Reduce Friction at the Workplace to Boost Productivity and Employee Satisfaction

In business, it is encouraged to remove all sources of friction to improve customer experience and boost profit. This is true online and in stores. If a customer encounters an obstacle, no matter how seemingly minor or unimportant, they may become frustrated and walk away from the sale.

Businesses can do this by accepting multiple channel payments, prioritizing digital and mobile wallets. The adoption of the technology can help shorten the lines at the till. Online, e-commerce platforms can take note of previous purchases and suggest the same or similar products the next time the customer logs in.

But, now, companies are more interested in creating a frictionless workplace.

Various Frictions at the Office

People nowadays expect instant and gratifying experiences. They are used to getting everything that they want right when they want it. In the age of Netflix and Amazon, people want immediacy.

Businesses lose money when frictions disrupt processes on the storefront and in the back at the offices. In-store, the loss is immediate. A customer, dissatisfied with the experience, walks out without buying anything. In the office, however, the loss is less obvious.

One survey found that companies waste up to 21.8 hours per week per worker on overcoming seemingly insignificant obstacles in the workplace. In business, the old adage time is money applies. Time wasted on unnecessary tasks is an opportunity to earn lost forever. Instead of meeting a client, for example, an employee is wasting time waiting for approval from management.

So, a lot of companies are interested in developing a frictionless workplace.

Magellan Health, a specialty healthcare company, reported that, since the adoption of measures and strategies to remove friction at the workplace, productivity improved. Before, the human resource department was overwhelmed with low-value inquiries from employees. This created frustration when employees could not immediately access information that they needed.

However, since the adoption of strategies and tools to ease friction at the workplace, productivity has improved. The HR saw a 40 percent caseload reduction. Meanwhile, 75 percent of employee inquiries were resolved through self-service and there was a 75 percent decline in time spent in resolving queries.

Provide the Right Tools

Companies should invest in tools that will ease friction at the workplace, and then deploy them for employees to use.

Most of the time, this will involve technology. Some organizations are utilizing software programs developed specifically to address unique needs. However, this will involve service design which will seek to understand the internal infrastructure and services to improve user experience.

In the case of Magellan Health, a unified portal accessible via a smartphone app enables employees to look for answers to their questions and concerns without the aid of another person.


Other companies can utilize the Internet of Things (IoT), which includes the use of smart devices and sensors, to monitor behaviors and movement. This enables the office itself to take action to make the lives of employees easier. For example, entering the office may not require a physical ID. Instead, the smartphone will be scanned to allow the employee to enter the building. It is card-free and, therefore, frictionless.

Identify Bottlenecks

However, friction at the workplace will not be solved through technology alone. The organization needs to find areas where productivity stalls. Productivity in many companies is still suffering from bureaucracy. Jamie Dimon, CEO of JPMorgan Chase, says that it is a disease. Doug McMillion, CEO of Walmart, sees it as a villain. Yet, bureaucracy is present in large companies, in particular.

Bureaucracy is not inevitable in organizations that employ hundreds to thousands of employees. There are alternatives that remove bottlenecks that prevent the company from reaching its targets faster.

Companies should periodically reassess internal processes and find parts that are no longer working.

In most cases, the fewer layers there are between front-line employees and top management, the quicker the flow of communication becomes. This leads to faster action and implementation of solutions that can avert crises as soon as they start.

Some companies may even benefit from adopting a flat organizational structure, meaning all employees are equal. It is also known as a self-managed organization because there are no managers or executives around to oversee productivity. Everyone is responsible for their own output.

In a world where people are used to receiving instant gratification, things that create friction cause frustration and loss of profit. But, businesses should not just worry about friction in the storefront. While customer experience is important, so is employee satisfaction. Within the organization, removing friction will lead to better productivity.

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