Your business has employees. You might have 5, or you might have 5,000. Regardless of what size your business may be, every business has the same challenge; how do you maximize productivity? One important way of doing so is to make sure you are maximizing the output of your employees. To do that, it is important that you are aligning them with the goals of the business while providing them an environment that supports and fosters their growth. This gets lumped into the concept of culture.
Fostering the proper kind of culture is an important way to maintain a motivated workforce and increase productivity. Too often business owners and managers look at culture as intangible or amorphous or as something that HR should deal with. Culture is easier to address than that. Culture is the direct result of creating an environment that fosters a positive attitude. It delivers an efficient approach and arms employees with the right tools while supporting a balanced workforce. Some businesses look at culture through the lens of perks, like offering snacks in the breakroom. More often employees value perks in terms of flexibility. Employees value being encouraged, or at least given the chance, to work flexible hours, work remotely, and more.
This kind of flexibility is enabled through technology. The workplace is transforming, and the future of work is here. It is no longer a fantasy or a future opportunity. Video conferencing, connected messaging apps, document sharing and mobile access to information are making the remote, connected, “always-on” workforce a reality. These innovations and the explosion of their adoption in the modern workplace are making it easier for employees to balance their work and personal lives, interweaving the two together. The shackles of being tied to a desk are gone and people are free to intermingle their personal and professional lives. Video creates the chance to see who you are engaging with, no matter where they are. Looking someone in the eye always establishes a better rapport. As a result, businesses see stronger inter-personal collaboration, better sharing of information and insights and an increase in productivity.
Your best employees appreciate this and balance better. They will work later knowing they were able to take an hour to drop their kids at school or attend a school meeting. They can get a work-out in at lunch knowing they can do a conference call remotely. They take pride in their work because they feel there is a reciprocal value exchange between them and their employer. They realize their employer wants them to feel empowered and treated fairly while they develop a sense of ownership and pride in the place where they work. That sense of pride can translate to better use of their time and less “corner cutting” (i.e. taking short cuts in meetings to get on with the rest of your day).
Beyond that sense of pride and confidence in an employer, there are more tangible results of providing the tools to enable flexible work schedules.
People can respond faster to issues and questions and create “durable” threads of related content. Messaging and collaboration apps enable you to ping co-workers and exchange ideas, ask questions and seek information quickly and less intrusively, but are accessible remotely. Expectations on messaging apps are different than that for phone calls, email or text and they are more useful after the fact. Messaging apps allow for thoughtful responses, with attachments and key information included, and saved in a thread for later use. This aggregation of information is valuable for extended teams and the information is collected quicker than it would have been over text or phone. As a broader team gets involved, there is a record of conversation and relevant information that can be used to increase productivity.
I briefly mentioned this benefit, but employees can respond from anywhere and with video conferencing. Just because someone isn’t in the office doesn’t mean the project can’t move forward. Being connected through mobile video means information can be exchanged regardless of location, with clear body language in addition to audio. Remote workers and out-of-office employees can always be reached instantly and provide quick responses to important, time-sensitive inquiries.
This “always on” and interconnected approach creates an environment where collaboration can happen on the fly and innovation can spark from anywhere. One of the things I have always heard and understood is that the best ideas can come from the least expected places. A great idea may surface when you aren’t in the office, but if you can’t share the idea then it may never see the light of day. As inspiration arises, it can be shared with team members and built upon quickly, resulting in a potentially new and important initiative.
The best thing about these technology tools is that no person feels as though they are operating on an island. In the past, businesses have been hesitant to hire the right person if they can’t physically be on site. In some cases, amazing candidates are disregarded because they are not local. With the new era of technology tools, you can always hire the best person no matter where they are located. If that person is on video, it’s as good as them being in the office. As a result, no person is on an island and your business ends up with the highest qualified, best talent for the job.
Technology is also not expensive anymore. Whether your business is 5 people or 5,000, you can afford to act like a 50,000 person company and leverage cloud-based tools to increase productivity and balance the in-house people with a remote workforce for maximum results.