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Don’t work harder – work better!

Productivity is commonly talked about in business and ‘boosting’ productivity is getting increased attention. It’s a term used by economists as a measure of output. But what does it actually mean for your business? Who better to ask, than Ashleigh McCulloch of the Productivity Club Scotland.

Other similar words for productivity that you might hear are yield, adaptability, performance, achievement, turnover and enterprise, all of which explains the desire to increase it!

Productivity is not about working harder – it is about working better.

When focusing on improving productivity within your business, it’s about looking at having the right resources and making sure they are effective and efficient.

What are the key drivers of productivity?

Unfortunately, there is no simple answer to this question! Scotland, and the UK as a whole, is currently experiencing low productivity growth and has been for over a decade. The reasons for this are unknown and it’s often referred to as ‘the productivity puzzle.’ What we do know though, learning from productive businesses in the UK and internationally, is that there are a number of factors which could help improve productivity and productive working.

Leadership and management practices

Research shows that leadership and management skills is one of the greatest influencers of productivity within a business. An improvement of just 0.1% in management effectiveness could result in a 10% increase in productivity. As an example, one business recently doubled their production when a new manager was employed.

The good news is that there’s a range of support available to develop your leadership skills offered by Scottish Enterprise, Business Gateway and other organisations across the country, which are specifically designed for women-led businesses.

Formal training can also be complemented by peer learning – hearing from those who have overcome similar challenges can provide very useful insights for you. Looking beyond your own network and engaging with the Women’s Business Centre communities and organisations like Productivity Club Scotland can provide you with perspectives from other industries.

Employee engagement and wellbeing

If you are employing staff, their productivity will be greatly increased by giving them the right tools, resources and training to be their most effective.

A recent case study looking at productivity in construction found that better work planning could increase productivity by 25%.  This meant a project which took eight weeks previously could be delivered in only seven weeks. Staff took more breaks and spent more time communicating and job satisfaction was much better.

Research has also linked employee engagement, a positive culture and a focus on wellbeing as key components of productivity in the workplace.  Creating a mentally healthy workplace can reduce absenteeism, burnout, stress and presenteeism.

Flexible working practices can also improve productivity at work. According to research by HSBC, nine out of ten employees say it is their key motivator. Offering flexible working can also open up a new talent pool of those with caring responsibilities and other commitments, whilst helping to close the gender pay gap.

Employee-owned business models, which increase staff involvement in decision making, also have positive impacts on productivity and wellbeing. Employee-owned businesses have seen their productivity increase by 6.9% in 2020. You can find out more about employee-owned businesses here.


Embracing technology (and ensuring your team have the skills to use it) can also really increase productivity. From reducing travelling times with online meetings, to making better decisions using data, there are a number of tools available which can make your working practices more productive and many are free or have a low cost for small businesses. Check out some suggestions further down the page.

As an example, a charity working with DataLab doubled conversions on their website in 12 weeks by understanding how people were using the site.

Again, there are a number of useful tools available to help you, such as Business Gateway’s Digital Boost programme or consider a Digital Development Loan to invest in technology solutions.

These are just some of the factors which can help you improve productivity in your business. There are many more and businesses across the country are developing new innovative approaches every day. Productivity Club Scotland helps to share their stories and can help you to consider new and exciting opportunities for your business. Remember, it’s not about working harder, it’s about working better!

Productivity tools and websites to check out

Personal productivity

RescueTime – helps you track how you are spending your time

The Pomodoro Technique – somewhere between a tip and a tool, the Pomodoro Technique means that you split your work up into focused blocks, with breaks to refresh your mind in between.


Celpax – quick, anonymous thumbs up, thumbs down check in with your team. You can have one wall mounted device, and the accompanying dashboard to review the data, for free.

Tandem – feedback app, allowing real time, crowd sourced feedback for any member of the team. Includes 360 feedback, analytics, and tracking of one to one meetings.

Task specific

FreeAgent – accounting software for small businesses, covering all the essentials including invoicing, expenses, and HMRC self assessment.

Video Conferencing (may also be suitable for training, demos, coaching, or recording videos)



Snap Camera (filters)

Crowd Cast

Meet Zippy

360 Learning

Microsoft Teams – collaboration software, allowing file sharing, video conferencing, task management and more. Used by many Productivity Club members.

Team Communication & Collaboration



Document Management


Google Drive

Project Management


Workflowy – online tool for creating detailed bullet point lists, including lists within list. Recommended particularly with use alongside the Pomodoro Technique.

Jira – task and project management software, free for up to ten users.

Asana – task and project management tool. Recommended by several Productivity Club members

Visual Collaboration


There are many more tools and productivity apps around so let us know if there are others you think should be included. 

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