6 Superhero Secrets to Boost Productivity in the Workplace

by Taskworld Blog Team / August 21, 2015

If you could choose one super power to have, what would it be? To fly? The ability to turn invisible? Leap tall buildings in a single bound? While all of these sound like awesome super power options, we’re willing to bet that most CEOs and managers would probably choose the ability to maximize productivity in the workplace as their super power of choice.

In a recent study of 2,500 organizations in 90 countries, conducted by Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends, only 13% of employees around the world are actively engaged at work, and more than twice that number are so disengaged they are likely to spread negativity to others.

That’s a pretty scary statistic! The good news is you don’t need to be a superhero or have super powers to increase your employees’ engagement and productivity. We’re going to let you in on 6 superhero secrets to boost productivity in the workplace.

1. Eliminate Bad Guys

The “bad guys” in the workplace may not be blasting plasma rays or hurling fireballs, but their methods of destruction are just as effective. These so-called toxic employees aim to destroy motivation and, if left to their own devices, will succeed in doing so.

toxic people in workplace
Daskal advocates, Leadership expert,  Lolly Daskal, points out that the negativity spread by toxic people can actually “suffocate the positive.” As a leader, it is your responsibility to be aware of the motivation killers in the workplace and make sure policies and procedures exist to safeguard against potential damages. This includes removing toxic people from your work environment altogether, if need be.


If you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem. By choosing to be a part of the solution, you are showing your support for hard-working, motivated employees, aka “the good guys.”


“Even the best employees need effective leadership to excel. If you recognize any of these deathly killers in your workplace, it’s up to you to do everything in your power to become part of the solution.”

2. Nurture Super Skills Development

Practice makes perfect and this applies to superheroes too. Spiderman became more agile with every building he scaled; Bruce Wayne was a better Batman with time and training; Wolverine, although expertly skilled in combat, had a significant learning curve in dealing with the way the X-Men team functioned. Without opportunities to develop their skills as superheroes, they may not have ended up being so super after all.


office superhero

The superheroes in your work environment should never be taken for granted. Their attitudes, drives, and desires to grow need to be nurtured and encouraged.Productivity, like negativity, is infectious and one of the best ways to spread it is to offer opportunities for employees to develop their skills.

In fact, studies have shown that organizations with a strong learning culture are:

  • 92% more likely to develop novel products
  • 52% more productive
  • 56% more likely to be first to market with products and services
  • 17% more profitable than their peers


So why are so many companies still reluctant to implement career growth programs within their organization? The simple answer is fear.

Forbes editor,  Frederick E. Allen points out :

“Employers are understandably reluctant to make big investments in workers who might not stay long. But this creates a vicious circle: Companies won’t train workers because they might leave, and workers leave because they don’t get training.”


While that is understandable, the writing is on the wall. The 2014 Employee Recognition Trends Report  cites,

“Employees under the age of 25 rate professional development as their number one driver of engagement, and this is the number two priority for workers up to age 35.”

Knowing this, Southwest Airlines provides professional and personal development for its entire workforce through its University for People. Fritz Petree, Senior Manager of Career Development Services for Southwest Airlines says, “Southwest philosophy is to hire for attitude and train for skill.” This has lead to high employee productivity and retention rates. By empowering their employees, they have created a happy and satisfied culture that gets passed on to their customers as well, leading to one of the few profitable airlines.

3. Super Foods = Super Brainpower

blueberries - superfoods to increase productivity


Can you name one superhero you would describe as “sluggish” or “lethargic”? Our guess is no. Superheroes are active and fortified with the fuel they need for their modest day’s work of saving the world.

Even though your employees may not be physically “saving the world,” the quality of your products and ultimate success of your company is directly linked to the brainpower of your employees. According to the Mayo Clinic, a healthy diet had been proven to improve concentration, alertness, problem-solving skills, and productivity. On the flip side, a study in the journal Population Health Management shows that an unhealthy diet is linked to a 66% increased risk of loss of productivity.

The bottom line is that your employees will get hungry throughout the day and they will snack. What they snack on depends largely on what is the most accessible to them. Herein lies the challenge of helping your employees make better choices when it comes to fueling their brain.

improve productivity healthy office snacks

Biotech giant Genentech brings local, organic produce to its 13,000 employees by hosting a farmer’s market. Pretty cool, but also pretty expensive.Don’t worry, you aren’t alone if hosting a farmer’s market isn’t in your budget. There are more cost effective options, like the healthy office snack delivery offered by SnackNation or adding an in-house micro market to your office through HUMAN Healthy Markets. These revolutionized, made-for-offices “Healthy Markets” improve employee health, increases productivity and slash healthcare costs. Healthy and delicious snacks are delivered right to your office, making it convenient for you to make healthy snack choices accessible to your employees.

Although you can never actually control what your employees eat, you can make it easier for them to make smart and healthy choices by providing nutritious snacks that will help to increase their overall productivity in the long run.

4. Be a Fitness Fanatic

Most superheroes possess super-human physical strength, enabling them to move mountains, unearth monuments and toss cars around like they were weightless. Physical strength is big part of a superhero’s job requirement and without it, their productivity would suffer, if not be halted altogether.

