Ever since technology has become an inherent part of both our personal and professional lives, we’ve had mixed feelings about it.
Sure, it’s great. But isn’t it too distracting, too? Don’t we spend too much time online, scrolling with little to no purpose?
When phones got smart and BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) became mainstream, many employees feared that the prevalence of technology puts a hamper on productivity.
Can employees be productive if they have constant access to Facebook, Instagram and, virtually the whole world?
You can’t blame employers for asking these questions.
Low productivity at the office can significantly affect the overall performance of an organisation.
If employees lack motivation, the organisation is bound to experience inefficiencies that could eventually affect the way they deliver their services or products to the customer.
The U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that there has been a considerable decline in productivity since 2007.
Is this because of smartphones?
But wait! There are also thousands of productivity apps that swear to turn all users into mean, productive machines.
As always, the truth lies somewhere in the middle.
Low levels of productivity at the workplace are usually the outcome of internal issues. It is not a matter of eliminating technology from the mix. Yes, there are still employers who feel that eliminating technology can boost productivity.
However, reality is more complicated than that. The issue is not whether you should be using technology or not. The real question is: are you using the right technology?
Workplace structures like the use of office cubicles that isolate employees, or the existence of disconnected departments that have a silo mentality are all factors that can work against you.
It’s up to the employer to identify the internal issues that affect productivity and work towards developing a structure and culture that promotes being productive without being frustrated.
Technology can be a friend in the battle against low productivity. It can be used to connect employees, enhance the workplace experience and achieve efficiency in terms of operation.
Let’s take a look at how technology can become your friend.
How Technology Boosts Productivity
Technology is integral to the development of a flexible working environment. Think about it for a moment. We have software that allows online document sharing (no more printing everything and running with documents between floors!), video conferencing (you get to see people from across the world!), instant messaging (no more patting a colleague on the back when you have something to say!).
And this is just a mere glimpse into the hundreds of tools we use every day to work better and faster.
Such technologies even eliminate the need for a daily 9 to 5 schedule. Employees get to work from home, which is more convenient for them.
Similarly, the company gets to cut on overhead costs as the employees are equipped with technology that allows them to work remotely.
In a study conducted by Stanford professor Nicholas Bloom in partnership with China’s largest travel agency, Ctrip, researchers proved that working from home can boost productivity.
When Ctrip adopted technologies that enabled their employees to work remotely, the company recorded a 50 percent decline in employee attrition in a span of nine months.
Ctrip also experienced a 13 percent boost in productivity within the same period, as well as a 22 percent reduction in overhead costs. There were fewer breaks and sick days as work satisfaction soared.
Technology has the power to transform your employees into an agile workforce that is geared towards success. This is because technology allows for automation of menial tasks and processes like billing, scheduling, and management of contacts.
Through the use of the right technology, an organisation ensures workflow efficiency. Applications like Slack, Flock or iOt Spot offer handy solutions that allow team collaboration.
Slack, for example, allows employees to engage in direct messaging and form group channels. This makes team and project management much easier. For one, it allows instant communication with all the parties involved in a process.
There are many more task management tools and cloud-based solutions designed to meet your needs. It is, however, up to you to identify which areas in your operations require a boost in productivity.
For every area that you identify, you can rest assured that there is a technological designed solution to meet that need.
Technology and Agile Working to Boost Productivity
You’ve probably heard of agile working. It’s no longer the new kid on the block. But it remains the cool kid on the productivity block.
Agile working refers to the prioritisation of performance rather than mere presenteeism.
The agile organisation works towards developing trust-based relationships and innovative practices instead of holding on to bureaucracy or hierarchy. Making this transformation involves the use of technology in a manner that empowers employees.
In 2013, the Chief Executive of CIPD, Peter Cheese stated that agile working leads to higher levels of employee engagement and wellbeing, which in turn has a positive impact on workplace productivity.
But here’s the thing. As catchy and trendy this concept might sound, agile working requires careful planning.
It entails having a clear understanding of the firm’s culture. You need to develop a clear vision of where the organisation wants to be and how agile working helps you get there.
An organisational culture change starts from its leaders.
The leaders need to understand how the transition to an agile workplace actively contributes to productivity. The archaic thoughts that flexibility is only reserved for top management should be discounted.
More and more employees are demanding flexibility in the workplace. Making the change not only contributes to work satisfaction but also attracts talented employees who can contribute to the growth of the firm.
Flexibility through the use of technology is the ‘new normal’ in the modern business environment.
Therefore, management has the task of evaluating whether the firm is ready to embrace this new normal by determining whether they have the necessary IT capabilities to support an agile workforce. Management needs to:
The best way to boost productivity in the workplace is to seek efficiency. Consider how the firm is operating and be open to the possibility of changing your current processes completely.
Whether technology is a friend or a foe is entirely up to you. There’s no denying that technology comes with tremendous benefits.
However, when it’s poorly used or abused, it can add to your workload instead of reducing it.
Yes, agile working powered by the right technology can change your company for the better. Happier employees, lower churn rates and better profits with a minimal investment are just a few of the benefits associated with agile working adoption.
But before you jump on this bandwagon, make sure that everyone is on board. Talk to your employees, survey them and make them part of the decision. Don’t forget to explain the benefits of agile working and how it affects them directly.