Weathering tough economic times: working smarter and harder

Person writing on computer
(Image credit: Glenn Carstens-Peters / Unsplash)

‘Work smarter not harder’ has driven many companies productivity strategies throughout and since the pandemic. However, as businesses continue to find themselves navigating through a unpredictable economic environment, leaders may need to pivot their thinking to ‘working smarter and harder’ to ensure they land safely on the other side.

So, what can business leaders do to help their staff to work smarter and harder?

Deploy tools which help employees

Employees can become overwhelmed when hybrid working due to the sheer volume of communication tools. A strategy is needed to ensure that technology tools seamless fit together, rather than hinder the working day. In fact, research by Cornell University and Qatalog found that 48% of respondents had made mistakes as a result of being unable to keep track of their different work channels, showing a clear connection between tech tools used and productivity, or lack thereof.

This ad hoc approach toward technology stacks is something business leaders need to address, especially in a remote working world. Whether this means leaders and CIOs looking into how well the tools work together, or if there’s a way to reduce task swapping between tools, which can often lead to overworking and confusion.

Andy Wilson

Andy Wilson is Director at Dropbox.

Deploy tools to speed up your work processes

Leaders need to ensure that the technology provided to their employees helps to simplify the way they work, whilst simultaneously helping to speed it up.

A study by Enterprise Nation and Dropbox showed that if small businesses adopt better technologies, they have the opportunity to gain £8.1bn a year from saving precious work time. On top of that, the study also highlighted the need for small businesses to stay on top of incoming technologies that could help their work processes as only 34% of businesses with 1-10 employees said they actively keep up with technology trends. This was in comparison to 64% of larger businesses with 50-250 employees.

When assessing which technology to deploy, leaders need to ensure they focus on the tools that allow employees to self-serve and reduce the time needed to find the information they need, when they need it. These tools can enable better collaboration using post or chat features to communicate on work documents, and tools are also available that can help share audio/visual recordings to aid with asynchronous working.

Ramping up the digital dial

The demands of digital natives on the world of work make it clear: In order to remain attractive as a company on the competitive labor market, it should significantly expand the area of digital culture. A large number of companies are already implementing this. For example, the number of video conferences has increased exponentially in recent years. Over 500 million video calls take place every day via Google Meet, Microsoft Teams and Zoom alone.

But synchronous collaboration via live interaction and online meetings is often not as effective as asynchronous, consecutive collaboration. New all-in-one tools that allow audio-visual communication via screen recording, making information shareable with the team asynchronously. In this way, synchronous action in the team merges with asynchronous communication - a gain in effectiveness and flexibility in everyday working life, not only for the younger generations.

Overall, 80 percent of workers want complete flexibility in their working hours and to continue to do all or at least part of their work at home in the future. Regardless of how you look at it, a high degree of independent and autonomous working is and will remain the alpha and omega in the home office in the future.

Mission based culture

We’re living in a mission driven era; people are seeking a greater sense of purpose in their personal and work lives. People want to feel “good” and personally connected to what they do - and, employees want to see that their contributions make an impact. And while technology can help employees to work smarter and harder, realistically the only way employees will want to work in that way is down to company culture. Often with technology tools, it is upper management which makes the ultimate decision, but it is pertinent that employees have the opportunity to give feedback or to be given the flexibility to decide what works best for them.

It is important to consider training and upskilling employees to better integrate them into new working styles. This further fosters company culture, boosting morale and creativity in the long run. In the short term, this will enable employees to want to work smarter and harder to help the business thrive in a recession.

Working harder and smarter in today’s economy is not an easy task for any business, but ensuring the right tech tools are available to support a strong digital strategy and empower employees can aid the progress businesses can make.

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Andy Wilson is UK Lead at Dropbox.