Does Technology Boost or Block Employee Productivity? #MindfulTech

Technology at Work

In our #MindfulTech series, I’ve talked quite a bit about how technology can impact the work-life balance of your employees. A recent post, for example, discussed how smartphones have basically extended the work day by making employees feel bound to the office virtually 24/7. Other posts have given some suggestions about how to manage that situation so that home and family life is protected to some extent.

But to be fair, the issue really works both ways. So today I’d like to talk about being mindful in the use of technology at a different place for a change…right in the office. While business-related communication and that feeling of being “always available” can compromise an employee’s family time, the same technology used for personal matters, can sometimes be viewed as only serving as a distraction that can impede the smooth flow of productivity at the office.

From the employer’s perspective, it can be worrisome when employees spend significant amounts of office time on social media, texting friends, checking personal email and/or surfing the Internet for non-business reasons. This can create an awkward situation, forcing the owner or manager to choose between a rigid zero-tolerance policy that seems outdated and lowers morale, or a permissive approach that some employees may abuse, with a negative effect on productivity.

A Powerful Plus for Productivity

Technology has, of course, enabled a whole new level of productivity for most workplaces. It can help employees organize and complete tasks. Several different software programs, including Evernote, can be extremely helpful in scheduling and prioritizing responsibilities. On these “to-do list” programs, deadlines are very visible and reminders are sent, so more work happens on time.

Technology has also greatly improved the ability of workers in different locations to collaborate on projects through “virtual” meetings that avoid the time and expense of an in-person meeting. Through well-known communication platforms such as Skype and Google Hangouts and newer collaboration programs and platforms such as Jive and Asana, workers can touch base more easily and more frequently. This often means a project can be completed more quickly and accurately, since closer and more timely interaction among co-workers can minimize misunderstandings and missed signals.

Business can also be enhanced thanks to social media networking sites such as LinkedIn, which allows employees to gather information, collect leads, make introductions, and spread contact information quickly and easily. It doesn’t replace business cards, but a LinkedIn identity on those business cards can geometrically enhance the spread of potential business opportunities. A strong presence in the LinkedIn community can generate far more sales leads, job opportunities and professional relationships than the thickest old-school Rolodex.

Controlling Distractions from Technology

Since technologies contribute so much to the modern office, they are certainly here to stay. But what can be done about the time employees spend on those technologies at work for non-work purposes?  Since the Internet and social media channels may well be a part of normal job responsibilities, how can you, as a manager, tell how much is too much without wasting lots of your own time looking over shoulders?

Several software programs can be very helpful in these situations. One, called Rescue Time, can track computer usage by measuring time spent on selected websites. Ten minutes may be perfectly logical; two hours might be a red flag. Another program, Interguard Sonar, tracks website usage, monitors email and instant messaging exchanges, and takes screen shots as directed.

Many comprehensive IT security programs designed to protect your enterprise and its data from major cyber attacks and corporate theft also include employee computer monitoring as part of their service.

Whatever solution you choose, it is good to maintain a strong, open and honest approach to employee use of technology at work. Transparency and frequent mentions in employee communication vehicles should put everyone on the same page. Most employees will keep such usage within reason, and most employers won’t have a problem with such activity as long as it is brief and infrequent.

Think about this though, many businesses are looking to technologies like Dynamic Signal that help harness the power of their employees and the love they have for their brand, through online advocacy and engagement. That is certainly a boost to productivity. If you are wondering how, ask your marketing department.

What’s Your Policy?

In the office, the choices made by both employer and employee are what ultimately determine whether a particular technology is productive and worth implementing or not, but remember this. Technology itself isn’t good or bad, it depends upon how it is used and frankly if your employees love where they work and what they do, chances are if allowed to, they will spend their online time at work giving your brand extra exposure online that simply cannot be bought.

Being mindful about technology simply means being thoughtful about your choices – and the best choices will be made when management and staff are all on the same page. An eye on not only the bottom line, but also on the needs of employees will ensure you implent technologies like Corporate Kiosk which will make everyone happy.

Have you experienced any situations in which a technology designed to enhance productivity has fallen short of that goal due to employee distraction or misuse? Have you had a co-worker or employee who spent all day on Facebook? What did you do about it, and what was the reaction of your employees? This is a hot topic right now for a lot of businesses and I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences in the comments below.

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