At Microsoft, we understand that the way people work and who they work with is changing. The number of teams people work in has doubled. There is an increase in mobile working, and more expectation of flexible working practices.

More importantly, all these people have different expectations and working styles, so it’s vital they have the tools in place to be productive in the workforce no matter the way they work. According to the Future Computed, 37 percent of technology professionals even stated they’d take a pay cut to work from home.

Our partners highlighted some barriers and challenges they, and their customers, have faced against productivity. Luckily, by working together we’ve found solutions that could help you improve productivity and drive great business outcomes.

1. Outdated tools and processes

One of the biggest killers of productivity is using outdated technology. Microsoft is passionate about helping organisations embrace the modern workplace and digital transformation. Tools like Microsoft 365 are built to encourage productivity and collaboration.

All you need is one sign in and you’re able to use a range of tools straight away. No multiple logins where you have to remember 100 different passwords, no more waiting for different programs to load, or hoping your colleagues won’t forget to log in to that specific tool.

And with these tools available across all devices, you can take your work on the go with you. Because everything is cloud-based, you can be working on a presentation on your desktop, then move to the train and keep working on your tablet without losing work or having to save multiple versions.

This makes collaboration much easier too, as it brings all resources and teams to one place, no matter where everyone is physically located.

With GDPR and data protection becoming more and more important for customers and employees, security and compliance are often the most concerning things.

We make sure all our tools are up to date with the latest protection and compliance. It’s integrated into Office and Enterprise automatically meaning you can be confident that your data is secure.

You also have full control over the data and decide who has access to it and what they can do with it. Protection is applied easily, meaning employees work won’t be interrupted.

Not only does AI lend a helping hand with helping us stay secure and detect threat, but it helps our productivity as well. You can discover insights from data, leverage organisational knowledge, arrive on time for events, and more with integrated machine learning and AI.

At London Midland, they streamlined operations and increased productivity by using Office 365. They have mobile firstline workers who now can quickly reach other staff. Now, all it takes is a quick Skype call for teams to make important decisions that reduce train downtime and improve service.

“London Midland employees need to stay productive across our network. Office 365 tools like Microsoft OneDrive have been game changers, and employees are embracing cloud-based document sharing and collaboration, working securely from anywhere, on any device,” says Kirk Trewin, head of fleet production. “This has truly streamlined the way we do business. Our meetings are more productive, mainly due to Microsoft OneNote, a digital note-taking app that makes recording and sharing action items easy and intuitive.”

With accessibility tools built into Office 365, businesses can ensure everyone can be empowered to work in the best way possible whilst keeping productive.

2. A lack of company culture

You can have all the tools in the world, but without the right encouragement, a workforce that isn’t engaged won’t achieve as much as one that is.

At Microsoft, our aim and our mission is to empower every person and every organisation on the planet to achieve more. This has been embedded from the top down and is certainly something that empowers everyone every day.

87 percent of U.S. workers say that to keep up to date with these changes in ways of working and collaborating, they need training and support. Microsoft offers constant online and in-person training to help us keep our skills fresh and ensure we can be our most productive.

TalkTalk also ingrained similar ideas into their workplace culture. By freeing employees to work the way they want—and share ideas freely—it fostered ingenuity and empowers their employees to help them get ahead in a tough market.

“We’ve had terrific uptake on Office 365: up to 20 percent growth in Skype for Business Online adoption in the first three months and still expanding, 1.3 million files and 4.2 terabytes of data uploaded to OneDrive for Business, and nearly 99 percent of employees actively using Office 365,” says John Gaskell, Office 365 Program Manager at TalkTalk Telecom Group. “The more we give employees, the more they want; there’s a massive desire for additional Office 365 services like Power BI and Teams—which is a far cry from the typical scenario of IT pushing users to adopt new tools.”

3. Poor communication

One of the most important things you can do as a manager or as part of a leadership team is to keep communications open and transparent. Employees want (and deserve!) to know what is going on and will be more invested into the business if they do.

At Microsoft, we encourage two-way dialogue between employees and the leadership team. This means employees feel empowered to discuss ideas and opinions, collaborate across different teams, and know that their feedback is being listened to. On the other end, the leadership team can easily share results, great examples of work and progress, as well as seeing what areas need to be improved.

By having open communication, our people feel more comfortable in the business and can get on with work and thus, be more productive. We use Yammer, Teams, and stream meetings and leadership Q&A sessions online where people feel they are able contribute no matter where they are working from.

Centrica, an international energy and services company, wanted to encouraging communication between staff globally. By using Yammer, they have given each employee a voice and contribute ideas to the leadership team. They’ve seen over 100 ideas implemented since 2017 thanks to Yammer, with one idea so successful it has saved the business over £5 million.

Gordon Blue from the Magic Team says, “Yammer insight analytics allows us to monitor usage and in a 12-month period we’ve had almost 13,000 posts, likes and comments along with 2.5 million messages read. This just goes to show the scale of collaboration in our organisation.”

Gordon Blue summarised his thoughts on the importance of communication, “I think that involving your team in developing the business is a brilliant ethos for the company. It really empowers people to evolve the business which will have a huge impact.”

Meanwhile, at Three, they use Microsoft Teams to connect their global workforce, from the UK to New Zealand and across 324 retail stores. Because Microsoft Teams allows for virtual teamwork and project management, it doesn’t matter where talent exists as it’s easy to invite the right people to collaborate in a Microsoft Teams workspace, making projects more agile and teams more productive.

“The real advantage of Microsoft Teams is that you’re more productive because you don’t have to constantly switch between productivity apps,” says Gary Walker, Head of People Digital Tools at Three. “With Microsoft Teams, it’s contextually evident when to use the different Office 365 services—Skype for Business Online to start a meeting, OneNote to organize meeting minutes, and SharePoint Online or Microsoft OneDrive for Business to save your document.”

He adds: “We use Microsoft Teams to accelerate our ability to work 24 hours across different time zones. Now, circle members in the United Kingdom sign off for the night, and a New Zealand colleagues picks up where they left off, because everything they need is in the Microsoft Teams workspace.”

As you can see, with the right tools, culture, and communication productivity can be increased and your workforce will be virtually unstoppable!

Feeling inspired? Discover more tips for productive working:

Ten tips for productive working, wherever you are

Unite your workforce eBook

Find out why a modern workplace is essential for productivity and engagement

Check out our workplace productivity training