World Productivity Day: Adjusting to the ‘New Normal’

Did you know that World Productivity Day happened last Sunday, on the 20th of June? It is a bit counterintuitive to host a productivity day on the least productive day of the week (at least for most people). Nevertheless, as we have navigated through the challenges of this past year, organisations and their employees have overcome many obstacles and adjusted to a plethora of ‘new normals’. First, it was furlough and skeleton workforces, then remote work. Now, as restrictions ease, we are entering the age of hybrid working. 

Although the easing of restrictions has been welcomed by most with open arms, it has not come without its fair share of difficulties. Hybrid working poses new challenges to productivity; businesses are now having to rethink how they store data, which security frameworks to implement and how best to structure communication within their organisation. 

Cyber Protection Magazine spoke to six technology experts to get their opinions and tips on how businesses can best adapt to a hybrid work model while maximising productivity.

Creating the Right Environment  

One of the main challenges posed by a partially remote and partially physical workforce is engaging employees in a productive way. Ian Thomas, Chief Operating Officer at Node4, discusses  the importance of getting this right in the workplace. “COVID-19 has fundamentally changed our working practices, and the effects will be felt long after the vaccines have been rolled out. As many organisations continue to operate remote or hybrid working models, business leaders must continue to find ways to keep employees engaged and productivity levels high.

“Engagement is the key to maintaining employee wellbeing, which in turn has been proven to lower absences, enable higher productivity, and strengthen the overarching capacity of an organisation. It is for these reasons that employee engagement should be a permanent priority and consideration for all business leaders looking to maintain high levels of productivity as we move more deeply into this new era of working.”

There are multiple ways that an organisation can engage their workforce and cultivating an encouraging environment, founded on positive, well established principles can be a great place to start. “Encouraging the right mindsets and implementing simple yet effective methods, such as the 80/20 rule, can provide immense value,” Terry Storrar, Managing Director UK at Leaseweb comments. “The 80/20 rule states that 80% of a business’ income comes from 20% of its projects. It’s a tool used to highlight the importance of identifying the highest priority work, ensuring that the available manpower is being spent on the most valuable projects instead of being wasted on unimportant details.

“In crisis situations, such as the events of 2020, it is invaluable to break tasks down into priority groups and work to achieve the most essential goals first. For example, this time last year when everyone left the office, the first and most important problem to tackle was providing the necessary equipment to create a work environment at home. Now, as we transition back into the office, many businesses will be looking to implement a hybrid framework that assures that all staff are connected, regardless of location. During this big change, it will be important to once again reflect on productivity models such as the 80/20 rule – reminding employers and employees alike what are the most essential tasks to complete to ensure business continues to run as efficiently as possible”

Bridging the gap

For companies operating with a partly remote workforce, encouraging the right mindset and engaging employees is only half the battle. Being able to stay connected with the rest of your organisation is essential for a business to run smoothly. “Digital business is a term that has been around for decades,” Joel Reid, UK&I VP/General Manager at Axway, explains.  “But in the past few years it has become one of the hottest topics across the business landscape. Connectivity is something we take for granted. We’ve come to expect it and depend upon it heavily, especially now many of us are working remotely. But how is it that we can access emails on our phone, download maps, shop online and have orders delivered the same day to our doorstep? The answer is API – application programming interfaces. APIs are the building blocks of brilliant digital experiences and have become vital tools for business growth and technological agility. In short they enable different services to interact and complement each other, opening the doors to a host of engineering and business possibilities. If APIs are not the poster child for World Productivity Day I don’t know what is!”

APIs are a great example of some of the many innovations in technology that are bridging the gaps for organisations as they modify their workplace practices to accommodate a hybrid model, KPIs and metrics are another. Brooke Candelore, Product Manager at BrightGauge Software, a ConnectWise solution states: “By tracking KPIs and metrics, you can drive action and provide clarity in your business. Over time, these actionable data points affect your bottom line. I’m often asked what type of metrics should be tracked on a regular basis. The kind of metrics you track depend on a number of factors, but often boil down to what type of data is going to move the needle for your business.

“World Productivity Day is a great reminder of the importance of KPIs, and the value of having everyone in an organisation responsible for specific metrics. That’s because an accountable metric drives action. Measuring those metrics should be done regularly, and if possible, that should be done in the broader context of the business’ KPIs.”

Providing the right tools

In the world of mobile workforces, new technologies have been indispensable in allowing work to continue on in the face of COVID-19. Mike Blackburn, Chief Revenue Officer at Totalmobile, says, “During the past year, the introduction of furlough and social distancing has meant many businesses have been, and are still, operating on a skeleton workforce and yet are expected to produce the same outcomes as before. 

“Technologies such as scheduling software and mobile workforce management are some of the ways to help boost productivity at a time when it’s needed most, and these applications are being adopted by a range of companies to help speed up their business practices. Scheduling software that can identify a backlog of jobs in one geographical area can help ensure that local teams can focus on these jobs first and move between them quicker. This is more productive than, for example, completing the tasks in order they were initially due, which could force teams to retrace their steps over the course of a week traveling to different sites and likely take longer overall. This, along with other rapidly developing innovations, will allow companies to have the technology in place to boost efficiency and productivity beyond what we’ve seen before.”
World Productivity Day is an opportune time to reflect on what can be done to improve an organisation’s environment, mindset and infrastructures to promote maximum productivity. Samantha Humphries, Head of Security Strategy EMEA at Exabeam, concludes:  “Empowering employees with security tools and resources can help boost analyst team productivity, rewarding them with better management software and visibility into all of the alerts, and channel focus on specific types of alerts that demand time and expertise. To paraphrase George Orwell’s Animal Farm, ‘all alerts are equal, but some are more equal than others’… investing in the right technology can help reduce the risk of burnout, improve productivity, and ultimately help security professionals spend time on the alerts that really matter.”

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