We squander hours each week travelling, being delayed and mis-managing our time. What if you could turn all that dead time into useful enterprise?
Dead time. The useless minutes and hours we clock up every working day commuting to the office, delayed at stations and airports, travelling to meetings, and waiting for work to be sent through. These hours really do add up. The average UK worker spends five whole weeks every year commuting, according to a TUC analysis of data from the Office of National Statistics.
It’s a staggering statistic. Especially now that the UK is officially in recession, and hours that could be spent chasing leads, maximising outputs and optimising customer service are still being wasted on unproductive activities.
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
There’s a whole world of exciting new technologies out there that empower you and your workforce to become uber-productive and efficient – any time, anywhere.
The top technologies that exterminate dead time
A combination of the right hardware solutions with the wealth of software, apps and smart business tools out there gives you all the equipment you need to embrace flexible working and slay dead time.
First, there are the everyday tools: lightweight laptops and netbooks that let staff stay on the grid wherever they are, and smartphones that are miniature computers in themselves. With these, you can stay on top of emails on the go, update projects, read and edit documents, and research for pitches on the internet – and that’s just for starters.
Then there are specialised gadgets, from tablets to nifty accessories like the wireless Microsoft Arc Mouse, which moulds to your hand and works on just about any surface for ad hoc computing – even on carpet.
For those for whom form-filling is a regular chore – yet another harbinger of dead time – digital pens are a huge time-saver. They convert handwriting into digital data for direct upload to a computer.
Software, apps and tools
Want the functionality of your desktop PC, with your files, emails and projects accessible from any location? Need to access a full suite of productivity tools simply, quickly and securely, from anywhere? Microsoft Office 365 should be right up your street – all you need to access all that is a web browser.
Then there are tools like Skype and Yammer, which allow remote collaboration, conferencing and brainstorming. DirectAccess in Windows gives full yet secure and uninterrupted access to files and people on the corporate network. And Microsoft Lync gives that professional edge, connecting staff via rich multimedia live chats and messaging, transferring office calls to a mobile phone, and setting staff free from their desks through high-res video conferencing.
The modern workforce doesn’t have to worry about data any more. Cloud computing allows organisations to store and share masses of information securely over the internet.
Tools like Dropbox are revolutionising the way we work. You no longer have to wait, desk-bound, for a hard copy or pen drive to deliver mega file sizes. Just download them. Over 50 million users are already using Dropbox and it’s a great solution for smaller firms who have yet to create a Virtual Private Network (VPN) or other remote login set-up.
SkyDrive is Microsoft’s alternative online file storage system, and it comes with Microsoft Web Apps thrown in. This makes access to Microsoft Office applications even more streamlined and straightforward, helping to cut down dead time even further.
Side-stepping the cycle of daily dead time
Dead time doesn’t just cover the everyday wasted moments. The upcoming summer of London travel turmoil, or times of heavy winter snow when people can’t reach the office, could cause an avalanche of dead time. But not if flexible working practices are in place. Home workers can be just as productive as desk-workers. In fact, a recent study by Virgin Media Business even shows that they can be even more so: of the SMEs trialling flexible working last year, 78% reported increased productivity, and 71% noticed improved customer service. A whopping 93% of the employees surveyed said that they were more effective when working flexibly, with 89% proven to get more work done.
Flexible working recognises that everyone is different. Some people are more productive in the mornings, others are night owls. The nine-to-five regime attempts to shoehorn everyone into the same working pattern, but imagine the uplift in effectiveness, innovation and morale if staff were allowed to work to a more natural rhythm? Designing that logo at 10pm, in the peace and quiet. Or taking advantage of a 5am energy boost to write that pitch. And, of course, freeing up staff to do work in the hours that suit them best means they can use the rest of their day and week to focus on personal projects and commitments, helping them equilibrate their work/life balance.
Technologies that work with you
Modern technology allows us to grab hold of the ideas that occur outside office hours and not just jot them down, but start building on them straight away. OneNote, for example, is an electronic notepad, screen clippings scrapbook, link directory, and Dictaphone all rolled into one. This is perfect for people who want to take notes on the go, anytime, on their phone. Notes aren’t locked into the device either: OneNote allows for multi-user collaboration and sharing, and you can continue adding to and utilising your digital scrapbook on your PC for an even richer experience.
And this is another upside of the mobile working trend: smartphone and tablet devices actively work with you to make you more efficient. As Dave Coplin, Microsoft UK’s Director of Search explains, “Mobile devices are action-oriented and location aware. If you search for sushi on a traditional computer, it delivers data. A mobile assumes you’re hungry and tries to find you somewhere nearby to eat sushi. That is a world of difference when applied to an office environment.” In this way mobile working turns potential dead time into hyper-efficient enterprise.
Managing employees’ deadtime
When you’re employees travelling to and from meetings or work flexibly, it no longer makes sense to measure the amount of time that a worker spends in the office as signifier of productivity. And why would you anyway, if you could help it? Wouldn’t you rather cultivate a culture that favours output and real results over presenteeism?
Unified communications make this possible. Presence indicators make it easy for management and team members to understand remote workers’ activity and productivity, while also helping the flexible worker to stay in the loop.
Instant messaging helps managers check in with employees whenever they need to, and means ideas can be discussed in real-time.
The virtual office is always open. Between next-generation hardware, cloud computing and unified communications, there is no excuse for dead downtime in your business.
This article is brought to you in partnership with Microsoft