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How businesses can remain productive in an ‘always-on’ age

Thu 20 Jun 2019

It’s time to stop and think about what’s important and impactful for the productivity of your organisation

Today marks World Productivity Day, a day that aims to bring awareness to the benefits of productivity. As most people know, staying productive is not always easy. But there are many ways businesses can encourage employees and teams to boost productivity. With this in mind, 13 IT experts spoke to Techerati to share advice, thoughts and opinions on how businesses can remain productive in this ‘always-on’ age.

A happy employee equals a productive employee

“Without productivity, you have decay or stagnation and ultimately a failing business,” said Naaman Hart, cloud services security architect at Digital Guardian. “Remaining consistently productive is the only way for a business to grow, and when they do, employees grow with them. Ultimately everyone wants to work for a thriving business that offers them the opportunity to grow. Without this growth, the best and brightest will leave – as their opportunities are diminished by staying.”

It goes without saying that your employees are the most important thing to your business – they’re the ones that keep it running on a day to day basis. So, it’s important to look after them.

“Simply ensuring your employees have a regular allocation of breaks and the opportunity to work in a healing, ‘resimercial’ working space where office solutions can be tailored to their needs can actually make a huge difference to productivity,” said Kleopatra Kivrakidou, marketing manager EMEA at Ergotron.

Another way to aid employee productivity is to promote remote working where possible.

“For many of us, work is no longer a destination, but something that can be done from any device, anywhere,” said Todd Krautkremer, CMO at Cradlepoint.

“Studies show this helps employees get more work done, lowers work-related stress levels, and helps them strike a better work-life balance. Best of all, working remotely—even if just a day or two a week—means employees can avoid the dreaded commute!”

Unified communication tools

The rise of collaboration and unified communications has also meant that remote working and employee collaboration has improved and become more efficient.

“Employees being able to communicate effectively is critical for pretty much every business. Because of this, deploying unified communications (UC) tools is becoming increasingly important,” said Richard Buxton, head of collaboration at Node4 said. “By bringing together voice, messaging, web and video conferencing, and presence information, UC encourages employee engagement and allows staff to collaborate more efficiently.”

Jude Mott, product director, UC at Six Degrees added that the latest communication and collaboration technology allows users to work in a manner that’s most appropriate to their immediate requirements.

“It empowers users by recognising that they need time to communicate and collaborate, but they also need time to concentrate and contemplate,” she said.

“The way we work is evolving at an unprecedented rate. Adopting an agile workspace will help you improve employee wellbeing whilst meeting today’s complex organisational challenges head-on, driving competitive advantages and empowering you to achieve your organisation’s strategic goals.

Training

Training is also another important component, enabling employees to continually learn. However, when it comes to employee training, Steve Wainwright, managing director EMEA at Skillsoft believes that organisations should offer their employees training that they can fit in as part of the working day – rather than taking on additional hours or away days for learning opportunities.

“Modern workers need learning and development tools that meet the demands of the modern workplace, as well as the instant, curated content delivery expectations set by social media and entertainment platforms like Netflix,” he said.

“The latest eLearning solutions that provide employees with engaging, multi-modal content and tailored learning paths. This approach can meet each individual’s learning requirements and encourages people to fit learning into their working day when and where they can. Employees can decide when they learn, where they learn, and how they learn.”

Using technology to your advantage

Lack of time and lack of resources often combine to challenge the productivity of IT teams, said Aad Dekkers, EMEA marketing director at Scale Computing.

“The job of technology is to automate human tasks and free up the time of IT experts to do something more strategic and impactful for the organisation.”

Steve Blow, tech evangelist at Zerto agreed: “When it comes to the IT team specifically, there are many obstacles that may actually be standing in the way of the team’s productivity. It may sound antithetical, but technology can sometimes be a hindrance. One example of this is back up.”

“We know how important backup is – it’s been ingrained into us all – but the importance of it doesn’t mean continually performing backups isn’t tedious and time-consuming. Businesses need a solution that is continuously protecting data.”

And it’s not just backup that can become automated. Business process automation simplifies IT deployment, configuration and access, said Brett Cheloff VP of ConnectWise Automate.

“But a word of caution—you can’t just throw any automation at the problem and hope for the best.”

Data and analytics can also play a part in helping businesses to become more productive.

“With sensible planning data science initiatives can help companies save money and gain a competitive edge by accurately predicting future behaviour rather than guessing at it,” said Rich Pugh, co-founder and chief data scientist at Mango Solutions.

“Advanced analytics-based solutions have actually changed how forward-thinking employers manage their workforces to help them become more productive.”

“Analysis of work patterns and productivity can also improve performance by analysing, for example, whether employees are more productive when working from home or in the office and appropriate policies can be put in place in order to maximise this data,” Pugh added.

Automation of management and monitoring tasks can reduce the amount of time that IT teams spend on mundane tasks, freeing them up to focus on more critical work that supports the business raising productivity levels, said Sascha Giese, head geek at SolarWinds.

“By investing in the best technology for your employees, you’re investing in the best technology for your organisation’s future,” she said.

And it’s not just IT teams that can benefit. Security analysts are also at risk of having ‘alert fatigue’, according to Stephen Moore, chief security strategist at Exabeam.

“Exabeam’s State of the Security Operations Centre (SOC) report revealed three key issues: too many alerts, a shortage of talent and a lack of current technology,” he said. “Fatigue leads to lack of prioritisation, which is a muddled mess that then leads to never running down one thing completely.”

Organisations should be sure to embrace and address the security risks associated with having so many vulnerable endpoints connecting to the cloud and corporate network, said Mike Schuricht, VP product management at Bitglass believes.

“The best approach here is to focus on the data, rather than the device. This approach will help to sidestep the major privacy and logistical issues associated with more invasive, device-based security tools and lead to a win-win for organisations and employees.”

The day is just beginning

At the end of the day, productivity on a daily basis can be difficult to ensure. “One of Leaseweb’s core values is ‘get things done’, which we strive to achieve with the Eisenhower Matrix in mind,” said Richard Hamaker, HR business partner at Leaseweb Global B.V, referring to President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s decades-old military principle of not reacting to small setbacks and prioritising by urgency and importance.

“There’s certainly something to be said for applying lessons learned in times of extreme crisis to the everyday. The important things must be done first, because it’s these that count in the long-term. Equally as productive is sorting out less urgent and important tasks, which should either be delegated, or not undertaken at all.

“World Productivity Day is a great opportunity to stop and think about doing what’s important and impactful, both for ourselves and our customers.”

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