“For a minimal cost, the productivity gains you can get from a dual monitor are quite phenomenal,” Timm says. “You don’t have to minimize windows as much, or page back and forth between applications.” Putting the displays on adjustable mounts creates more desk space and allows users to adjust their workstations for comfort.
9. Give your WAN a boost
If your company has branch offices, odds are you’ve got wide-area network problems. As traffic slows down due to latency and other issues, so does your ability to collaborate with far-flung colleagues. The solution may be a WAN-acceleration appliance.
Appliances such as Blue Coat Systems’ SG800, Riverbed Technologies’ Steelhead 3010, and Silver Peak’s NX-3500 can cache frequently transferred files and optimize TCP, MAPI, HTTP, and other Net protocols to make offices halfway around the world feel as if they’re right next door. Prices start around $7,500 per appliance but head north in a hurry.
The key is choosing the right appliance for your enterprise, as different accelerators have different strengths. The Steelhead, for example, can optimize Microsoft SQL Server and Exchange traffic; Blue Coat’s solution is the only one of the three that can handle encrypted traffic using SSL; and Silver Peak’s appliance can beef up UDP (User Datagram Protocol) traffic, which can provide a boost for real-time voice and video transmissions. For more information on WAN acceleration, see Keith Schultz’s “Wide-Area Slowdown.”
10. Play the game — literally
At most companies, playing computer games is grounds for reprimand if not dismissal. At the Regence Group, it’s encouraged. Of course, employees of the Oregon-based Blue Cross/Blue Shield provider aren’t playing ordinary games; they’re engaged in a real-time incentive program that rewards them for meeting specified goals.
For example, customer service agents who resolve a certain number of problems on the first call may receive 10 tokens, which they can use to play an online slot machine or a bass fishing game, says Regence HR director Ryan Kenney. After they rack up points inside the game, employees can exchange them for a debit card worth actual cash.
While it sounds like fun and games, there’s real science behind it, says Brooks Mitchell, a professor of management at the University of Wyoming and CEO of Snowfly, which designed the incentive system used by Regence. “It’s called behavior shaping,” he says. “If you can reinforce little behaviors daily or even hourly, the big behaviors will occur by themselves later on.”
When employees are recognized and rewarded, Mitchell says, attendance, job satisfaction, and employee retention rise. A meta-study conducted by researchers at the University of Southern California and the University of Central Florida found that workplace incentive programs increased productivity by 22 percent on average, and monetary rewards were twice as effective as the nonmonetary ones.