Do Digital Tools Make us More or Less Productive at Work?
More technology means more efficiency… right?
There’s no doubt that technology has allowed us to accomplish more in our jobs. But within this realm of technology exists a grey area of digital tools that may or may not lead to the same kind of vocational accomplishment we have historically seen. This grey area, composed of tools like social media and a smorgasbord of apps, is highly multi-faceted; each tool has the potential to increase or decrease productivity.
Communication adheres to a 24-hour cycle
More communication can be both good and bad. Arguably, one could say that more communication inherently means more productivity. But it’s not so simple. Today’s plentiful communication options means that employees increasingly have to contend with interruptions to their workflow and with being ‘on standby’ as the result of checking work email around the clock. Some countries even think that the latter is of such importance that it must be addressed at a federal level. On the other hand, a constant access to phone and email also means that should any problems arise, you and/or your team will be there to address them immediately.
A ‘too many cooks’ situation arises
With all the apps available to us, it’s easy to suddenly find yourself with 20 different apps for 10 different tasks. All the ‘cooks in the kitchen’ might sound like a positive thing (more help, right?), but will ultimately end up hindering your productivity. Not only will you need to constantly switch between apps and recall where you put something, but so too will anyone you are collaborating with, thereby compounding the negative effects and wasting heaps of valuable time. But with a few choice apps that promote collaborative efforts and perhaps have a central depository of information (like Google Drive), you can easily avoid this situation.
Not all digital tools are used efficiently
This is especially true of the social tools. Companies that rely heavily on social media channels to conduct communication, file sharing, payment transfers, and the like, risk derailing their employees’ productivity even more. Given that employees need to log in to their personal accounts, it is easy to get sucked into perusing friends’ updates, photos, and following up on personal communications.
Before you know it, an hour can disappear from your workday. For the sake of productivity, social media may not be the best platform to conduct such daily (or even hourly) tasks. Instead, save the social media for informal group announcements and general content sharing that is less job-specific. If it’s the inter-office chat function that you like, consider another program like Zoom or Google Hangouts, both of which have less social bells and whistles.
Worst-case scenarios are inevitable
As with many digital tools, electricity and internet connectivity will make or break productivity. But sometimes the power goes out or the Internet goes down. Such technical errors can have calamitous effects on the employee who has failed to save their progress or the manager about to deliver a presentation. Short of investing in a generator, these problems may not always be easily solved. The best thing you can do to limit the fallout is to have back ups when possible. For example, you can save an offline version of your slide show to a thumb drive or you can use a web program that saves your work as you go.
As with any other part of your company, it’s important to make sure that current practices and procedures with digital tools are working as effectively as they can be. If a tool isn’t working, take a step back to evaluate why. If necessary, phase out the use of the tool. Just be sure that the task that was (or was not) being handled with the help of said tool doesn’t fall through the cracks.
About the author: Michelle Arios works as Marketing Assistant for BizDb.co.nz.