Work Smarter Not Harder
Work Smarter Not Harder
Every one of us would like to work smarter, not harder, but it’s not always easy to step back and look at how to improve the way we work. Most of us are already surrounded by technology that can make our lives easier, but taking the time to learn how to use new tools is rarely given the nurture it needs. When facing the never-ending challenges in our personal and working lives, we all need to stop once in a while and evaluate the path we follow.
We should spend 20% of our time finding tools to do 80% of the work. If we don’t, our output per hour cannot increase. There is a risk to us as individuals and corporations if we don’t evolve processes and methods; we get left behind, because the competition will evolve. Every task we do needs to be reviewed and evaluated regularly.
Here are some ideas to help motivate you; tools we use to help our people manage the workload, rather than the other way around.
If you only have one email address, you are one of the lucky few, but you are also being held back. Google is a more powerful experience with a Gmail account; Microsoft Windows is designed around a Live account; your work email address; that old email address that you just can’t let go; and for the entrepreneurs – an email address for every business interest they have.
What you need is an email aggregator; a platform that collects all emails in separate folders, a summary screen for important folder activity, collective calendars & contacts, and the facility to send from any of the email addresses. Our inhouse choice – Microsoft Outlook 2016. It is well worth the time looking into what else Outlook can deliver back to you, such as the rules and alerts feature, and email aliases.
Voice is still the most significant connection between us, our organisation, and the outside world. If you keep your contacts on a paper print out, manually key in telephone numbers to your deskphone, or call people who aren’t there, you are suffering significant disruption to your day.
Move control away from the phone and onto the desktop; you are more capable with a mouse and keyboard than you are on a 3×4 number pad. Keep contacts where you can click to dial; use ‘presence’ companywide so you all know who is away and when they will be back; integrate with CRMs for recognisable incoming call pop-ups; drag and drop conference calls; and route your own incoming calls to voicemail/mobile/secretary at a click.
Our in-house platform of choice – Unify UC Suite. It’s business grade, easy to use and very capable.
A little known service from Google that alerts you by email when a new webpage, news article or blog appears on the internet that matches your pre-defined search criteria. This is more powerful than just a vanity search on your own name; you can find out when your company is mentioned, to follow your favourite sports, to track technology developments, or even just a sale announcement by your preferred brand.
Consider that the desktop handset’s core function is voice transmission; as control of voice moves onto the PC you will no longer need 90% of the handset features. The remaining 10% can be managed more effectively by a headset. Modern headsets are small, light, comfortable, connect to multiple devices, and with batteries that easily last all day. They are increasingly replacing the desk phone as a preferred method of connection.
The primary advantages of headsets are:
- Two hands free to operate PC
- No more shoulder cradling
- More engaging telephone calls when staff are able to walk around and animate with hands
- Connect to multiple devices – PC, mobile phone and desk phone – all day use and futureproof
Our headsets – a combination of Jabra Stealth (remote staff), Jabra Evolve (regular users) and Jabra PROs (knowledge workers). Wireless is the way to go, or you remain tethered to your desk.
Working From Home
Current technology makes remote working very accessible. All our staff have the facility to work from home as part of our DR plan, and many do work from home as a regular activity. Telephone systems with mobility set up allows mobile phones to become their company extension; VoIP telephone systems allow the handsets to work on almost any internet connection; virtual desktops allow a home PC to become a secure work PC; cloud file storage for secure off-site document libraries; and monitoring tools for peace of mind.
The benefits of homeworking are proven. Many offices are distracting; in such environments staff can actually get more done working from home. Less travelling means more time to deliver and increased focus on quality. Home working is motivating, encouraging, environmentally friendly, productive, and cheaper for the business. Everything in moderation of course; pure homeworking can be isolating and have the opposite effect.
The biggest barrier to home working, trust, is not difficult to overcome. To put it simply – businesses should measure employee output, not input. How many hours staff do is irrelevant; it’s what they deliver that counts. That comes from good management, identifying clear responsibilities and measurable targets. For example, a support desk engineer can work from home whilst being monitored on tickets completed, response time, closure time, and customer satisfaction ratings.
Get a Tablet
Device usage follows a trend – mobile phones are the weapon of choice prior to office hours, desktop/laptop within office hours, and tablet after office hours. For mobile workers, tablets are more convenient than laptops because of the smaller size and lighter weight – they can be taken everywhere without thought or planning. Tablets will provide a more productive mobile team in office hours and a more engaged management team out of office hours.
Our in-house choice of tablets – Microsoft Surface Pros. The full Windows operating system will run bespoke software, the light weight means mobile staff update work in real time, and USB/Bluetooth support allows headset connection for VoIP calls.
Move Conversations out of Email
If you still ask people to remove you out of group email conversations, you should really be asking why you are still having conversations in email. Mail exchange platforms were never designed for real time communication, and group conversations need to be had in real time. Purpose built platforms like WhatsApp are proving their popularity, designed for real time written communication and collaboration.
The platform we use is Circuit; a business grade application from Unify. Designed in collaboration with frog, the same design team behind the Sony Walkman, Apple, and Windows XP; Circuit allows real time collaboration that keeps our business moving fast.
Use a Note-Taking Tool
Very useful and very underrated; note-taking tools allow those million-dollar thoughts to be captured for follow-up. They are literally a pin board of type, handwriting, audio and visual attachments; stored in the cloud and updated in real time. Ideal for collecting personal and business notes, which can be shared with family, friends and work colleagues.
For our note-taking software, we have adopted Microsoft OneNote. It integrates well with the Microsoft software range and it is a business grade application. It’s most powerful when making notes in meetings and during that otherwise unproductive commutes. Perhaps the hardest feature to get used to is the lack of a save button, but when it’s saved into the cloud in real time, you can understand why it doesn’t need one.
Find an App
Train yourself to look for an app or plugin whenever a re-occurring task starts taking up too much time. Successful apps are lightweight, innovative and designed for ease of use. Free apps come with caution; if it becomes something your business depends on, you will want to have assurance of a product lifecycle and support. If an app doesn’t exist for what you want then please let us know; it could be the next disruptive technology and we would all like to retire early.