Q&A: Productivity in the workplace

The enterprise messenger market has grown significantly in recent years, leading to predictions that in the future, working professionals will largely communicate using team messengers.

We recently spoke to Bhavin Turakhia, CEO of team collaboration and chat platform Flock, on his thoughts on productivity in the UK workplace, the workplace of the future and the current state of the UK enterprise messaging market. Here’s what he had to say:

What are the most important trends that you are currently seeing in the use of technology in UK workplaces? What are the reasons for these trends, for example why do you think the use of email is declining?

There are so many interesting changes taking place in workplace technology in the UK. And all of these changes are driven by the fact that today’s teams are no longer tied to a desk; they are remote, agile and fast moving. Thus, their medium of communication and collaboration also needs to be fast and agile. This explains the decreasing popularity of email vis-à-vis the rising usage of team messaging apps. 

While over the past 10-15 years, email became an ubiquitous communication tool, it has many shortcomings. It does not facilitate real-time communication among teams that may be spread across locations and time zones. And this is why team messaging tools have come to rule the roost. In fact, I expect the market for team messengers globally to grow from roughly 5 million users to a potential of 300-400 million users.

It’s also interesting to note that workplaces in the UK are increasingly discouraging or altogether banning the use of personal messaging apps at the workplace. We saw quite a few concerns coming to the fore with the case of a Jefferies London banker leaking confidential company information via WhatsApp, hitting the headlines. Since then, many enterprises have announced or implemented stricter mobile device management guidelines. 

I think it’s only a matter of time before we completely replace personal messaging apps with messaging apps that are created from the ground up for professional set ups.

How do you think the UK workplace will look in ten, twenty and thirty years’ time?

There are so many trends in workplace technology that are considered esoteric today that will become essential tomorrow. I am very excited about AI or artificial intelligence, followed by augmented reality, considering all of its potential applications. At the workplace, for instance, AI could be used to replace or augment the services of an assistant, including handling communication, replying to emails, etc. So many of these routine tasks can be delegated to AI.

From an information management standpoint within a company, AI can be used to make internal information accessible to all stakeholders. Currently, information is not accessible to everyone or is not easily searchable. I expect this to change in the next five years, and dramatically over the next 15 or so with the help of AI. Overall, I expect workplace activities and systems, powered by technology, to become more dynamic and open.

What role do enterprise messaging systems currently have in UK workplaces, and how do you think this is likely to develop?

Personal messaging tools have certainly been more popular across the world, including workplaces in the UK. But with increasing incidences of confidential company data being leaked through these personal messengers, I think workplaces are certainly more likely to stress on the adoption of enterprise messaging apps and tools.

Who do you think are the key players in the UK enterprise messaging market, and how do you think this is likely to develop in future? 

There are players in the market who have been around for a while, and can be considered our competition, such as Slack and HipChat. And there are new players like Microsoft and Facebook entering the market. Over the course of the next decade, I think that there will be 4-5 players that dominate the team messaging space. We aim to be at the top, or in that top set of messengers, in that decade.

What are some of the key features that an enterprise messaging tool should have in order to successfully increase users’ productivity? 

I believe that if there is anything hindering your team’s communication and productivity, your messaging tool should be able to eliminate it. An efficient messaging tool should help its users with tasks/activities that take up a large chunk of their time. It should focus on activities that users do multiple times a day, rather than what they do sparingly. 

To begin with, a good enterprise messaging tool should have a clean and simple UI. A noisy IU is an absolute no-no. It should allow you to customise the interface and the way your chats appear.

Going a step further, a great enterprise messaging tool should offer a fully functional task manager that helps you with your and your team’s to-dos. It should help you manage your team, tasks and information in a more efficient manner.

Your tool should also provide integrations with apps that you use on a daily basis. This is especially important considering that people spend so much time switching between different tools to get their work done. Flock, for instance, lets users not only receive notifications, but also respond to and manage their activities from within Flock itself.

Further, you should be able to see contacts that you communicate with frequently and regularly (known as magic lists on Flock) via one touch. So, your tool should use data analysis to make your life more productive and efficient.

Essentially, a great team messenger should help you with your daily tasks - rather than focusing on the frills and superficial features.

You have previously talked about the importance of increasing personal productivity. What are some tactics that you use to be productive?

I’m a stickler for productivity. I feel that time is the thing that you never get back. So I pull out all the stops when it comes to increasing my personal productivity. 

For example, as I work across locations (Mumbai, Dubai, London and the US), I have the exact specs for my desk in each location. I also have a fully customised chair shipped with me. To save time during a 20-minute commute to my office in Mumbai, I travel in a custom modified Toyota, which features a fully functional mini-office.

What are some tips that you can give our readers on how to improve their workplace productivity?

There are so many areas our lives in which we are operating at less than optimal productivity levels. I would say try and identify areas where you can automate or manage tasks better. Try to find and plug those holes. One way to do this is to benchmark yourself against others who do the same work, but better and faster.

Once you have identified those problem areas, you can find the tools and software that serve those needs. You could either find apps that are either plug and play, or select apps that are customisable and can be tailored to suit your needs.

Bhavin Turakhia, Founder and CEO, Flock
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