Productivity is changing. Long gone are the days of clocking in with a time card and counting the hours you’ve been sat at a desk. Instead, both employers and employees are measuring productivity on the merit of work. And productivity isn’t a solo endeavour anymore. People rarely work alone, and the nature of teams has changed almost unrecognisably.
While open-plan offices were once lauded as the answer to increasing collaboration, study after study shows that open-plan alone isn’t enough. Likewise, the increase of remote workers, digital nomads, and virtual teams has seen new challenges arise when it comes to productivity. How can you motivate employees who aren’t in the office? How can you allow for deep work when in an open environment?
Well, here’s ten top tips to help you stay productive, whether you’re in the office or on the go.
For workers in an open-plan office
1. Create your own virtual barriers
According to the 2016 UK Workplace Survey, 8 million people work in open plan environments in the UK. It’s great for collaborating and having an open culture, but presents new challenges for productivity. Workers in open plan offices are interrupted every three minutes on average, making productivity a distant dream. To get the most from your day, it’s worth creating your own virtual barriers. If noise distracts you, invest in a pair of good noise-cancelling headphones. For those who can’t work with music on, try getting a pair that block out noise. Or look at playing background sounds, like white noise or the sound of rain.
2. Adjust your working hours or location
If it’s not possible to work remotely, then try changing your working habits. Most offices have a busy period, so if the office gets unbearable in the afternoon, see if you can start earlier and finish earlier. While most companies are open to flexible working, there are still a number that don’t recognise it as a useful workstyle. If that’s the case for you, then it’s worth finding somewhere in the office that’s quieter. Meeting rooms – or even quiet reception areas – might give you enough time to get your head into something. Otherwise, see if you can designate a certain part of the office as the ‘collaboration space’. Try to encourage all group activities and teamwork to happen there, rather than spreading throughout the office.
For remote workers and digital nomads
3. Take advantage of new technology
When completing work depends on answers or input from others, being based in the same location means you can get what you need instantly. But when you’re working remotely, getting those answers is hard. Using email feels like it takes decades, especially if you don’t know whether the recipient has received your message. Picking up the phone is easy, but you’re stuck if they’re in a meeting. So, take advantage of chat-based apps. Sending an IM is more likely to get you a fast response. For example, Skype for Business syncs with Outlook, so it shows whether your colleagues are available, in meetings, or on a call. Both the increase in mobile working and changing employee expectations have led to a device-led transformation. You don’t just need the best software and platforms, but you need mobile devices that support anywhere productivity and security too.
4. Improve the quality of processes around data and knowledge sharing
It’s bad for any business to have the majority of good knowledge tied to one person. Not only does it make that person a prime candidate for collaboration overload, but it drains their time answering questions. Plus, it slows down productivity and bars other employees from completing their work. So, improve the quality of your processes around data and knowledge sharing. Ensure that there are plenty of avenues for people to share the knowledge they have, and that documents are open and accessible to all need to refer to them.
5. Set yourself up for success at home
It’s important for remote workers to turn their homes into offices during business hours. While it’s tempting to stay in your pyjamas all day, getting up and dressed is better for productivity. Likewise, try to schedule your day’s work in advance: plan when you’ll take breaks, when you’ll have meetings, and when you can immerse yourself in deep work. To improve productivity, set up your own work space with all the right equipment. Having everything to hand, where you need it and when you need it, will stop you from getting distracted looking for things.
6. Give digital nomads top security protection
Security worries can plague remote working. Digital nomads and remote workers need robust security measures, so they don’t need to worry about business data while creating and innovating. Whether they’re working in a café or on the train, employees shouldn’t have to worry about losing or leaking business data. Precautions like blocking access to certain data and resource won’t work either. Remote workers and digital nomads need the same experience on the move that they’d get in the office. So, choose platforms and software with built-in security features, so people can crack on with their tasks rather than wasting time on manual security processes.
For people in virtual teams
7. Make password and account management simple
It’s not just remote workers who need simple security. People in virtual teams need easy password and account management. If you can simplify security, you’re likely to boost productivity and remove security worries. If you can work with one integrated solution, like Microsoft 365, your team members don’t need to worry about constantly updating passwords and signing into a multitude of different apps.
8. Decide on team-wide communication tools
When people stop talking, mistakes start happening. Make it easy for virtual teams to chat to each other and you’ll see two benefits: better relationships, and better teamwork. Virtual teams don’t have the same opportunity to build relationships as office workers do. Teams who work in the same office block are likely to sit together at lunch and bump into each other in the kitchen. Teams can recreate this using chat rooms, like those in Microsoft Teams. By having a chat room open all the time, teams can have off-topic conversations and get to know each other better. Likewise, it’s good to set boundaries on how to communicate. You may want to say that all conversations, reviews, and document sharing and editing occurs in a collaborative space like Teams, while email is reserved for project updates and status reviews. Either way, make sure you all have a say and choose methods that suit the entire team.
9. Define processes across all virtual teams
Leaders must define processes and communicate them effectively to create a productive, cohesive and create virtual team. Identify your goals and roles before working out what processes will enhance your collaboration. In a virtual team, it’s easy for people to make up their own procedures and work to their own processes. A team of people working in their own way is unlikely to generate the same results as a streamlined group working to the same processes. For example, marketing teams may want a standardised procedure including everything from taking a brief and creating assets, to reviewing and publishing material.
10. Use software that helps, not hinders
It might sound obvious, but choose your software carefully. Just like desks, office spaces and equipment make life easy for real-life teams, collaborative software does the same for virtual teams. You need something that ticks every box: IM, video calls, screen sharing, document editing, and document sharing. Using just one platform reduces the amount of time wasted jumping between programs and searching for sign-on information. Likewise, be consistent with technology. We found in our latest research report that 39% of people in UK organisations say the introduction of new technologies makes them feel anxious. It’s hard to ensure user uptake with new tech, so don’t create an uphill battle. Once you’ve found software that works for your workers, pick devices that run it seamlessly. We develop our security and productivity solutions closely with our devices, so they run together naturally.