Below are five areas where HR professionals can introduce or encourage use of new technologies to make workers happier, more engaged, and more productive - which in turn will lead to a more successful company.
Collaboration platforms like Slack, Flock, and Tribe are basically social media tools for internal use – but unlike Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp, they are designed to eliminate distractions and facilitate team productivity.
More than 50,000 paying companies in 100 countries use Slack. Through this service, team members communicate with one another using a combination of public channels, private channels, and one-on-one direct messages – and with no need for emails or SMS. Slack integrates with many third-party services, including Google Drive, Dropbox, GitHub, and Zendesk.
Flock is another collaboration platform that allows team members to send messages, share their screens and send documents to one another. Like Slack, it integrates with several third-party services. Like Zoom and appear.in, it hosts browser-based video conferencing.
Whereas Slack and Flock are designed for collaboration and communication, a number of other tools specialize in maintaining good team workflow. These include Basecamp, Asana, Wrike, and Trello.
Basecamp organizes a user’s own assignments alongside their team and company-wide communication on a central dashboard. The to-do-section keeps all team members accountable: a schedule shows important dates and deadlines, and if anybody is late or is needed for a follow-up conversation, Basecamp tells everyone involved.
Asana also enables individual users to join or create tasks and deadlines which other team members can then view and edit. It is customizable: users can switch between a classic Kanban board, showing tasks that are “ready to do,” “in progress,” or done,” or just an overview of related lists, for different categories such as “thought leadership,” “customer stories,” or company updates.”
3. Remote access
Gone are the days when an employee being on sick leave or at a conference translated to days of lost productivity. Today, not only are companies allowing employees to do some of their work from home, but some are openly encouraging it; after all, remote work can save employees from a long commute, and save companies the costs of having employees on the premises.
Whether it’s file-sharing (which can be done online through Microsoft Office 365, Google Drive or DropBox), communicating (Whatsapp, Zoom, or Skype), or collaborating (Slack, Flock, Tribe, or Chanty), almost anything that can be done in the office can also be done remotely – which is good for productivity.
Of course, there is a case to be made for in-person contact – but that is another matter altogether!
4. Focusing on the strengths
If you notice that your employees or colleagues are spending too much energy on certain tasks, chances are there’s an automated service out there that can help free up time for them to concentrate on what they’re best at.
For example, someone might be great at working the phones, but not as good at written communication. Rather than pressure an employee to spend time on perfecting their emails, it might be sensible to let the likes of Grammarly (which uses predictive technology) or Mailfixer (which uses real, remotely located editors) to clean up the text, leaving the employee more time to make sales.
Then there are just those odd jobs that can be a necessary but a menial part of someone’s work-week, such as transcribing an audio recording. oTranscribe is a free, automated service that provides a relatively accurate transcription so long as the recording is free of background noise. VoiceBase’s paid service does the same thing but more accurately. It offers several features, including a confidence score for each word in the transcript, sorting between different speakers within one audio, and automatic captioning for video format.
5. Fun and relaxation
A calm, relaxed employee is likely to be a more productive employee. Luckily, there are a number of ways in which technology can be employed to prevent workers from being drained of all their energy or from hating their jobs.
Some people find that listening to music helps them concentrate, and for this there is Spotify – a music streaming service with 140 million users worldwide. Spotify is free if you are streaming straight from the internet; if everyone in the office is streaming, it might put a strain on the bandwidth; one solution is to buy subscriptions for everyone so they can play music offline from their previously downloaded playlists.
Brain.fm is another online music service, but designed specifically to influence cognitive states. Users can select from five mental states – focus, meditation, relaxation, naps, or night-time sleep – to find the music that suits their mood. Admittedly, nap music might not be the best for productivity, but a couple of hours of focus or meditation music through headphones would help many people get the most out of their workday.
And speaking of meditation, an increasing number of people are recognizing the benefits of mindfulness, the process of bringing one’s attention to the present moment. Headspace is one of a number of digital services that provides guided meditation sessions and mindfulness training. It is designed for people who lead busy lives: there are audios as short as 2 to 3 minutes that are designed to help restore calm and sanity to even the most difficult of days.
How can companies assist?
If you’re a CEO or HR professional, it is worth recognizing the powerful effect new technologies can have in improving employees’ focus and facilitating group cohesion. Have you come across software that might be useful in your workplace? You could trial the software with one team, run a short training session in how to use it, or even take a straw poll to find out whether anyone in the company knows of an alternative software that is worth trying. And keep your eyes and ears open: 6, 12 or 24 months into the future, there will be hundreds more technologies and programs out there that are designed to help workplace productivity. The next big idea might be just around the corner.
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