Angie Henson - July 28, 2023

Sustainable Productivity: Managing for Long-Term Success

Real success starts with ensuring employee well-being—and a focus on people, planet, and profits.

Sustainable Productivity: Managing for Long-Term Success

Sustainable productivity balances organizational growth with employee well-being. Rather than burning out as they push themselves harder, workers remain energized. Organizations that follow this approach enjoy longer-term success fueled by more satisfied employees.

Let’s discuss how to manage productivity sustainably, with a focus on long-term growth and social responsibility.

The basics of productivity management

Productivity management involves motivating employees to achieve a higher quality or quantity of results. This can involve inspiring or incentivizing employees to achieve more. Inspiration relies on intrinsic rewards, while incentives rely on extrinsic rewards.

Pop-up definitions:

Intrinsic rewards: Internal motivators, like enjoyment of a task and satisfaction with achieving it.

Extrinsic rewards: External incentives, like money or gifts.

Increased workplace productivity drives business growth. This doesn’t necessarily mean working harder, or longer hours. Rather, through productivity management, leaders can help their already hardworking employees work smarter. They can also equip them with strategies for maintaining their well-being, boosting energy levels, and productivity.

Sustainability in productivity management

Companies are increasingly realizing that their current growth strategies don’t always consider the human costs of enhanced productivity. Sustainable productivity has sparked interest as employers witness long-term negative effects—like burnout and resignations—of short-term boosts in productivity. The sustainable productivity management approach views success through a long-term lens, which prioritizes empathy and employee well-being.

In the broader sense, sustainable project management also encompasses social and environmental well-being, as we’ll cover next.

Balancing social, environmental, and economic factors

Smart businesses are focusing on the triple bottom line: people, planet, and profits. This means measuring success beyond financial gains. Real success has a positive effect on society and the environment, as well as employees. Today’s stakeholders, including employees, expect a high level of corporate social responsibility (CSR), which can raise a company’s profile. Let’s examine how to meet these expectations.

Reducing waste

Waste reduction begins with implementing sustainable practices in the workplace. For example, businesses can adopt energy efficient solutions and strive to go paperless.

Examining supply chains

Companies must examine their supply chains to ensure partners use equitable and environmentally friendly practices—and make adjustments where needed. They may be able to influence partners to adopt more sustainable practices, for instance.

Promoting inclusion

Increasing diversity and inclusion in the workplace will foster a satisfied team. All employees will feel recognized, and you’ll benefit from the full use of their talents. Implement clear policies for training and advancement to provide equal access to these opportunities.

Further, leaders should embrace diversity of thought, encouraging all employees to share creative ideas and insights.

Enhancing well-being

Wellness initiatives can promote well-being and work-life balance, giving you more energized and driven employees who love working for your company. Here are a few examples:

  • Guided stretching or yoga sessions (in person or virtual)
  • Robust mental (and physical) health benefits
  • Encouragement to not work more than a certain number of hours per week

Managers should also set a strong example of how to balance work and life. This isn’t just good for employees—it also boosts innovation and the bottom line.

Technology and tools for sustainable productivity

Organizations can use tools to measure both productivity and well-being.

  • Meeting management software that helps structure meetings and analyzes productivity, avoiding wasted time
  • Remote collaboration tools that streamline work sessions without requiring a commute
  • Project organization tools like BaseCamp that keep teams on task
  • Solutions that automate tasks like data entry, promoting resource optimization
  • Software that tracks well-being and supports people in making improvements

The platform Unmind lets individuals track their well-being and supports them in making positive changes. In addition, businesses can see how well-being affects performance, along with the ROI on wellness initiatives.

Project management principles and sustainable productivity

Project management principles and sustainable productivity

How can you integrate project management practices with sustainable productivity management? Develop a project sustainability management plan. In it, identify the desired results. Then work backwards to identify the inputs needed to achieve them, including staff, time, and resources.

Create a sustainability checklist to guide project implementation and monitoring, too, as the Project Management Institute urges. For instance, list compliance requirements, financing options that align with your principles, team wellness needs, and partner selection criteria. Project management tools can ensure you don’t skip any essential items. Gaining project management professional (PMP) certification can also help you adhere to sustainability priorities.

Case studies: Successful sustainable productivity management

What are some examples of sustainable productivity management in action?

The company Patagonia, known for its eco-friendly practices, also works to follow fair labor practices that promote well-being. Principles include having a long-term view of how their products affect society and the planet and achieving consistent standards. Their project managers focus on setting strong incremental goals, strategically allocating limited resources, and cultivating empathy, communication, and problem-solving abilities.

The company Dot Foods, in Illinois, became the biggest foodservice redistributor in the U.S. by focusing on employee satisfaction. Emerging in a tiny town, they built an employee base by automating tasks that no one wanted to do, offering flexible time off, and providing quality training. Despite the small pool of workers, the business thrived.

Measuring the impact of sustainable productivity

Track the right key performance indicators (KPIs) for sustainability to monitor success. Here are some examples related to the triple bottom line:

  • Employee retention rate
  • Employee engagement rate
  • Project completion rate
  • ROI on sustainability and wellness initiatives
  • Client satisfaction rate
  • Energy usage (and percentage of decrease)
  • Supply chain miles traveled by products (including raw materials)
  • Confirmation that workers throughout the supply chain earn a living wage.

Overcoming challenges in adopting a sustainable approach

Several common issues can hinder the adoption of a sustainable approach:

  • The departments focused on well-being and financial growth typically don’t interact much. The solution: Adopt a collaborative approach to integrating wellness into business strategy. HR can strategize with financial leadership on how to do this.
  • Wellness data is usually subjective (gained strictly from surveys) and provides just a snapshot of one moment in time. The solution: Keep using surveys, but couple them with frequent conversations and software that evaluates engagement.
  • People may feel resistant to change. The solution: Put data into their hands and let teams devise strategies for maximizing their productivity, suggests the MIT Sloan Review.

Through these steps, you’ll overcome common obstacles to effective change management.

In Conclusion

Emerging technologies and strategies will continue to shape the evolving role of CSR and stakeholder expectations. Employees will benefit from process upgrades that leverage the most effective project management tools available. Even more importantly, managers’ sensitivity to their individual needs will improve employee satisfaction. Through these strategies, you can stay ahead of trends in productivity management.


Tags: Business Growth Business Leadership

  1. About the Author:

  2. About the Author:

    As a Principal at Valesco, Angie Henson serves in key roles related to new investment origination, portfolio management, and investor relations. She directs the firm’s strategic acquisition planning and program management as acting head of research and business development operations since 2002. Angie holds a Bachelor of Science from Tarleton State University and a certificate in entrepreneurial studies from Southern Methodist University.

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