Apps to help increase employee productivity for hourly and shift workers

No team can be productive every minute of every day. But increasing your employee productivity while at the same time keeping employee happiness and engagement high is crucial to the success of your small business.

 Thanks to new understandings of workplace psychology—and new tools and technology—we have new, more modern approaches to raising employee productivity.

 In our tech-driven age, statistics show that productivity apps are the way forward to improve productivity at work—especially for a team of hourly workers or shift workers. Before we jump into how productivity apps can help your business, let’s take a step back, and take a look at what employee productivity is.

What is employee productivity?

Put simply, employee productivity is the amount of work an employee can complete in a given period of time. 

 To get a little more specific, productivity is the degree to which outputs (any service or product you provide to the market) are achieved through maximizing inputs (the number of team members, the efficiency of team members, the tools used, the processes or workflows) in a given amount of time.

 For hourly and shift workers, tracking their performance and measuring productivity has traditionally been a little trickier than with salaried workers. Since they sometimes work irregular hours in physically demanding roles, it can be harder to connect with hourly workers to collect accurate performance data and provide them with feedback. Luckily, now there are ways to go beyond surface-level employee performance tracking in a way that includes—and supports—hourly workers.

How is productivity measured?

A classic employee productivity formula compares an input to an output, and is determined by this basic calculation:

 output unit / input unit = productivity

 In your small business, you might measure productivity as a percentage of a target, or as a revenue amount that can be compared and contrasted to previous revenue amounts.

 Here are two real-world examples:
Percentage of goal met

Actual result your team produced (you sold 14 chicken meals)


Goal for your team (you hoped to sell 20 chicken meals) x 100 


70% productivity

Revenue productivity

Revenue for the day ($20,000 at the bar on Saturday)


Number of employees working that night (8 employees on the floor)

= $2,500 per employee

Compare this Saturday’s revenue to that of other Saturdays. Is it better or worse?

Measuring productivity on a larger, company-wide or team-wide scale can help business owners track overall performance. It makes it easier for you to see if you have the right mix of people on your teams.

 If you want to track the performance of a specific team member, you can also calculate the rate of output for individual employees.

 These are the most basic ways of thinking about productivity. But over the years, measuring employee productivity—and especially individual or personal productivity—has become much more nuanced. Today’s businesses ask: what happens if efficiency is high, but the quality is low? What financial investments have gone into one employee’s results over another’s, like differences in training, tools, or technology?

Good productivity measuring goes beyond baseline inputs and outputs. And paying attention to these other important factors is what will give you a full picture of employee productivity at your small business.

10 employee productivity statistics every small business owner should know 

Sometimes, the numbers say it all. Here are some of the most thought-provoking employee productivity statistics to consider, with huge impacts for both your employees and your business as a whole.

  1. Stress is getting in the way of employee productivity

During work hours, more than 70% of employees worry about stressors like their jobs and finances. That’s going to get in the way of productivity and make for some unhappy employees.

  1. Poor communication is a stressor for most workers

80% of workers report feeling stressed out due to poor company communication. Over time this leads them to resent their bosses, grow less engaged, and become less productive. 

  1. The costs of worker fatigue add up

Fatigue reduces work performance by interfering with concentration and increasing the time people need to accomplish tasks. Each year, productivity loss due to fatigue costs businesses $1,967 per employee, losing them billions.

  1. We’re paying for the physical effects of stress

Prolonged exposure to stress has physical effects on people. According to Stress in the Workplace, stressed workers have double the healthcare costs as unstressed ones. From depression to heart disease, stress-related illnesses are costing businesses $200 to $300 billion every year.

  1. Every distraction needs recovery time

It takes people an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to refocus on a task after they’ve been distracted. The average employee is distracted every three minutes—that’s a lot of missed time your employees are missing out on focusing on work.

  1. Using social media is the most common distraction

The biggest distraction probably isn’t a surprise—47% of workers report using social media on the job. The typical worker is checking their social media feeds for up to 32% of their workday, or 2.35 hours each day.

  1. Unengaged workers find many different distractions

Beyond social media, common workplace distractions include reading news websites (45% of employees), discussing out-of-work activities with coworkers (38% of employees), making hot drinks (31% of employees), and taking smoking breaks (28% of employees).

  1. High engagement, high productivity

If you have a team with high engagement, their productivity is measurably higher. A highly engaged team can experience a 41% reduction in absenteeism, 59% less employee turnover, and 28% less internal theft.

