enough sleep means you can rise earlier in the morning and remain focused during the workday. Declutter your workplace – at home and in the office – to ensure you can tackle each job with exceptional clarity. Use a to-do list on your smartphone or a physical notebook to set deadlines and jot down new tasks.

2. Avoid multitasking

Many workers take pride in their multitasking abilities. Yet, research has found that this approach is problematic for efficiency and productivity in the workplace. Instead, approach a single task with your undivided attention. This often delivers a better standard of work, free from mistakes and assumptions that create more work in the future.

Productivity expert Robby Slaughter recommends that workers resist the temptation to multitask by removing nearby distractions and switching off notifications. “Multitasking is the worst way to try and get lots of things done,” says Slaughter. “It’s contrary to human psychology. We do best when we concentrate on one task at a time.”

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3. Find tech-based solutions

There’s an incredible array of tech-based solutions that instantly improve your productivity. A simple to-do list makes it easy to keep track of your daily tasks while also providing a sense of satisfaction as you cross each one off. Plus, project management tools like Trello offer helpful visualisations like timelines and Gantt charts to help you complete each project stage-by-stage.

You can also download numerous apps that enhance productivity and efficiency. A customisable distraction blocker like Freedom limits access to specific websites and apps on multiple devices, ensuring you focus on the task. Meanwhile, screen recorders, voice recorders, password managers and mind mapping tools help organise your life.

4. Track your progress

You can download all the productivity tools on the internet, but you need to keep track of your progress to ensure you understand whether you’re making improvements. You can use time-tracking software to analyse your workplace performance, making it easier to identify problem areas.

You can also adopt numerous techniques to overcome procrastination. One of the most popular is the Pomodoro technique, where you divide your workday into 25-minute blocks followed by a five-minute break. This helps you focus on your work while providing plenty of mental rest.

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