In the 9-5 shake up: How do you tackle the productivity problem?

Professor Sir Cary Cooper recently gave a speech at the British Psychological Society's annual conference and quoted figures from the Office for National Statistics which indicated the UK has the second-lowest rate of productivity out of the leading G7 industrial nations.

The reason behind this, he argued, is because the country has embraced digital technology “a bit too enthusiastically”.

In my opinion, the UK has not embraced digital technology enough. Instead of leveraging contextually aware technologies, such as Unified Communications (UC), organisations are relying too heavily on out-dated communication technologies. In a world where the traditional 9-5 working day is fast becoming obsolete, the adoption of digital technology is essential to the productivity of an organisation.

The 9-5 shake up

Workplaces are changing and a ‘work from anywhere’ culture in the UK is becoming the norm. In fact, a recent study by the Centre for Economics and Business Research revealed that 96 per cent of workers in the UK who have the option of flexible working make use of this opportunity, whilst eight in ten would do so if made available to them. With workforces increasingly turning to flexible work environments, businesses need to ensure losses in creativity and collaboration due to blocked or delayed communication channels are kept to a minimum.

Certainly employee efficiency is an area that needs to be addressed. This is especially true when you look at figures that suggest 36 per cent of employees’ time is wasted every day by trying to contact people to find information and schedule meetings and an addition hour for digging around for information they need.

But by implementing more comprehensive communication solutions, digital technology can help employees get back this time and empower them to choose the best communication medium based on the information needed and the status of their contacts, regardless of their location or device.

By shifting to cloud based managed service solutions, organisations are also empowered to meet the demands of a ‘work from anywhere’ workforce. With features which allow staff to come together into virtualised ‘war rooms’ and send messages or share screens in quick succession, small groups can come together to collaborate on projects to achieve rapid results, no matter where they are.

In addition, with cloud-based UC, there’s no need to connect to the ‘work network’ to check emails or access calendars. This information is available at the touch of a button to support a more efficient workforce.

Going beyond social networking

The use of social media was discussed as a medium that could be the solution to the email problem following on from Cooper’s speech. IT services giant Atos believed organisations could implement social media tools in companies to help achieve a “zero email policy”. In the same vein, Facebook unveiled ‘Facebook at Work’ earlier this year, which allows businesses to create their own social networks amongst their own employees.

Whilst I agree having such social collaborative spaces will result in improved individual and group productivity as well as increased efficiency, I believe this is just one, small piece of a productive solution.

The future workplace is all about completing tasks in as efficient a manner as possible using the assets and systems in a business to achieve the best result in the shortest period of time. It is about leveraging all the enterprise grade communications capabilities of the workplace, not just relying on existing social networking tools.

The future of work

As the future of work evolves to become offices without walls, we cannot avoid the fact that communication is becoming one of the most critical aspects of organisational success. But then it’s about finding a solution to the problem of the numerous emails and conference calls that pile up.

It should come as no surprise, then, that it’s not simply what you communicate, but rather which tools you choose to communicate with which can make you a more productive employee. This is at the core of UC. With UC, employees reap the benefits of being able to choose the most efficient communication medium; wherever we may be, on the device of our choosing and using real-time contextual cues such as presence.

As workforces increasingly turn to flexible working, businesses are facing a challenge to ensure that they don’t face losses in creativity and collaboration due to blocked or delayed communication channels. Applications that allow employees to work in highly dynamic groups, share documents and communicate with no time spent setting up calls or booking meetings, will be crucial to ensure this doesn’t happen.

To Professor’s Cooper point, an enthusiastic embrace of digital technology will, in fact, give organisations the boost in productivity they are looking for and the result will be a more efficient workforce.

Mike Wilkinson is VP Market Offers at BroadSoft.

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