The advent of the business tech era has brought into question the way that everyone accomplishes their work. With the ability to both encourage and hamper productivity, the Internet and Internet-connected tools place companies in the difficult position of selecting tools that foster a productive work environment and disavowing others that may distract.
If you’re looking to boost either you or your team’s productivity, here are a few trends to employ in your business that can streamline your work processes.
Work where you’re most productive
The 9-to-5 office grind is becoming obsolete, and technology is the primary impetus as more workplaces turn to flexible work accommodations for their employees. Cloud computing, in particular, is a digital integration service that makes remote work a possibility for all types of businesses.
Instead of storing information on local hard drives, cloud tech allows you to store and access data via the Internet. Local networks may get the job done if your business is at the startup-level, but as you expand, migrating to the cloud will ensure that you have the tools you need anywhere and at any time.
The cloud has implications for both consumers and businesses, so it’s a good idea to research business-specific alternatives to your current digital storage solutions. In fact, entire businesses exist today to provide their Software as a Service, or SaaS, products over the Internet. Many tools that were once offered as a downloadable product—such as customer and human resource management services—have migrated to SaaS to give companies greater access to their information. This means that you receive the same functionality, but with enhancements to security and information sharing.
By hosting data on servers accessible outside of the office, businesses can offer either full- or part-time remote work arrangements, which means that—now more than ever—you have the capacity to tailor your work environment to best serve your needs. Take advantage of the SaaS or other cloud-friendly solutions that your business provides to ensure that you’re working in an environment where you can be most productive.
Without interruptions such as office chatter, meetings, and team coffee outings, you’ll likely be able to accomplish more while working from home, as many studies have shown. This infographic by SurePayroll, as an example, reports that more than two-thirds of employers witness improved productivity among team members who take advantage of flexible work opportunities.
Update your communication strategy
Whether your day brings client-facing presentations or internal meetings with team members, chances are that you’ve suffered lower productivity levels caused by inefficient communication. In a survey which polled companies with approximately 100,000 employees, business leaders reported an average loss of $62.4 million per year from internal miscommunication. That’s why companies who invest in technology today can preemptively save time, money and headaches in the future.
Of course, businesses still rely on the same modes of communication—phone conversations, video conferences and face-to-face chats, as examples—but advancements in technology have streamlined these processes for an experience that is more conducive to all types of information sharing.
Perhaps the greatest productivity killer in today’s offices, sifting through email inboxes can eat up an average of 28 percent of your work week, often totaling over 11 hours. Clearing out spam, crafting response messages and clarifying cryptic messaging may not take up much time at once, but when added up, you’ll find yourself spending more time writing about tasks than actually accomplishing them.
So what’s the solution? For some, tools such as inbox management software are necessary in order to actually get your work done. Although they perform the same function of organizing your inbox, these tools vary in their features and the way they help you handle large volumes of email information. Some are able to condense several newsletters into a single email, while others let you set reminders on important correspondences to ensure they don’t get lost in the shuffle. And since each software offers different integrations, it’s important to research your inbox management options before making a purchase.
While calls and other voice-based forms of communication often allow you to relay information more quickly than through an email thread, technical difficulties caused by out-of-date landlines, including poor reception and cutting out completely, can make phone communication more trouble than it’s worth.
As an upgrade to traditional phone services that many businesses still use, Voice over Internet Protocol, or VoIP, replaces physical phone lines by sending audio information through the Internet, often at a higher quality and dependability than traditional phone solutions. Couple this with voicemail management features and mobile compatibility, and this tool helps you free up your day to tackle important tasks and other high-level concerns.
Automate your workday
Advances in machine learning—or more commonly known as artificial intelligence—offer a host of benefits when you need to manage large amounts of data, but perhaps nothing affects your day-to-day productivity as much as automating tasks. Business Process Automation, or BPA, is the process of using AI-powered technology to autonomically perform repetitive tasks where human labor can be replicated by machines. Although many fear the implications of a workforce increasingly reliant on artificial intelligence, this new technology will likely create more jobs than it jeopardizes, as smarter machines help workers perform their jobs more effectively across all industries.
Automation is typically thought of as a solution for manufacturing and floor production positions; however, from HR departments leafing through the latest batch of resumes to populating and sending purchase order documents, automation has an impact on conducting business at every level. Some businesses automate their data collection and input tasks, while others have found automating receptionist tools an ideal solution for scheduling meetings at times where everyone is available.
Most importantly, by assigning your monotonous responsibilities to automation tools, you’ll have more time and energy to handle important assignments that require more bandwidth and headspace. As opposed to hiring assistants, automated software will never deviate from the correct method to perform the task, will never need breaks, and will never require additional training.
Connect your teams with IoT
Another tech development circulating many business conversations, the Internet of Things—commonly abbreviated to IoT—seeks to further connect an Internet-reliant workforce. Because IoT is relatively new and is just making its way to market, it can be difficult to discern what IoT tech actually is, and how it might affect the way you do work.
At a conceptual level, the Internet of Things seeks to connect all electronic devices around the world to the Internet. Greater reach and lower rates for broadband internet subscriptions make the Internet a commodity of paramount importance to the general public, and it’s because of this accessibility that IoT has become a reality. Cellphones, business machinery, and even coffee pots now can send and receive information via the Internet, which means that IoT has nearly limitless potential to transform any device with a power button.
But what are the benefits of connectivity to this degree, and is it even necessary? This article by Forbes posits what the future holds in a post-IoT world. If you’re on your way to a meeting, your car could access your work calendar to suggest the best route to ensure you arrive on time. Perhaps you program your coffee machine to begin brewing after you pop a slice of bread into your toaster. Or maybe your watch could generate your work schedule based on the times of day where you are most productive.
In a workplace environment, IoT could help you regulate office supply levels, better connect with remote workers, and collect data on employee engagement to ensure your business is operating at maximum efficiency. It gives you greater control over the business tools you interact with daily and helps you accomplish your work in exactly the way you see fit—all without a decrease in the quality of your deliverables.
Whether or not your business is interested in IoT, it’s the direction that the rest of the world is headed. Forecasts predict that 14.2 billion things will be connected by this year, and that this number will scale to 25 billion by 2021.
Amidst this growth, companies, governments and businesses at large need to have ethical and legal discussions on the limits of such powerful connectivity. A change this significant to business productivity means that you and your organization should stay informed on the direction that this conversation is heading in the future. You and your teams may be reluctant to implement IoT into your day-to-day workflow, but with business tools of all kinds sharing information on the internet, there’s sure to be an IoT solution that will help you and your teams become more productive.
For further reading, check out these other articles on workplace productivity:
- 4 Surprising Solutions That Will Improve Worker Productivity
- Business Management: How to Get Your Work Teams to Be More Productive
Krystine Buckowski is a content marketing specialist who primarily focuses on writing for small business and entrepreneur audiences. She is particularly interested in the ways that new technology affects employee engagement and work output, from entry-level team members to leadership at the top.