How business perspectives on technology need to shift ‘back to the future’

What could you achieve in 21 days? The possibilities seem endless, though you’d expect that many would plan to put that time to good use with a holiday or two. What you might not expect, however, is to collectively waste that amount of time each year due to slow or inefficient technology in your workplace. 

Our latest research at Sharp revealed that almost 40 minutes are wasted per employee per day in UK offices, the equivalent of 167 hours, costing businesses over £2,100 per employee per year. This adds up to the average office worker wasting 4 working weeks each year dealing with the frustrations of outdated technology, which happens to be longer than most UK office staff get for their entire annual leave.    

This ‘dead time’ may be costing businesses more than just money. As the proverbial hour glass slowly drains, so might a company’s opportunities and even their employees; just under two thirds (64 per cent) said that they would be more productive, and just under one in five (19 per cent) admitted that they would stop looking for another job, if their office had better technology.

What can be done to get this time back? 

Sadly, we don’t have access to a DeLorean-style time machine. We will never be able to recover the time we have already lost. However, what we can do is ensure we are turning our focus away from maintaining outdated technology in the workplace and directing our attention ‘back to the future’. Businesses need to ensure they are investing in the latest products, which are easier for their employees to use, can automate routine tasks, and can connect to each other, in order to cut down on some of those wasted hours.    

Take file searches for example – one of the biggest time wasters in the office - if searching for files is a real problem in your company, implementing document management tools which help you automatically capture, index and archive documents can make a real difference. These tools force people to save documents to the right places, preventing them creating new, hard to find folders.    

Investing in technology that grows with your business can also be highly beneficial, removing the need to spend time replacing a device and learning how to use a new one when you could extend its useful life. That being said, how familiar employees actually are with the technology they have at their disposal can be one of the most significant time savers. Check in with employees regularly to ask if they have the right tools and training they need to make the most out of your office equipment. Use their feedback to put together tailored refresher sessions that keep everyone up to date on the best ways of using what you have available.

Beat bad habits, beat the clock

Be warned: these refresher sessions may need to address more than just how familiar employees are with your office technology. Seemingly harmless employee behaviours still waste significant amounts of valuable time in the workplace. Encouraging the right working culture is key.    

One way to avoid time (and resources) being wasted is to make sure you are thoroughly proofing hard copies of work before printing large volumes of documents with mistakes. Often mistakes are discovered moments after rushing to press the “print” button on 100 copies.    

Another effective way to improve workplace efficiency would be to reduce potential distractions by switching off unnecessary alerts and notifications. Be the one to decide what tasks you do and when, rather than allowing yourself to be dictated to by a pinging app or message pop-up.   

Grouping up similar tasks and doing them at the same time can also be a massive help. It can be more efficient to work on similar tasks like making phone calls or responding to emails in one time slot, instead of constantly switching between different types of task.  

Time is of the essence

If you find yourself constantly at odds with the technology installed in your workplace, something needs to change. Rather than being a constant source of frustration and wasted time, technology should be seen as an asset that can offer your business a true advantage.    

It may be tempting to put off updating office technology over concerns about short-term disruption to your working environment or worries over the impact it could have on your budget. Such apprehension could see your business fall behind savvier competitors who see the long term rewards of having the right technology in place. Installing the latest multi-function printer, cloud solution or whiteboard will ultimately save much more time, with these solutions supporting the evolving needs of your employees.   

However, technology can only get you so far. It is not just about having the right hardware and software; it is also about ensuring employees are making the most of the resources they have at their disposal. In our increasingly agile business world, promoting a working culture that prioritises efficiency and productivity might just be the key to staying ahead of burgeoning levels of industry competition. Give your business every opportunity to make that happen. Time is of the essence. You can’t go back.

Stuart Sykes, Managing Director, Sharp Business Systems UK