Work Efficiency | 9 mins read

What is Work Efficiency, Really?

what is work efficiency really
Mary Kate Morrow

By Mary Kate Morrow

What is Efficiency?

By definition, efficiency is the accomplishment of a task with the least amount of effort and time spent. In the workplace, the term efficiency generally refers to the labor completed by employees.

A high efficiency work employee is both effective and competent. Identifying employees who work efficiently is not terribly difficult, as efficient employees usually exhibit-

  • Highly productive work ethic
  • Elevated employee engagement
  • Great time management skills
  • Increased team productivity
In short, a high efficiency work employee is one that not only knows how to get work done but will make sure good work is produced. In contrast, low efficiency work employees may exhibit-

  • Decreased employee engagement
  • Excessive social media usage
  • Disinterest in team building activities
  • Time management issues

The Value of Working Efficiently

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A high efficiency work office translates directly into business success. The benefits that result when businesses improve efficiency are outstanding.

One way that businesses benefit from their efforts to improve work efficiency is through an increase in bottom line profitability. Improving both individual employee efficiency and team efficiency can significantly decrease operational costs.

Businesses can earn the same amount of money or even more money while spending less on workflow maintenance. When businesses are able to produce services and goods for a lower cost, they retain more profit.

Many people base their behavior on the behaviors of those around them. When staff members are greeted by coworkers who work efficiently every day they will likely be motivated to improve their own employee efficiency levels.

Employees work best in a work environment that is positive and inspiring. A work environment where employees get work done and accomplish important tasks will likely foster motivation and positivity.

A positive work environment is a benefit in itself but it is also a benefit that can bring forth even more perks. For example, a positive work environment can bring up employee engagement levels and improve the work life balance of staff members.

It is well known that workplaces with high employee engagement levels and excellent work life balances are much more likely to attract and retain top talent employees. As a result, improving work efficiency will likely benefit every staff member as well as the entire business overall.

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Efficiency vs. Effectiveness

Many people use terms like efficiency, effectiveness, and productivity every day and interchangeably. However, many people do not know that there are significant differences between these words.

There are distinctions and similarities between effectiveness and efficiency that businesses must make sure they understand. Understanding the ways in which the two concepts converge and diverge is essential to improve work efficiency and effectiveness levels.


To better understand the differences between efficiency and effectiveness it is helpful to define effectiveness in clear terms. Effectiveness is defined as production that is accomplished with the smallest amount of resources wasted.

In the workplace, production ranges from important tasks to project management activities completed. The resources in this context could range from labor costs to employee time spent.

If efficiency is required for business profitability increases, effectiveness is required for business growth increases.


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Effectiveness and efficiency are symbiotic in nature. In other words, in order for efficiency to be functional, it must also be effective.

Completing an important work task is effectiveness but completing that task in the right way is efficient. Working efficiently allows employees to get more work done using just as much time as before.

When employees spend less time or just as much time to get more work done businesses benefit. Business benefits include increases in bottom line profitability and employee engagement levels.

Online employee scheduling software that makes shift planning effortless.
Try it free for 14 days.

Efficiency vs Productivity

It is important to clarify the difference between productive work and efficient work. Efficiency and productivity, though often used interchangeably, are not the same.

In the workplace, productivity is widely defined as the rate at which important tasks are completed. Productivity is extremely useful for measuring performance and raw output.

There are differences and similarities between productivity and efficiency. Understanding the ways in which the two concepts intersect and diverge is essential to improve work efficiency and productivity levels.


One common reason that productivity and efficiency are often used interchangeably is likely due to the fact that they measure overlapping factors. Productivity is defined as the measurement of output over time.

On the other hand, efficiency measures input versus output. One way that the two concepts overlap would occur when measuring time, due to the fact that time is considered a resource.

The best way to utilize work efficiency and work productivity best is to use productivity to measure personal performance and efficiency to measure process performance. However, businesses must always make sure that they are examining outside factors that influence these measurements.

While efficiency and productivity are incredible tools, neither explain root issues. For example, a decrease in work efficiency could indicate an employee engagement or a work life balance issue.

A business must make sure to clearly understand what underlying elements are influencing changes in work efficiency and productivity. As such, work productivity and efficiency levels alone should not drive any major decision making in the workplace without careful analysis of the outside factors influencing both.

