Over the last few years, a key focus for many businesses has been trying to do more with less. Whether it's new ways of working or updated technology solutions that promise to do away with tedious manual tasks, innovations to boost productivity are increasingly important to enterprises.
But are they really having an impact? It has been noted that the UK continues to lag behind other nations when it comes to worker efficiency, with the country having the lowest rate of economic growth in the G7, and productivity having barely increased since 2006.
This is despite the fact that British employees are working longer hours. Recent research by the Smith Institute found that more than two-thirds of workers are putting in more time in the office than two years ago, but despite this, only one in ten feel they are more productive.
So why are so many companies still struggling to boost their productivity? There can be many reasons for this, with the Smith Institute suggesting one issue is a focus on packing more work into the same amount of time, rather than seeking to boost the quality of working conditions, which can make people feel better about their jobs.
But there can also be several technology factors that are holding back productivity. Fortunately, these challenges can be solved with the right solutions.
Improving your networking
With more business than ever being conducted online, and a large number of businesses turning to solutions such as cloud computing for key activities, it's critical that companies can turn to a fast, reliable network to support their operations.
However, for many businesses, this is not the case. Whether it is poor broadband that does not deliver the speed required, or poorly-configured networks that do not give enough priority to high-bandwidth traffic such as video, this can result in bottlenecks building up that greatly frustrate users and lead to delays in vital work being completed.
Therefore, upgrading to a reliable, enterprise-grade network which supports data solutions that provide dedicated internet access and next generation voice services, will be one of the best things any business can do to support its workforce and ensure that it is able to keep pace with an increasingly digital environment.
Cutting down on unnecessary tasks
However, it's not just networks themselves that can have an impact on a worker's productivity - it's how they're using them.
For instance, a large number of businesses still rely on outdated software solutions for key processes that require manual inputs and re-entry of information across multiple systems. By replacing these with more modern solutions that offer greater interconnectivity, many of these activities can be reduced or even eliminated altogether.
Automating processes and ensuring different technology tools can communicate better is a great start - but it's not just machines that need to talk to each other better, as poor staff communication can be another major drain on productivity.
The collaboration challenge
One major barrier to employee productivity is that many companies still rely on outdated forms of communication. Email, for instance, has never proven to be an effective tool for collaboration, yet because we tend to be lazy, we still rely on it without considering whether there are better options.
The effect of this can be significant. A note to clients from Deutsche Bank's Stuart Kirk suggested recently that much of the stagnation in productivity can be put down to emails eating into workers' days.
"US economic output would be one-third higher today but for a mysterious productivity slowdown starting in 1971. Economists might note that was when the inventor of modern email Raymond Tomlinson, first hit send," he wrote.
Indeed, there have been growing calls recently to cut down on the use of email. A few years ago, outsourcing giant Atos announced it was scrapping the use of internal email altogether in favour of social platforms and instant messaging tools, and others have followed suit, such as high-profile investor Warren Buffett.
A strong collaboration solution should instead offer a variety of ways for employees to keep in touch, including text, audio and video solutions. Of course, to achieve this, the right network is important, to ensure that high-quality communications can be delivered without compromise.
Having the right network can help combat an over-reliance on email, by enabling file sharing, offering great video quality and clear audio, plus supporting dynamic working from multiple devices. By doing this, businesses can help create the right condition for success and future collaboration.
We’d love to hear about some of the techniques your business has adopted to increase collaboration and productivity. Please share with us