Despite the many advances and offerings in modern technology, companies are still trying to figure out how to run a productive digital workplace. Productivity is the ability to work more efficiently, increase output and have greater influence with customers, and it’s clear that digital tools can effectively support these processes as well as deliver more value with less effort. So why has worker productivity in general been decreasing?
With the many tools that have entered the digital workplace recently, companies are justifiably starting to ask: do the latest digital workplace trends really boost productivity?
In 2016, after news broke that U.S. productivity dropped for the 3rd quarter in a row, The Atlantic published an article titled Why are American Workers Getting Less Productive? The article asks why employees seem to be working more, but achieving less. Experts interviewed for the article claimed that employees aren’t slacking off; rather, the drop in productivity is a result of workers having outgrown their technology, and that many businesses still use the same tools and/or are using new tools which have been slapped over the same processes employed over ten years ago.
A lot of innovation has occurred in the last decade, but digital tools certainly don’t have to equal productivity. With platforms and apps offering greater mobility, connectivity, and security, workers should have what they need to optimize how they work. Companies that haven’t figured out the best way to capitalize on those tools experience repercussions in the form of reduced worker output.
Below are some of the ways digital workplace tools have harmed productivity, and actions you can take to seamlessly transition to a more productive environment.
Simplify Digital Tools to Amplify Productivity
More doesn’t always equal better, and this is especially true when it comes to digital workplace tools. Companies can make the mistake of overloading employees with apps and platforms with the anticipation of assisting them to work smarter. It’s common for employees to simultaneously edit a Google doc, jump into Slack and engage in several conversations, all while downloading documents from a cloud based file sharing platform. It’s overwhelming and output can suffer.
On top of that, newly emerging technologies like AI, sensors, and advanced social collaboration systems are coming to market. While the intention is to help workers focus on more productive work, if not used correctly, too many tools can cause the typical worker a lot of stress and have a negative impact on productivity. The key to productivity is identifying a few powerful tools and platforms that have the greatest impact on how people work, rather than throwing multiple solutions at them and assuming their output will grow.
Which brings on the next point…
Track Productivity to Work Smarter
You don’t know what you can’t track, and companies want tools that help them gather the analytics they need to understand how teams and individuals are working. Analytics provide managers and executives with an understanding of worker productivity, illustrating the tools and behaviors that produce greater productivity. The intention is finding ways to improve outcomes and output, and not penalize employees if their level of productivity isn’t up to par.
Several platforms offer ways to track productivity and performance, but these are tool-specific and don’t provide the whole picture of overall performance. Nevertheless, managers should be sure to use whatever analytics they have available to them in order to gain a better understanding of whether the tools they are using truly do result in greater productivity.
Using too many tools harms productivity because information gets scattered across various platforms, resulting in employees spending time searching for information. Decentralized hubs of information also make it difficult for people to effectively collaborate on projects and ideas.
Using an Intranet with social chat capabilities centralizes information, making it accessible when and where people need it. Relying on an Intranet as your company’s central information hub means that information is updating in real time, and teams will be able to more effectively collaborate, ideate, and execute projects from concept to reality.
A secure, centralized virtual space boosts productivity in unexpected ways, allowing good ideas to easily surface because everyone knows where to look. By enabling streamlined collaboration, conversations are opened to your entire company or can be kept private among teams or co-workers. For example, if a customer experience issue arises and is posted to a designated space on your company Intranet, your designers and developers have just as much opportunity to influence the conversation as a manager does. This makes it easier for new solutions to arise quickly.
The Future of Productivity in the Digital Workplace
The digital workplace is fundamentally changing how we work, but it’s clear there’s more that needs to be done in order to generate major economic changes. As Digital Natives increasingly enter the workforce - Millennials and then Generation Z - the technical learning curve will go down, and digital tools will naturally boost productivity. These generations are flexible when it comes to technology, expecting access to information anytime and on any device, and will be better able to keep pace with rapid technological changes. The digital workplace still has a way to go when it comes to productivity, but companies will get there faster by using the right tools in the right way.