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6 ways to increase productivity

Student using Surface Pro4

I counted how many times I was distracted as I wrote this. Emails, meetings, other work, and even eating a colleague’s birthday cake all ate into my productivity. Rather unsurprisingly, it happened a lot. And unfortunately, it’s more emails than cake.

These distractions at first seem tiny. But they do add up. Over a workday you may find you spend a lot of time in meetings, responding to emails, or discussing important things with colleagues. But core work? Not much done, however.

It takes 23 mins to get meetings back on track

In one study they found that once you’re distracted, it can take an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to get back to the task.

Handle distractions and focus better by being more aware of these daily interruptions. These tips can help your organisation to build better habits and get back control of your time and gain productivity.

1. Get meetings back on track

In one report, employees said they have an average of 60 meetings per month. Managers say they waste 30 percent of their time in meetings. And don’t forget about having to prepare for meetings and any follow up actions. All of this eats into your day.

Rethink your organisation’s meetings. How many are relevant for each employee? Encourage them to take control of their time. If they feel like they don’t need to be present for a meeting, then they are much better spending the time working.

You may find that your weekly meeting is more productive if you change to a fortnightly format, or to shorter stand-up meetings.

Move the meeting online with a tool such as Skype for Business or Microsoft Teams for remote workers. Doing this will enable you to record the meeting. This means others who weren’t present are still kept in the loop without losing productivity.

Graphic showing managers waste 30% of their time in meetings

“We’re trying to shift decision making and power away from the head office to the people who are closest to issues and best able to contribute. With Skype for Business Online, it’s easier to get the right people together quickly, without expensive travel. Where resourcing is concerned, this means we can hire the right skills more quickly and make more efficient use of our staff.”

Mark Dickinson, Chief People Officer at TalkTalk Telecom Group.

2. Battling the email dragon

Employees spend at least half their day on battling emails according to the study. Even though only 14 percent are crucial to their work, according to this report on productivity.

Per week, there’s an average of over 300 emails received. However, some senior management can send and receive over 122 emails a day! Think before you send an email.

    • Would it be easier to speak over instant messenger, phone, or even a quick face-to-face?
    • Consider who needs to read the email and only send it to those necessary.
    • If an employee is on holiday, reduce their incoming inbox by not cc’ing them unless it’s important. Catch up with them on their return.
    • Unsubscribe from emails and newsletters you get from groups to reduce clutter.

Microsoft Outlook can now sort your incoming emails automatically, separating them into ‘focused’ and ‘other’. Only ‘focused’ emails cause an alert. In the meantime, ‘other’ emails are marked as unread. You can manually change the status of any emails if needed. It’s a great way to keep your inbox tidy and reduce churn.

Graphic showing a tip to sort your inbox by focus and other to ensure you only see emails that matter to you

3. The magic word is collaboration

Using collaboration tools that work on different devices is a great way to stay productive as a team. Especially if all these tools are found in one suite, such as Microsoft 365.

“We’ve found OneDrive for Business to be an easy-to-use, secure way to share files, no matter where you are. Combined with the real-time document collaboration in Microsoft Office 2016, we no longer waste time emailing documents around and tracking versions. Productivity does not depend on when we can meet face to face, but when it’s best for the business.”

Matthew Horwood, Chief Technology Officer at Marks & Spencer.

Male and female college students collaborating in group study session in library. Two Surface Pros and two laptops are on table (one Surface Pro screen shows PowerPoint slide; no other screens shown).Reduce the time you spend logging in to different software or accounts. You’ll be able to start your work quicker. Because you can use them while mobile, it makes it easy to collaborate and stay in touch with coworkers while staying secure.

For London Midland, they are seeing these tools speed up business decisions, meaning there is less downtime on train services.

“Our Firstline Workers use Skype for Business to stay connected with colleagues in the head office, and the ability to share videos and photographs from the field makes the decision-making process incredibly efficient,” says Kirk Trewin, head of fleet production. “For example, if a technician identifies corrosion on a unit, a video call makes it easy to consult co-workers and arrive at a solution. In the past, a technician had to gather evidence from a train, create a report and present it to colleagues at the office. This process could take days, but with integrated collaboration tools from Office 365, we are down to minutes. Our trains spend less time in the depot awaiting a verdict, reducing service downtime.”

4. A slice of security

How does being secure and compliant have to do with productivity?

Well, the less time you have to spend worrying about the data your organisation holds and the more confident you are with the protection you have, the more time you can spend doing actual important work. Therefore, good security increases productivity.

For a company like Aston Martin where their intellectual property is of considerable value, it’s important that the productive tools they use are completely secure against external and even internal threats.

“Everything we use needs to be secure by design, so by adopting Office 365, we could move our data off employee devices to OneDrive, where it’s safeguarded in the Microsoft cloud environment…Microsoft 365 takes us one step further with the integrated simplicity of cloud-based management and evergreen services, while delivering additional intelligent security solutions to help us avoid advanced threats before they hit our network.”

Neil Jarvis, Director of Information Technology and Information Security at Aston Martin Lagonda

5. Book in some ‘me time’

Man working on tablet in cafeBlock out time where you can truly focus on something. Even if that means you unfortunately miss out on cake sometimes. Perhaps, a nice colleague will save you a piece for later.

    • By blocking time out in your diary, you’ll prevent other calendar invites from encroaching and alert others that you are busy.
    • Put your online status as ‘Do not disturb’ and take advantage of mobile working by moving to a quiet area.
    • If you work in an open office, use physical barriers such as headphones or booking a meeting room to remove yourself from distractions (open-plan office workers are distracted on average every 3 minutes!).

6. Using analytics to transform productivity

Each day in 2016, we created approximately 44 billion GB of data. It’s projected that by 2025 that figure will rise to 463 million GB. It’s a fair understatement to say that the world is getting busier.

Every day at work we create more and more data, it makes sense that we should embrace this data and use it to be more productive.

Using Workplace Analytics, you can figure out how you can increase and empower your employee’s ability to focus on their work. You will see anonymised organisational insights into communication and collaboration trends that can help you unleash the potential of your people.

Individually with My Analytics, you can access your own private analytics around email, focus time, and after hours. You can set goals and start building better habits and working smarter. You can boost meeting quality, get more focus hours, and improve your work-life balance.

We all want to have a great work-life balance and MyAnalytics gives you the tools to empower yourself and your employees to create this, meaning your organisation will be more happy, less stressed and more productive.

Find out more

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