  1. Productivity affects your bottom line

When productivity drops off, the bottom line suffers. But when a group of employees are highly engaged and have correspondingly higher productivity levels, the profits of their company rise by 21%.

10. Digital tools make for more productive workers

While technology can drain productivity in unengaged workers, it can also be the key to increasing it. 46% of employees feel that the use of digital tools makes them more productive. As productivity and technology studies show, there’s an undeniable link between technological sophistication and productivity. 

What affects employee productivity at work?

Every employee is unique—some are naturally more productive than others. Productivity levels are always going to vary within your team because of differences in ability, personality, or working styles. Even day-to-day, some employees may be more productive than others. It can depend on the time of day (early birds vs. night owls), or even the day of the week (most people are more productive after a few days off). 

While most of these factors are out of your control, there are certain aspects of productivity that are more fluid.

 To help your employees reach their full productivity potential, here are four areas where you can make a difference:

1. Employee wellbeing (burnout)

A high sense of wellbeing is incredibly important to high productivity—without it, you risk your team members experiencing burnout. Caused by untreated chronic workplace stress, burnout’s most common symptoms include exhaustion, work-related cynicism, and decreased job performance.

Especially among hourly and shift workers, avoiding employee burnout should be a high priority, and not just for their sake. Burnout will always spill into other parts of your business, leading to increased turnover, absenteeism, workplace accidents, and poor customer experiences.

 Encourage your employees to take care of themselves with proper breaks, and do your part to help them recognize and respond to stress. Make sure you’re not running on a lean team, especially during busy seasonal times.

 Most importantly, make sure you establish and maintain an open-door policy when it comes to employee concerns. Suppressing or bottling up low wellbeing serves no one, so create as supportive an environment as you can.

2. Communication

Poor communication is another huge contributor to decreased productivity. It lowers morale, causes confusion and frustration, and eventually leads to big mistakes and high turnover. But great communication? That’s your small business’s superpower. When everyone feels that their voice is being heard, everyone works more productively and happily.

 Social technologies have been estimated to improve the productivity of interaction workers (jobs requiring extensive human interactions) by 20-25%. If you’re leading a team of hourly or shift workers, it’s a no-brainer—make use of a reliable, easy-to-use employee communication tool that links your team members together, making it easy for them to instantly get in touch with each other and ask questions.

3. Management

Inspiring high employee productivity starts with you. You are the originator of clear communication, and the model of good and efficient work habits (and good self-care). Make sure you’re listening to what your employees want and checking in with them often.

 When you stay available and approachable, helping your employees to develop their talents and thrive in their roles, then you’re much, much more likely to get them emotionally invested in what they’re doing. And if managers and team leaders demonstrate high company engagement themselves, this has a noticeable trickle-down effect on employee engagement and productivity.

4. Equipment or tools

An employee can’t shine without the right tools. With access to the proper equipment and technology, your employees are much more likely to make the most out of their work day and carry out their tasks more efficiently.

 If you use point of sale (POS) systems to help your business securely accept in-person payments, consider the fact that modern POS solutions can do a lot more than process payments. When set up correctly, they can manage your entire operations—including employee payroll, shift scheduling, and customer relationship management. These additional features can help you streamline operations and save valuable time. The result? You can be more productive and generate more sales at a lower cost.

 92% of workers say that when technology makes their tasks easier, it impacts their happiness with their jobs—which goes hand-in-hand with their productivity. One of the most effective tools at your disposal? A mobile productivity app. We’ll get into that below!

5. Training

Equipping your employees with the right tools goes hand-in-hand, of course, with proper training. This starts from the very beginning—how you onboard a new employee sets the tone for that person’s long-term productivity.

 Even when they’re no longer new to the team, continue to make sure they’re getting ongoing training to keep their skills current. By retraining employees periodically, you’re helping to prevent small, basic mistakes that come from having old information. When you give them a mastery of the knowledge and skills for their job, it increases their satisfaction, confidence and, yes, productivity. 

How do you increase productivity at work?

Clearly, productivity is one of the biggest goals of any modern business, and the environment you create at your small business will be what sets it up for success. Here are some strategies and processes that are proven to have productivity-boosting results:

1. Recognize your employees

Build a culture of employee recognition. For many employees, a compliment makes all the difference when it comes to feeling like they have value. Praising employees when they’re productive will not only make them feel cared for—it sends a message to the whole team that you recognize and appreciate hard work. 

