Work smarter, not harder. It’s probably been a goal for most of us since we entered the job force. And technology—with nearly unlimited tools for automation, collaboration, and artificial intelligence—offers many potential solutions to the problem of overwork and overwhelm. But how do we know which tech will really help, and which will merely serve as a forward-thinking distraction? Turns out we don’t just need to work smarter. We need to adopt smarter, too.
From collaboration to CRM to productivity suites to cloud applications, the systematic implementation of technology in the small business environment is absolutely a powerful way to increase the productivity level of employees while allowing people to work more flexibly, creatively, and efficiently. But it can also lead to more busy-ness, rather than actual productivity. In the new digital marketplace, it’s imperative that business leaders realize which tech is helping their companies and employees grow, and which is just icing on the digital cake. A few things to keep in mind as you seek the perfect balance of tech and productivity:
Know Your Business.
Too much of anything will lead to clutter and overwhelm, even if it’s fast-paced technology. Today, it’s easier than ever for businesses to get overwhelmed by the sheer amount of tech promising to make their industries work smarter, faster, and better. Leaders today need to know and understand their company culture, and be selective about which tech they bring in, ensuring it is not just effective—but necessary.
Create Deep Working Spaces
No matter how great collaboration may be, there comes a time when we need to knuckle-down and get the job done. Today, employees spend about 80 percent of their day in communication-based activities—meetings, email, and planning. In fact, collaboration can keep us locked in the planning stages of a project for what feels like eternity. Even if you’re hoping to create a collaborative work space—something our Millennials are increasingly demanding—be sure to dedicate rooms for deep work and quiet so that employees have space and time to get the work done.
Automate When Possible
Nearly half of all employees feel technology has made them more productive in the workplace. Automation is the perfect example of ways in which tech can take on time-consuming, low-skill work to create time and space for high-value productivity. Whether it’s running a report, sorting messages, or managing analytics, use automation as much as possible to free up time and head space for your teams.
Protect Down Time
As a follow up to the point above, the best ideas come when we have the head space for them. Be sure to use technology in such a way that it creates down time for employees to think of new and different ways to improve your company. This doesn’t have to come in the form of collaborative brainstorming! It can come in the quiet moments between projects or meetings, as well.
Guess what: your colleagues dislike being on video just as much as you do. As such, video conferencing is a great way to speed up meetings, expediting decision-making and action items for all involved. Unlike blind conference calls, they prevent employees from working on other projects—or skimming the internet—in the background. They keep meetings honest—and they create personal connection and trust at the same time.
In the end, we need to look at technology as a tool, not an end-game, in the business landscape. The smartest leaders will be constantly thinking of ways technology can make their teams more productive, rather than adopting new technology that serves little purpose in growing their business.
This article has been brought to you in partnership with Microsoft Office. The content and ideas belong to the author. For more information and productivity advice, please take a look at the upcoming Office Small Business Academy webcast on March 28th at 9am PST | 11am CST | 12 pm EST and follow @OfficeSmallBiz on Twitter.
Daniel Newman is the Principal Analyst of Futurum Research and the CEO of Broadsuite Media Group. Living his life at the intersection of people and technology, Daniel works with the world’s largest technology brands exploring Digital Transformation and how it is influencing the enterprise. From Big Data to IoT to Cloud Computing, Newman makes the connections between business, people and tech that are required for companies to benefit most from their technology projects, which leads to his ideas regularly being cited in CIO.Com, CIO Review and hundreds of other sites across the world. A 5x Best Selling Author including his most recent “Building Dragons: Digital Transformation in the Experience Economy,” Daniel is also a Forbes, Entrepreneur and Huffington Post Contributor. MBA and Graduate Adjunct Professor, Daniel Newman is a Chicago Native and his speaking takes him around the world each year as he shares his vision of the role technology will play in our future.