Skip to content

6 empowering ways to keep your business productive

By Sarah Tierney, Digital Storyteller, Microsoft UK on 04/07/2018

Filed under Digital Transformation

Person looking at computer

When you write an article about productivity, you tend to start counting how many times you were distracted by something else, such as emails, meetings, other work, or even to eat a colleague’s birthday cake. Rather unsurprisingly, it’s a lot (more emails and meetings than cake, unfortunately).

While in the moment, these distractions can seem tiny, but they do add up, and over a workday you may find that while you spent a lot of time in meetings, responding to email, or discussing important things with colleagues, you don’t actually get much core work done.

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.

Once I found out that, I changed my tune. Sure, the cake was tasty, but if all these distractions took me almost that long to focus back on this task, was it worth it?

Of course, I’m not saying to not eat the cake and ignore your colleagues. However, being aware of these daily interruptions and being empowered to work productively, it means that you’ll be able to handle distractions and focus better.

By using these tips below, you can help your organisation to build better habits and get back control of their time and gain productivity.

1. Get meetings back on track

In one report, employees said they have an average of 60 meetings per month, with managers believing 30% of their time is wasted in meetings. And don’t forget about having to prepare for meetings and any follow up actions – these eat into your day.

Rethink your organisations 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.

If you have weekly meetings, try skipping them and seeing if they are required. 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 to reduce the amount of travel time/cost for remote workers. Doing this will enable you to record the meeting so those whose input wasn’t needed can still listen back when they have time, so they are still kept in the loop without losing productivity.

“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,” Mark Dickinson, Chief People Officer at TalkTalk Telecom Group. “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.”

Kirk Trewin, head of fleet production at London Midland says they use OneNote to help record and take notes during meetings to make them more productive, along with Surface Hubs.

“With Surface Hub, virtual meetings and collective problem solving are centered around an integrated, digital collaboration space, expediting decision making to keep the trains on time and the customers satisfied,” says Trewin.

2. Battling the email dragon

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

Over 300 emails are received per week, however some senior management can send and receive over 122 emails a day!

Think about who you’re sending the email to. Would it be easier to speak to them over instant messenger, phone, or even a quick face-to-face, and even if they need to be part of the email chain at all.

If an employee is on holiday, reduce their incoming inbox by not cc’ing them unless it’s important – perhaps a recap email they can read upon their return would be more suitable.

How many emails and newsletters do you get from groups? Do you even read them? If not, unsubscribe to reduce clutter.

Microsoft Outlook now can sort your incoming emails automatically, separating them into ‘focused’ and ‘other’. You will be alerted for new ‘focused’ emails, while ‘other’ emails will be marked as unread. You can manually change the status of any emails if needed, but it’s a great way to keep your inbox tidy and reduce churn.

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,” says Matthew Horwood, Chief Technology Officer at Marks & Spencer. “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.”

This reduces the time spent logging in to different software or accounts, meaning you can quickly get started with your tasks for the day. And by being able to use them while mobile means you can work securely wherever you are, while still being able to collaborate and stay in touch with your organisation.

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 Trewin. “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

What 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.

For a company like Aston Martin where their intellectual property is of considerable value, it’s important that while productive tools are used, they 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,” says Neil Jarvis, Director of Information Technology and Information Security at Aston Martin Lagonda. “Employees depend less on a given device, they can work from anywhere, and we have the degree of security that we require for our intellectual property. With the Digital Rights Management capabilities within Office 365, we gain a further element of control, specifying who can access documents that we share internally and externally. 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.”

5. Book in some ‘me time’

Block out time where you can spend truly focussed on something, even if that means you unfortunately miss out on cake sometimes (or perhaps, ask nicely and a colleague will save you a piece for later).

By blocking this 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

In 2016, approximately 44 billion GB of data was created each day. 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.

Workplace analytics

The dashboard highlights potential problem areas and you can create bespoke analyses to help identify business opportunities, implement change, and measure success.

Workplace analytics dashboard

Individually with My Analytics, you can see access your own private analytics around email, focus time, and after hours. By seeing this data, 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.

Workplace analytics

For example, you might not realise how much time you collectively spend working out of hours. MyAnalytics helpfully collates this data for you and shows you, allowing you to figure out ways to lessen this and giving you back the time you deserve.

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

See how MyAnalytics can empower your workforce

8 ways MyAnalytics creates better work habits

More tips on staying productive

Unite your workforce

Webinar: Empowering firstline workers

Webinar: A modern workplace built for teamwork

Useful Links

Contact Us