 When someone is working on a challenging task, try and find ways to support and encourage them. Remind them that they have your confidence. Studies back up the idea that praise is a great motivator, letting your employees recognize the value and importance of their efforts by showing them a reflection of their “best self.”

2. Encourage a good work-life balance

Downtime, in the right amount, is proven to increase employee productivity and help employees produce higher-quality work. Productivity can be increased, for instance, by substituting exercise for 2.5 hours of work each week. Regular off-time is also crucial to a productive team—the ability to rest, relax, and focus on other areas of life is vital to high mental and physical health.

 Encouraging your employees to take care of themselves with proper lunch breaks, paid time off, vacations, and technological downtime will bring out their best, most productive selves. And make sure to model a good work-life balance yourself, as your employees will take their cue from you.

3. Give clear instructions

Don’t expect people to read your mind—even if something seems obvious. A lack of specificity or clearly laid-out expectations can lead to missed messages, costly mistakes, low morale, and low productivity.

 Establish strong and consistent communication that’s clear, transparent, accessible, and most importantly, understood. Be clear about what each person should—and shouldn’t—be doing, outlining where certain roles end and others begin.

 Create processes—clear, written guidelines on what’s expected—to ensure total clarity. Processes ensure consistency throughout your business, lower the risk of missed tasks and misunderstandings, and let you spend less time answering questions.

4. Gamify accomplishing tasks

One way to boost productivity—especially for younger workers who already have their phones in hand? You can consider gamifying their work tasks.

 Gamification is a fun way to encourage employees to complete their tasks efficiently, and a chance for you to give regular rewards to your team. When your team members automatically see a word of encouragement on their mobile devices when they finish a task—some form of “way to go!”—it immediately helps them feel more engaged. When surveyed about the concept, 89% of workers think gamification boosts productivity in the workplace.

Why you should use employee productivity apps for your shift workers

While mobile technology can often be the thing that’s pulling your employees’ attention away in moments of distraction—scrolling through your feed, anyone?—it can also be a game-changer when it comes to boosting employee productivity.

 The fact that your shift work employees typically have phones on them is something you can—and should—use to your advantage.

 When hourly and shift workers don’t come into work every day or see the same managers each time, they can miss out when things change quickly. You need an easy and efficient way to communicate changes, keeping all team members aligned to current team goals. This is where a productivity app can change the game.

 A productivity app on a mobile device or POS system makes it easier for your employees to complete their day-to-day work. It helps keep them more engaged with their tasks, more motivated to meet their deadlines, and more aware of their place in the bigger workflow. Productivity apps automate and streamline your workers’ repetitive, heavily administrative tasks, often combining project planning, time tracking and collaboration features—all in one platform.

Essential features your productivity app should have

When you’re looking at the different productivity apps on the market, here are the must-have features that should be at the top of your list.

Good visual interface

A productivity app should have an intuitive visual interface that’s easy to use and that all team members can understand. 67% of people say that having all of their apps’ crucial information appear in a single window would make it easier to concentrate on work. Make sure the app provides all project information right where it’s needed, so your employees shouldn’t have to look around too hard for task details.


Getting rid of repetitive, manual tasks is one of the best ways to improve productivity in your employees. Your app should let you set automation rules, like automatically assigning a task to the next person responsible for it once an employee is done with it. By automating many of their more tedious processes, a good productivity app lets your workers conserve their time and attention for other parts of their job.

Task management and delegation

If a productivity app has detailed task management options, then it can help managers and employees more easily see what’s needed—and motivate them to provide it. When employees aren’t left in the dark but can see how their work impacts the overall project, they’re more likely to want to deliver great results. You want an app that lets you add multiple assignees, deadlines and comments to every task and subtask, with multiple views and multiple sorting options. 

Easy editing and task duplication

A good productivity app should be able to adapt to changing processes. Making edits to tasks and workflows should be easy and uncomplicated. You should be able to reschedule selected tasks and schedules as needed, based on changing circumstances or changing client needs. The ability to duplicate a task is another important one to look for. When starting a new project with a similar workflow, save time without starting from scratch.

Collaborative features

Siloed teams? They’re a thing of the past. With a productivity app, you can foster inter-team commenting and collaboration, making communications more transparent and more widely read. And in the same app where they view their day’s tasks, your team can also come together on discussion boards. Instead of leaving them to rely on a separate messaging app or collaboration tool—and the repetitive questions that go along with that—you can keep conversations visible, open to all, and searchable.