Physical strength and fitness are not just limited to the job description of a super hero. They are necessary for all employees, in all workplaces. By giving your employees the opportunity to move their bodies with regular exercise, you are creating a workplace that will thrive rather than just merely survive.

fitness increases productivity

Exercise contributes to productivity through alertness. When we exercise, it improves blood flow to the brain, which gives us clarity and leads to better decision-making. This doesn’t necessarily require a full cardio workout everyday, either! Even the little stuff can make a difference. Livestrong.com suggests, “make small changes to meet your daily goals, such as walking during your lunch period or taking the stairs instead of the elevator.”

Some companies are going beyond small changes and Boeing is one of them. They were recognized on the Best Employers for Healthy Lifestyles list because of their belief that employees who “actively manage their health and financial well-being are more productive, satisfied and engaged.” They implemented a number of well being programs, offering benefits such as Boeing on the Move, a six-week physical activity challenge where you participate in physical activities, track your progress and are rewarded for reaching personal goals.

treadmill desk boost productivity

Taking it even a step further, there has been research that offering employees that opportunity to workout while they are working poses even more benefits in terms of productivity. That’s right—the treadmill desk.Avner Ben-Ner, a professor at the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management, has published a yearlong studyproving the validity of these benefits. Four to six months into the study, participants were reporting a 69% increase in productivity.

It ends up being cost effective as well, because the increase in movement increased circulation, it decreased cases of osteoporosis, diabetes and vascular disease. Given the savings of treating those types of diseases, Ben-Ner noted that, “You can wipe out the cost of the fanciest treadmill in half a year of treatment.”

5. Smash Stress

While our bodies physiological response to stress originated in the days where we might have been being chased by a bear, modern day stress is a part of our daily lives, eliciting the same response (sans bear).This chronic stress wears on our minds and bodies and not only limits overall productivity but will eventually lead to serious health consequences if not attended to.

The mean, green stress-smashing machine, aka, the Incredible Hulk, is the poster child for this next superhero secret of productivity. The Hulk’s strength increases proportionally with his level of emotional stress, allowing him to perform acts of greatness. In other words, he uses his powers for good instead of evil.

Encourage Breaks

Although this may feel counter-intuitive, taking frequent, short periods of rest actually leads to higher productivity. Jack Groppel, Ph.D. and co-founder of the Human Performance Institute, a division of Johnson & Johnson, discusses the benefits of downtime in his research:

 “Intentional downtime, even as short as 1-2 minutes, enables us to come back stronger when we get to work. Start by encouraging employees to give themselves a few minutes to disengage (re-boot) and re-engage (power-up) so they are ready for the next meeting or project.”

Work like (scratch that) WITH a dog

In addition to being man’s best friend, dogs might also be a the best companion for stress reduction in the workplace. Think this theory is far “fetched”? A recent study from the Virginia Commonwealth Universityshows otherwise. In fact, the results show that in addition to decreasing stress, our furry four-legged friends actually increased engagement and productivity.

“Dogs were a communication energizer,” Randolph Barker, business professor at VCU and lead author on the study, said.The team conducting the study found that having dogs in the office initiated conversations between co-workers.

“People who didn’t typically talk to one another, were now more engaged,” noted Barker.

In addition, nearly half of those who brought their dogs in reported increased productivity.

office dog stress reduction

Ultimately, when kept in balance, stress is not entirely negative. It can actually provide a surge of adrenaline that serves productivity in the workplace. However, like the Hulk, encourage employees to use the powers of stress for good (and in moderation). Additionally, by providing a balance of stress-reducing methods in the work environment, productivity will begin to rise.

6. Have No Fear, Recognition is Here!

employee recognition improves productivity

There is a superhero that exists that you may never have heard of: recognition. In a company climate that is filled with low-morale and disengaged employees, one thing that is probably missing?Recognition. One thing that could probably “save the day”? Recognition. We are all human and part of what drives us to do more, do better and work harder is the psychological need to be recognized for a job well done.

Feeling valued and appreciated is a fundamental human need. Relevant and timely praise leads to motivation to continue or even increase productivity. In a recent survey of a sample of over 1000 businesses, 57% had some kind of employee recognition program.

The Walt Disney World Resort saw a 15% increase in employee satisfaction upon establishing their employee recognition program. The results were measured after a period of time of daily recognition of the staff by their immediate supervisors. This increased satisfaction then trickled over into higher guest-satisfaction results, showing a strong intent to return and therefore lead to increased profitability.

Of all the superhero secrets we have shared with you today, this is possibly one of the easiest. Still, According to recognition expert Dr. Bob Nelson, 58% of workers report that they seldom (if ever) receive a “thank you” from their boss for a job well done.

Don’t be afraid to invite the caped crusader of recognition into your workplace. He will make a significant difference in the morale, motivation and productivity of your employees.

A Few Parting Words of Superhero Wisdom…

Superheroes and CEOs are really quite similar, in that they are only as powerful as their most valuable assets. For superheroes, these assets are their superpowers and for CEOs and managers, their employees. Without these valuable assets, both are rendered pretty powerless. With these valuable assets, both have tremendous power that they must use responsibly to achieve a greater good.

Making an effort to ensure high levels of motivation, engagement and productivity in the workplace through eliminating toxicity, offering skills development opportunities, encouraging stress reduction, providing fitness incentives, making healthy snacks accessible and recognizing great work, you are strengthening your superpowers to that of a true superhero.

Thanks Snacknation for this great article.

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