Improve your workplace productivity

Managing people

5 October 2017

With more people than ever working from home, a growing number of professionals are trying to maximise their productivity with new technology. But do these apps and gadgets really make a difference or does it all to come down to wellbeing?

Recent YouGov research found that 54% of UK office workers are currently able to work remotely, with 30% feeling more productive when not in the office and only 17% saying remote working reduced their efficiency. The need for technology to help workers capitalise on their time out of the office is only growing.

There’s no substitute for hard graft, but there are certainly ways to help make your time more effective and go a little further.

Tools of the trade

With innovative technology, often freely available, working from home has never been easier. There are a whole host of tools and apps to help you manage your workload, from time management to faster invoicing. 

Slack is a team communication app which helps remote workers to collaborate on projects. The app is comprehensive and brings together several features – think of it as a mix between email, instant messaging and Basecamp. There’s also a handy desktop notification which can be muted when you don’t want any distractions.

Keeper stores all those important passwords that you need during the day. Not only does this work across multiple devices, it also uses finger print activation for added security. It can be controlled from a central distribution point and administrative privileges allocated to select people to minimise the risk of losing any data.

Trello is a time management app. Organise your deliverables, to do list and almost anything else you can think of. Trello makes keeping on top of a growing to-do list all the easier.

Getting the right hardware

Hardware has also come along massively in recent years, with new advances in mice, monitors and processors all making working from home more productive than it’s ever been. New technology can be helpful in all sorts of ways. The key is to understand exactly what you need out of your gear.

One of the biggest developments in the last few years is in new ‘ultrawide’ monitors. These monitors offer considerably more screen real estate – typically going from 27” to 34”. This essentially means there’s far more space on the monitor for files and programmes, but without compromising on image quality. This can help save a considerable amount of time flicking between different files, especially while working on multiple documents/spreadsheets.

The humble mouse can also make a big difference to productivity. Wireless mice can offer a lot more convenience if you’re always on the go with your laptop. Thankfully, many newer mice also come with the option for additional macro buttons. These buttons can be set up for a variety of tasks, such as copy & paste, switching between files or even opening specific programmes, all at the press of a button. These can be tremendous time savers, especially if you frequently work on spreadsheets or documents. This functionality is no longer limited to just mice designed for video gaming and can be found on many more traditional models as well.

As well as having the right technology, an increased work/life balance and regular breaks can also boost productivity.

While your clients might not be thrilled with you watching a daytime soap, looking at cat videos or regularly raiding the fridge, evidence suggests that a quick skive isn’t as bad as you might think. So, could skiving in fact be good for productivity?

Cute animals

Per recent research, those cute cat videos you love so much might not be such a waste of time.

In 2012, researchers at Hiroshima University set a series of tasks for students. Some had looked at kitten and puppy pictures beforehand, while others looked at pictures of adult cats and dogs or photographs of food.

The result? The students who looked at baby animals were able to work more productively. Why? Because when we see something small and cute, we instinctively want to care for them, meaning we become more observant and conscientious.

This suggests that, if we skive off work for a few minutes to look at kitten pictures, the quality of our work may well improve.

Interestingly, in our own survey of UK-based freelance professionals*, we found that 41% regularly 'skive' while working by browsing the web. If you happen to click on some kitten videos while doing so, research suggests it may not be the worst way to spend ten minutes.

Take regular breaks

These findings are backed up by separate research by the National University of Singapore, which found that internet browsing has restorative powers.

According to the study, the more a person works, the worse their work becomes – which is why regular breaks are important.

Interestingly, resisting the urge to skive, even for a minute or two, won’t just limit potential productivity – it may actively decrease it. Scientists at the Harvard Business School discovered that not giving in to the temptation to glance at Facebook or watch a YouTube video, for example, could make us less attentive.

In our own research, we found that 26% of us take a quick break to recharge by watching TV, while 12% like to refresh by taking a well-earned nap.

Take a well-earned trip

It’s not just little breaks during the working day that are beneficial in the long run. While short rests may help boost our attention spans, its longer breaks that really improve our overall performance.

In 2011, clinical psychologist Francine Lederer told ABC News that even a one-day break can encourage a “better life perspective” and make a worker feel more motivated.

Now obviously, you can have too much of a good thing and no one should slack off for a whole day. But the point stands that not working flat-out will almost certainly make you more productive – especially if there’s a small element of procrastination involved.

Fortunately, science tells us that these guilty pleasures are giving our productivity a boost. So, with that in mind, here’s our pick of the best videos on YouTube to really get your productivity flowing:

  1. Munchkin the teddy bear gets her exercise
  2. Surprised kitty
  3. Giant panda plays in the snow

So, what tools do you use at home to increase your productivity? And have you ever been guilty of slacking off when you should be working? Have your say in the comments below.

*The apps detailed within this article are for information purposes only and are not endorsed by or affiliated with AXA Insurance UK plc.