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Friday, January 18, 2013

How can you help staff stay productive while they're performing monotonous jobs?

In interviews for one of my recent columns for PrintAction (“Inside University In-plants”, January 2013), Chris Panagopoulos, Manager, Printing and Mailing Services at York University, told me how he overcomes the challenges associated with helping the 40 to 60 student workers he hires every year stay productive while they perform monotonous tasks, including producing thousands of Cerlox-bound books of required readings for many of the university’s courses.

He explained:  “In hiring interviews, I ask the students if they are prepared to do the same repetitive job over and over, like working in an automobile factory, because that’s what the job requires.  To relieve the monotony, I let them listen to music while they work—but they are only allowed to use one earphone, so they can hear instructions and won’t hurt themselves.

“Sometimes we turn the task of inserting Cerlox coils by hand into a game to see how many they can do in a minute, or have competitions between teams to see who can produce more.  Since I adopted this playful approach, everyone wants to do hand coiling, rather than carry 20 to 30 pounds of printing around the campus on dollies.”

Mr. Panagopoulos added:  “One [student] who is now studying for his Masters degree worked with me during all four years of his undergraduate studies.  When they are ready to move on, they use me as a reference and coach to prepare them for job interviews.”  Presumably, by helping the students realize how their present employment is laying the foundation for their future professional or academic advancement, he also helps them stay motivated. 

You can read the entire story at:

Do you have any other tips for helping to encourage the best possible performance from staff who perform monotonous jobs?