3 best productivity apps for businesses that employ hourly and shift workers

When it comes to employee productivity apps for hourly and shift workers, there are a number of different app types to choose from, often focusing on improving one particular aspect of your small business. Some of the best ones are:

1. Communication apps

Employee communication apps are digital platforms, usually accessed across computers and mobile devices, that help workers, managers and teams send messages and communicate with each other at work—you’ve probably come across Slack, Microsoft Teams, or another popular communication app.

 By keeping all team communication in one place, there’s no need to share phone numbers, circulate emails, or update group chats. Robust mobile communication apps can instantly create groups for quick requests—like “everyone working today” or “everyone available tomorrow”—or let you send out announcements, documents or surveys and tell you when they’ve been reviewed or signed. Look for one that works on multiple devices beyond just phones, in case you’ve implemented a “no phones at work” policy.

2. Time clock apps

Time clock apps, or time trackers, are a digital way for employees to clock in and out of their shifts, often using a mobile device like a smartphone.

 The top time clock apps also integrate automatically with payroll, making sure you’re paying your team correctly for the hours they work, and eliminating the chances of payroll errors. They can let you post open shifts for employees to claim, and even automatically remind employees of upcoming shifts in the app, by text, or with email alerts. Compared to manual time tracking, time clock apps are much more effective in helping you minimize time theft and control labor costs.

3. Scheduling apps

An employee scheduling app is a digital platform that lets managers create work schedules for their teams. Scheduling apps automate the process of creating, updating, and managing schedules, letting workers see the schedule from their phones, know who is working, get reminders, and manage schedule changes and shift swapping with greater ease.

 Scheduling apps allow workers’ availability and time off to show up in the schedule, so they won’t get lost in your flagged emails or physical notes. They let you set rules for black-out dates, and make it easier for you to monitor overtime, paid time off, and unpaid time off, reducing the work it takes for your business to stay compliant with labor laws. Some scheduling apps even let you make use of auto-scheduling based on your team’s latest availability, sales forecasts, and labor targets.

Homebase: your comprehensive tool for boosting employee productivity

Homebase brings together all of these app features—and more.

 Automating multiple processes in your workflow, from team communication to time tracking to scheduling to payroll, Homebase is a top-rated performance tracking app that can be downloaded to smartphones, iPads, computers and POS devices. Our customers praise our straightforward navigation and intuitive design. It makes it easy for your team members to install and use the app with minimal training or troubleshooting.

 Homebase automates repetitive tasks, making shift management simple and flexible. In the same place where they track their hours, team members and managers can easily engage with each other, ask questions between teams, and provide feedback in real time. 

 Homebase lets you send upcoming shift alerts to your team to avoid no-shows, get late clock-in alerts so you can make sure they’re on time, and tell you when someone hits overtime.

You can track employee certifications and performance in your team roster, and share stats with your team members so they can track their own performance. Want to send automatic encouragement to people when they tick off tasks? It can do that, too.

 With Homebase as your tool, get ready for your small business to become a more automated, more collaborative, and more productive work environment.  

Boost productivity with smarter, more engaging time tracking. Try Homebase’s time clock tool for free. Get started today.

Employee productivity FAQS 

What is employee productivity?

Employee productivity is the amount of work an employee can complete in a given period of time. It is the degree to which outputs (any service or product you provide to the market) are achieved through maximizing inputs (number of team members, efficiency of team members, tools used, processes or workflows) in a given amount of time.

How do you measure productivity?

Productivity is measured by comparing inputs to outputs. You might measure productivity as a percentage of an output target, or as revenue productivity (comparing current revenue to previous revenue amounts).

Measuring productivity on a larger, company-wide or team-wide scale can help business owners track overall performance, helping them see if they have the right mix of people in their teams. If business owners or managers want to track the performance of a specific team member, they can also calculate the rate of output for individual employees.

Do productivity apps work?

Yes. Productivity apps have a significant effect on helping workers stay focused and complete tasks more effectively. Employee productivity apps work by helping individuals and managers see how much they work, when they work, and what they spend their time working on. Some productivity apps even “gamify” certain work aspects. They can motivate your team with automatic messages or badges when they accomplish tasks or reach a higher level of accomplishment. Gamification can help further increase productivity and output.

What are the best productivity apps?

The best productivity apps are those that automate multiple processes in your workflow. A comprehensive employee productivity app like Homebase combines the features of multiple apps in a single platform. It integrates time tracking, scheduling, payroll, team communication and more.

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