Why addressing productivity should be the focus for IT

As IT leaders, it’s our job to remove the productivity blockers from our teams.

In IT, we are consistently challenged by the struggle to get the most productivity out of our teams. At a time when our work week is longer than ever, productivity is still a major concern. Adding some complexity to the challenge is the fact that most office workers don’t think that dips in productivity are their fault.

In the same survey, 91 per cent felt productive at their jobs. And most of those surveyed think they are more productive than everyone else, including their managers and company leadership. They stay longer at work to make up for the ways other people cut into their productivity, not because they feel unproductive.

Of those surveyed, some responses to what gets in the way of work most were: Wasteful meetings (62 per cent), excessive emails (52 per cent) and a lack of standard processes for workflow (32 per cent). Meetings and email are unavoidable and processes become engrained no matter how inefficient. So how do we solve these productivity challenges?

1. Waste meetings

Let’s address meetings first. More than anything else, office workers say more uninterrupted blocks of time would boost their productivity. What better way to give them this time, than to cut down on meetings or eliminate unnecessary ones altogether. We’re never really going to get rid of them, but we can make them more effective. 

  • Make meetings shorter: It seems the standard for meetings is an hour. But if you block an hour, you’ll use the hour. Try fine-tuning your meeting agenda so you only need 30 or 45 minutes. Use the TED Talks model to mandate that meetings run no longer than 30 minutes to help participants stay focused. Then, stick to the plan.
  • Make meetings device free: If people perceive meetings as a waste of time, then they won’t feel guilty texting or doing other work while a meeting is in progress, even if it’s disrespectful. Once you show people that your meetings are actually productive, they’ll be less likely to use devices during them. Until then, request that people go analog and bring a notepad to meetings or assign one person to take notes on their laptop and email it to the rest of the attendees after.
  • Use technology to cut out meetings: With so many apps and platforms today to help us manage our time and communication, it’s possible to use tech to eliminate some meetings altogether. Work management platforms that allow in-app collaboration, updates, and reporting can specifically cut down on time consuming status meetings. And online proofing tools can reduce in-person approval meetings by allowing stakeholders to make edits and suggestions in an app instead of in person.

2. Excessive emails

Email is here to stay. But we can curtail its use and get back some productivity by following these tips.

  • Be smart about email: Take immediate action on emails when possible if the response can take less than a couple minutes. For more complex responses, set aside a block of time at the beginning, middle, or end of the day to address them. That way you can still tackle it but without time-consuming email replies interrupting your work.
  • Use better methods: Email has become the default method to communicate for many organisations. But an email isn’t always the best way. Instead, consider what you want to convey and choose communication via other avenues to convey it: in person, chat or video calls, for example.

3. Inefficient processes

Behind more blocks of time to work, the second thing survey respondents said would improve work productivity was having more efficient work processes.

This could be improving how the team intakes requests, how projects are prioritised, taking a second look at your project management methods, or any other possible inefficiencies. But you may want to start with these. 

  • Document all your processes: You can’t streamline something if you don’t know what it is or if your team does the same process 10 different ways. In one article, efficiency expert Sam Carpenter puts it this way: “When you document the most efficient way to do each process, you get 100 per cent of people doing it perfectly 100 per cent of the time. That means fewer mistakes, which means you spend less time putting out fires and more time doing your actual job.”
  • Automate manual tasks: One of the best ways to streamline processes is to automate anything you can, including project notifications and KPI status reporting. Having a tool that allows you to send automatic status updates or provide dashboard data cuts down on the hours your team wastes gathering and disseminating information.
  • Use a work and project management tool: Of those surveyed, 70 per cent of workers now use or want to use project management software, meaning that teams are realising the benefits of a tool to help you organise processes and tear down inefficiencies. “On any size team, a project management tool is becoming as vital as a computer,” says Kelly Santina, Head of Operations & Media at Convince & Convert. “Logging hours and assets against that work is made so much more efficient through a project management tool.”

The state of work is always in flux. As IT leaders, it’s our job to remove the productivity blockers from our teams so they can feel accomplished and rewarded by their work.

We can do this by addressing the main productivity sinks plaguing office workers today: meetings, email, and processes. We’ve given our input, and there are more resources are out there. It’s now up to you to take action.

Joe Staples, CMO, Workfront

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