Measuring and boosting productivity in the today’s workforce is not an easy task. Unproductive work and productive work look mostly the same. Many tasks aren’t so clearly defined and are collaborative in nature.
To improve business operations, communication is a must, but productivity can easily get bogged down by meetings and memos. Meanwhile, your employees are drowning in their inboxes, or slacking off on Facebook.
Must-Have Productivity Tools
To help address this problem, here are four tools to help you measure, manage, and improve workplace productivity.
The differences between sloth and productivity are almost indistinguishable in the modern workplace. In both cases, employees are usually staring at a computer screen and typing. Management, often, can’t make sense in this kind of environment, but it can be helpful to track employee time with tools like DeskTime.
Opinions are mixed, to say the least. Some argue, there is something wrong with your hiring process if you feel the need to monitor employees consistently. Others will say, downtime is a crucial part of the modern creative process. Google even has a name for it: 20 percent time. That said, tools like DeskTime can be a valuable source of data.
By monitoring applications and websites being accessed, by who, and for how long, you can start to identify trends. Downtime can be a sign of creativity, or it can be a sign of procrastination. Productivity tools can teach you surprising lessons about productivity, and serve as a valuable way to inform management policies. Additionally, tools like DeskTime can be useful as a means of measuring incentives-related metrics. If it is used entirely as a policing tool, it could potentially be harmful to morale and create burnout. If used to reward productive employees, on the other hand, it can be useful.
A major barrier to workplace productivity is a lack of clarity about who should be working on what, when projects are due, and what tasks need to be completed beforehand. Project management tools can be useful for managers who wish to define tasks, but they need to provide employees with a user-friendly interface.
Typically, project managers are the only ones who can quickly refer to a schedule and identify what needs to be done. Moreover, things rarely go according to plan. Tools like WorkZone, which defines itself as a more collaborative, intuitive alternative to Microsoft Project, are helping management deal with this new reality.
Tools like this allow managers to define tasks and subtasks in a manner they are familiar with, but these are then broken down and shared as easy to-do lists for employees. Document sharing and commenting tools, as well as the ability to submit and request personal projects, make management a more collaborative process.
Research indicates, breaking work into sequential tasks is tremendous for productivity. This discourages the temptation to multitask. Multitasking is generally bad for productivity, because it separates teams, and forces employees to mentally and socially re-adapt to tasks. Task-switching forces employees to reboot this.
Meanwhile, to-do lists have been shown to remedy this problem, especially when they are defined sequentially with time limits. This forces employees to commit to a task and avoid distractions. In other words, it’s about being less busy and getting more done.
Email has become a massive time sink for most businesses. Irrelevant messages, “reply-to-all” emails, spam, and inbox interruptions take up massive amounts of time. Studies have shown that employees who batch their email, reading through it all at once, tend to be far more productive. Unfortunately, this isn’t always a possibility.
Many employees have roles in which they must reply or read through emails as they arrive. This becomes a distraction and knocks employees out of an optimal workflow. SaneBox is a, relatively simple, remedy to this problem. Unlike a run-of-the-mill spam filter, SaneBox learns from your previous inbox behavior. Based on what you tend to open, and what you tend to save for later, SaneBox automatically filters your email.
Rather than sending the less relevant email to a spam folder, it sends it to the “SaneLater” folder, and it provides a summarized digest of the messages. SaneBox also lets users unsubscribe from email addresses with just one click, and to “snooze” emails to read them later, when they actually have time.
HipChat works well as a complementary tool for WorkZone-style platforms. Where WorkZone is great for sharing to-do lists, planning projects, and tracking time, HipChat is a good tool for quick communication and eliminating meetings.
HipChat is essentially an instant messenger built for the workplace. You can use it to set up persistent chat rooms, or 1-to-1 communication. One of the most useful features is a complete chat history. Employees who missed a meeting will have to interrupt somebody else in order to get caught up, while those who miss a HipChat session can revisit the meeting and browse through it quickly.
HipChat also borrows ideas from social media, such as @mentions, to bring people right into a conversation. The emoticons based on current memes seem to be a bit much, but one could argue that these kinds of things can help with morale.
Developing a Culture of Productivity
It should go without saying that no tool can increase productivity alone. You must leverage tools to create a culture of productivity, supported by a strong foundation, rooted in morale and smart incentives.
Time-tracking can be an opportunity to identify which strategies lead to the most productivity, or it can be an “Orwellian” tool used to police workers and drain morale. Instant messengers can cut down on meetings, or they can become a day-long distraction. That said, it’s far easier to boost productivity with the right tools.
Dipti Parmar, a digital marketing wiz is associated with E2M Solutions. She’s been journeying through the world of digital marketing for 6 years and is a blogger and networker. She’s also a movie buff and loves taking long walks by the seashore. She is @dipTparmar.