For example, a situation where a small business owner is hyperfocused on implementing initiatives in order to improve work efficiency and productivity levels but negates to consider an outside factor like the mental health of employees. In this situation, the behavior of the small business owner can quickly tank the entire operation.

Utilizing both productivity and efficiency together allows businesses to understand how much time and other resources will be necessary to get work done. These calculations are crucial for helping business owners make sure they are using employee time and other resources most ideally.


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The most significant difference between efficiency and productivity is their focuses. While efficiency focuses on resources invested and the level of waste, productivity focuses on the rate at which results are accomplished.

One best way to understand this is to consider that two subjects could have the same level of productivity, but one could have higher efficiency due to varying amounts of resources invested for the same output.

Another notable difference between productivity and efficiency is where each would best be used. For example, measuring productivity would not be as useful for a machine as efficiency would be.

A machine, sans a major upgrade or mechanical issue, has a fixed productivity level. Alternatively, a business can boost productivity levels or decrease the productivity levels of employees.

Therefore, measuring productivity levels of machines is possible, but not likely to actually improve work in any capacity. Alternatively, utilizing productivity to measure employee performance is useful, as even small changes in the workflow can produce significant results.

Measuring productivity is also highly useful for troubleshooting purposes. By comparing past and current employee productivity and team productivity levels, issues are identified earlier on than they would have been otherwise.

As a result, businesses spend less time wondering if work productivity is lower and can spend more time trying to increase productivity levels.

How to Improve Employee Efficiency

Understanding the differences and similarities between efficiency, productivity, and effectiveness helps businesses focus more clearly on each concept. However, understanding a concept is only the beginning of utilizing its power for change.

Both small business owners and large corporation CEOs may wonder about the best way to improve efficiency in the workplace. Thankfully, there are many best practices to guide business professionals looking to improve work efficiency levels.

5 best practices to improve work efficiency include-

1. Task Management

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Business owners and human resources department staff alike may be shocked to discover that an estimated 60% of time spent at work is actually not spent on work itself. In fact, studies estimate that 60% of the time employees spend at work they are planning on how to get work done instead of actually doing it.

In other words, 60% of the time employees are at work they are reading about, talking about, or planning how to get work done. Activities included in this percentage range from team work meetings to workplace social media conversations.

Decreasing the circumstances that cause employees to waste time is essential to improve efficiency levels. Simplifying, streamlining, and automating tasks whenever possible greatly assists initiatives to increase efficiency.

2. Time Management

Proper time management is essential for increasing work efficiency levels. Time management tools like time trackers can help employees waste time less and focus on important tasks instead.

Automated time management tools show in real time the work team members are engaged with as well as the work they have completed. Additionally, time theft will be reduced or potentially even eliminated completely with the implementation of proper time management tools.

For a small business with limited resources or businesses that are unsure which time management tools are best, experts recommend that they try free trials of various software programs.

3. Employee Training

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Many people consider decreasing employee training hours in an attempt to save time and money for the company. However, reducing training hours actually will decrease employee efficiency levels.

Employee training should focus on optimizing both individual employee efficiency and team efficiency levels. Developing individual project management skills and team building activities are two ways that businesses might improve their employee training programs.

4. Remote Work

Unfortunately, many people in higher levels of business administration are stubborn even when provided with solid evidence that they need to change. One way this is evident is in regards to the telecommuting phenomenon.

Studies prove that employees that work remotely are more productive than employees who are forced to work from the office. Experts widely agree that the best way for businesses to boost productivity and efficiency is to switch to remote work.

When executives spend less time every day micromanaging, every staff member will have a better work life balance and good work produced will skyrocket.

5. Incentives

In addition to remote work capabilities, the best way to improve work efficiency is through incentivization. Studies have shown that incentivizing employees will also boost productivity and employee engagement levels.

Financial incentives are generally considered the best way to recognize good work performed by an employee. Financial incentives can range from steady salary increases to regular bonuses.

Nonfinancial incentives are also powerful motivators, especially when paired with financial incentives. Nonfinancial incentives can range from awarding additional paid days off to sending a personalized thank you card.


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  • Whether a small business or large corporation, getting things done the best way possible in the workplace is no easy task.
  • Increasing work efficiency, productivity, and effectiveness requires understanding the differences and similarities they have.
  • Increasing efficiency results in a wide range of benefits, from the ability to improve team dynamics to overall work management optimization.

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