In one way at least, the puzzle of Britain's slowing productivity is a good thing - because it means agile and other collaborative ways of working remain high on the agenda. The more we hear alarming soundbites like "the French could take Friday off and still produce more than Britons do in a week" (the Economist), the more interest grows in transforming our organisations to suit the demands of work in the 21st century.
Writing in Computer Weekly this month, Google's Nina Bjornstad rightly pointed out that large enterprises can learn a lot from start-ups when it comes to driving productivity through technological innovation and more collaborative, less restrictive ways of working. And we've written a lot on this blog about the need to disrupt from the inside and pursue "reinvented models of teamwork", to borrow a phrase from Marianne Calder's inspiring keynote at UC Expo last month.
But larger organisations - even those that Bjornstad describes as "stuck in the past" - shouldn't be daunted by the scale of the task. Rethinking teams and developing new management structures to optimise productivity may be a long-term project - but there are also some simple measures that can be implemented in minutes to create a more productive workforce.
Cloud collaboration offers the speed of deployment that organisations need to start making positive changes immediately within their teams. So while building an innovative, agile organisation that closely reflects the needs of a diverse and dispersed workforce is the ultimate goal, there's no reason not to get started today.
Here are four simple ways to transform productivity with a cloud collaboration tool:
1. Stop sending so many emails
It's well-known that email can badly damage an individual's productivity. Some organisations have responded by going 'email-free' for one day a week, or by banning it altogether. However, many businesses still don't understand the extent to which email can create unproductive, stressed out employees, while many organisations simple struggle to find an adequate alternative.
Over-reliance on email actually creates two drains on productivity. Inefficient communication is the result when employees spend hours reading and responding to messages, while inefficient document control occurs when people use their inbox to store files. Multiple versions of the same document, amended by individuals and then distributed via email, quickly become difficult to manage.
Cloud collaboration, while not intended to replace email entirely, provides a time-saving and frustration-free alternative. In Kahootz, our customers use the online workspaces to hold discussions about specific tasks and projects. Users are automatically alerted whenever a new comment is made, while everything relating to a discussion is stored in one place, removing the need to go searching for an old message or file attachment.
2. Don't waste time in unproductive meetings
A 2013 survey by officebroker.com found the average UK office worker spends roughly 16 hours in meetings each week, with employees feeling that about one-quarter of this time is wasted. In the public sector, the time lost to meetings was estimated at an even higher 22 hours a week.
The fact that unproductive meetings remain a familiar feature of British professional life can be put down to a perceived lack of alternatives - people don’t believe there is a better way to share ideas, brief colleagues and create strategies. But there is.
Organisations can often achieve exactly the same outcome as a face-to-face meeting - except make it quicker, simpler and much less expensive - by using a cloud collaboration tool. Instead of wasting time rounding up team members, making travel arrangements and doing other meeting preparation, it's easy to start a new discussion in Kahootz. Team members can add comments, share files and respond to questions - all without having to leave their office or disrupt their schedule. And there's no need to hope someone was taking notes - all workspace activity is saved for future reference.
3. Don't think 'different task, different tool'
At its recent summit, marketing software platform Percolate claimed the average company uses more than 500 different software tools. The result is fragmented workflows, incomplete data and organisational siloes that can badly damage productivity.
The widespread availability of specialist software means it's become normal for organisations to pair each important task or function up with the appropriate tool. However, this approach often prevents agility - each new tool requires users to be trained, data to be migrated and the associated burden of IT support and maintenance.
In contrast, cloud collaboration software like Kahootz is designed to support the agile organisation because it can be easily repurposed to meet the needs of different teams and projects.