Fair labor practices are designed to protect employees from unfair working conditions even though business owners can find them to be burdensome at times. Labor law can and does limit how much work can be done by an individual employee on any given day, something that can slow down progress on a project and make costs increase. Working within the fair labor practice standards doesn't have to mean giving up productivity, nor does it mean hiring more people to get the same amount of work done. Here are ways to maintain productivity while observing fair labor practices.
There are a number of ways to keep employees happy and increase their job satisfaction. How you go about making the workplace a pleasant place for everyone to perform their duties is dependent on your corporate culture. Find what increases employee satisfaction and find ways to make reasonable accommodations to incorporate those features into the workplace. On the surface, this seems like going to extraordinary lengths to make people feel good about their work, but there's a good reason for doing so.
Employees that have positive attitudes about their job are more productive than ones who don't. The investment you put into the workplace to make it a happier place is one that generates dividends in the form of increased productivity. You see more output without hiring more people and paying overtime.
States are starting to pass employment laws aimed at properly classifying contractors and employees. This adds a layer to the existing employee classifications of contractor, hourly, and salaried. Employers are not allowed to have control over their contractors apart from defining the type of work and when it's supposed to be completed. In order for an employer to have control over an employee, they have to pay FICA on wages and provide a W-2 for tax purposes. Hourly employees are also limited to a 40-hour workweek before overtime kicks in. Salaried employees are usually exempt from overtime rules unless they're exempt, and even then their exemption is dependent on classification.
It's tempting to use contractors and eliminate the need to maintain payroll along with paying FICA and state income taxes. But it's very easy to run afoul of labor practices for this group. Play it safe and classify employees appropriately. You can use a mix of classifications to get the work done on time, but always make sure to handle employee hours and control according to their classification.
Management typically takes a "top-down" approach when it comes to making decisions in the workplace. That is, management looks at employees as a homogenous group and makes rules that apply to everyone even if those rules may not be convenient. The rules can be anything from actions taken in the workplace to the following processes on a project. Rules are there for a good reason, and tailoring rules to accommodate everyone is difficult at best.
Giving employees a voice in decision-making processes lets them feel engaged and that a sense of fairness is in play. In turn, they're more likely to stay within the parameters of the project or work environment as well as increase productivity. The feeling of fairness creates a better work environment and encourages people to be more productive.
Breaks during the workday are not mandated by federal law. It's up to each state to mandate a break period for the workday. Some work environments overlook break periods and leave it up to employees to take breaks. Another issue is when management decides that people should be punished for taking a break even though they're allowed to by law. Breaks should be encouraged and enforced so employees can step back from their work for a short period of time.
When people can step away from their work and relax, they tend to feel refreshed and ready to get back to the task at hand. Working with no break can slow down productivity as there's no opportunity to change focus. The longer an employee focuses on a task, the more likely they are to make a mistake due to the literal mind-numbing effect that working with no break clauses. Employees are far more likely to return to their position with an increased effort on the work at hand.
Micromanaging has the exact opposite effect of what micromanagers think happens: it slows down productivity. There are no laws against micromanaging, but if management is in the habit of taking this action, it makes production slow. You want to improve productivity without violating any of the labor standards. Enabling a micromanager creates an unpleasant workplace, resentment among employees, and lowers overall quality of work. Avoid the practice and those who would engage in it at all costs.
The healthier your workforce, the more productive your employees. People who are healthy experience fewer colds and spend more time in the office than out. And making sure that people go on their allotted vacation gives them an opportunity to rest, relax, and refresh their minds. A short-term absence from the workplace is good for productivity. It's far better to encourage employees to take care of their well-being than to begrudge them time off. Employee productivity improves when they feel good, are sick less often, and can get away from work now and again.
Employees need the right tool for the job whether it be a hammer or a computer. If your business is using outdated equipment that's slow or prone to breaking, your employees can't do their jobs to the best of their abilities. Look into updating equipment for faster processing times and take advantage of technology to improve the speed with which tasks get done. Employees also respond to investment in the workplace through increased productivity. They have an easier time completing their tasks and find they can get more done in the same amount of time.
Creating this kind of working environment doesn't mean making a lounge out of the office. What it does mean is replacing old equipment with new pieces, fixing issues that could present a danger, and accommodating people who don't tolerate heat or cold that well. It's easy to identify what people's needs are simply by asking or listening to common complaints. Remember that you don't have to go out of the way or start precedents that can be abused, but you can make small efforts to take care of those who need a little extra. When employees feel like their concerns are heard and taken care of, they're far more likely to respond by putting forth their best effort.
Fair labor practices don't have to stifle productivity when you find creative ways to encourage employees to work harder. Talk to a labor expert or lawyer before you decide to embark on changes in your workplace. You don't want your employees viewing your changes as adversarial and unfair, and you don't want to engage in practices that can result in a lawsuit against your company.
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