In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, many office workers and business professionals around the world have seen dramatic changes to the way their companies work. For the most part, organizations have made an effective transition to remote working, which has resulted in a more rapid and widespread adoption of automation and virtual collaboration tools. However, it is unclear how much this dramatic shift to remote working has impacted worker productivity. Based on various surveys that have come out over the past several months, many business leaders have not seen a drop in productivity when they shifted to remote work. But one thing is clear: this pandemic has not only changed where we work, but how we work as well.
While the pandemic accelerated the use of virtual meeting & collaboration tools, one drawback to this trend is the relentless number of meetings many of us have on our calendars every day. While in the past, we may have had more informal conversations with our colleagues in the office, there seems to be a clear trend now where people schedule meetings to ensure they get time to speak with one another. We see our calendars filling up with calls, and people are increasingly booking meetings during lunch periods, early in the morning, late in the evening, and so on. As a result, many of us are busier than ever.
Key questions to ask
In this hectic environment, it is critical to ask ourselves, are we really taking full advantage of automation, analytics, and collaboration tools to make the best use of our time? For example, are we using features which allow multiple employees to edit documents simultaneously, rather than sending files or requests back and forth by email? Are we leveraging analytics that can give us insights into process efficiency and employee productivity? Are we adopting low-code automation tools to eliminate repetitive tasks? Many companies have effective collaboration and business process management (BPM) platforms, but lack the organizational culture, training, and technical skills to maximize their value.
Taking advantage of automation
With RPA, BPM and digital collaboration tools, companies can setup automated workflows, along with reminders and notifications for different employees involved in a specific process. This can substantially reduce the number of meetings and emails that are typical of today’s business operations. Most BPM applications also have analytics and reporting capabilities to help organizations pinpoint bottlenecks or inefficiencies in a specific process. These are just some of the features that allow companies to revolutionize the way they do business, but there is often a great deal of organizational inertia which prevents them from taking full advantage of process automation.
People tend to be averse to change, and do not necessarily want to alter how they have performed their roles in the past. In addition, some employees may worry that their role will be endangered or come under greater scrutiny from leadership as a result. Change is never easy, which is why it is so important to effectively communicate the expected benefits to employees, especially when it comes to time saved in our increasingly busy schedules. Formal training plans can go a long way towards educating employees about these benefits, and ensure they get more value from the tools at their disposal.
In addition to training, companies may consider setting policies around how employees schedule meetings and collaborate on work in-general. For example, an organization can set rules around meeting etiquette to ensure they end on-time, or train employees to use specific features of collaboration and BPM tools that will increase their productivity.
The road ahead
The pandemic has only accelerated what was a preexisting trend towards remote work. Having dived headlong into this new way of doing business, we must take stock of how it is impacting our professional and personal lives. It is important for companies to thoroughly review whether they can and should be using these digital tools, and consider a holistic strategy aimed at improving employee productivity. While virtual meetings are a key component of our modern business operations, it is also critical to make sure people have adequate time to work on their individual tasks. By automating business processes, training employees on the effective use of collaboration tools, and setting some sensible policies around meeting etiquette, we can help ensure that a proper work-life balance is maintained, which is more important than ever in these unusual times.
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