What worktech tools can boost your productivity in the next year? Check these recommendations for better time management and collaboration in 2023!

WorkTech Tools: Your Quick Guide to Productivity in the New Year

When the pandemic suddenly forced millions of people to work remotely, employers weren’t sure what to do next. Because the transition was nearly instantaneous, this shift wasn’t easy. But eventually, many people adapted to remote work and learned how to operate effectively in virtual team settings.

Indeed, only 9 months after the Covid lockdown began, Upwork estimated that 42% of U.S. employees were still working from home, and nearly 70% of managers said work was progressing much more smoothly.

What helped individuals and organizations move forward efficiently through tough times? In part, successful teams turned to best-of-breed productivity tools.

Great WorkTech Tools Make a Difference

Now, nearly 3 years later, great worktech tools matter more than ever, as employers strive to offer people continued flexibility in how they get work done.

Effective managers have learned that some applications are especially useful at helping individuals and teams prioritize tasks, manage their time, collaborate, and explain important work concepts with job aids.

That’s why we’ve compiled a list of 5 worktech tools to help optimize individual and team performance and productivity, going forward.

5 Applications Worth Considering:

 

1. Slack: Communication and Collaboration

What worktech tools can help your teams improve productivity in 2023? Learn about Slack and more in this article

Source: Slack

Slack facilitates communication and collaboration among teams by consolidating messages, file sharing and chat activity in a central digital workspace. This lets people organize conversations by topic so they can avoid repetition and confusion while simultaneously conveying information to other group members. It also supports direct conversations with individuals and subsets within a group.

Because these conversations happen asynchronously, everyone can check updates and move discussions forward when it’s convenient for them. And with all related communication available in one place, individuals can easily revisit and refresh their understanding of tasks and stay up-to-date with the latest status. This leads to better team results.

Some of Slack’s IRC-style features include:

  • Personalized chat rooms (channels), for topics, private groups and direct messaging
  • Searchable content, including conversations, people, files and more
  • Emoji buttons to add flair and personality

Also, this tool is compatible with most applications that enable file and document sharing, which makes project workflow management and version control highly efficient.

Slack’s free plan lets users view and search their most recent 10,000 messages. Graduated paid plans give users the opportunity to add more functionality as their reach and requirements grow. 

2. Hubstaff: Time Tracking

What worktech tools should you consider for workforce productivity in 2023? Learn about Hubstaff

Source: Hubstaff

Hubstaff has operated as a virtual team for nearly 20 years. The company uses its own experience to design and deliver a workforce management software suite that helps businesses spend less time tracking workgroup activity and more time focusing on company growth and success.

This platform bundles time-tracking and proof-of-work functionality with project management, automated payroll management and more – all designed to streamline remote work management.

With its time-tracking software, Hubstaff can help dozens of team members work remotely. Despite being in different locations, employees can collaborate and coordinate effectively by leveraging these features:

  • Online timesheets
  • Time reporting
  • Randomized screenshots 
  • Mouse movement tracking to supervise team activity and engagement

Hubstaff is highly effective at helping remote leaders analyze team efficiency and encourage accountability. If you want to try before you buy, a 14-day free trial is available with limited features.

3. Trello: Project Management

What worktech tools can improve your productivity in 2023? Learn about Trello and other applications

Source: Trello

Next on our list of top productivity tools is Trello. This online list-making application is built on the Japanese-inspired Kanban (visual signal) model. Developed by a subsidiary of Atlassian, Trello is a highly adaptable project management tool.

Trello helps track project progress across multiple stages. It is useful in multiple contexts, from lesson planning, school bulletin boards and gaming to web design, real estate management and law office case administration.

With Tello, users can:

  • Create customized task boards featuring columns with various task status options (such as To Do, In Progress, Pending Approval, Done)
  • Set deadlines for each task
  • Move tasks between columns as they progress
  • Add multiple people to cards and use the message feature to communicate with the group simultaneously

Trello offers three business plans – standard, premium, and enterprise – as well as a free plan for individuals and small teams.

4. Evernote: Note-Taking

What worktech tools can improve your productivity in 2023? Learn about Evernote and other applications

Source: Evernote

Evernote is a popular note-taking application that helps team members easily organize and share notes. It lets users create, save and archive ideas and resources in a variety of formats, including audio, video and saved web content and reference links. Notes are archived as virtual notebooks that users can label, annotate, search, edit and export.

With Evernote, people can also:

  • Sync notes across various devices so they’re available to multiple team members, simultaneously
  • Read digital media in a way that looks and feels just like physical documents
  • Integrate group note management with workflows in email and team productivity apps such as Slack, Salesforce and Microsoft Teams

Evernote offers free usage with limited monthly features, and paid plans with expanded storage capacity and enhanced features.

5. RescueTime: Reduce Work Distractions

What worktech tools can improve your productivity in 2023? Learn about RescueTime and other applications

Source: RescueTime

Last but not least is RescueTime, an application built by remote workers for remote workers. RescueTime is designed to help minimize distractions so people can focus on work and improve individual and team productivity. It does this by recording your digital device usage and time spent engaging with various applications and websites.

The company’s mission is to support better work-life balance by helping people:

  • Continuously track their time on websites and apps, so they’re more aware of how they use their time and can adjust their habits for greater efficiency
  • Minimize wasted time by encouraging successful productivity strategies

This app lets users manually modify its default settings to fit individual goals and preferences. A free 30-day trial is available, while the paid version helps users:

  • Set goals 
  • Activate “Focus Time” (block distracting alerts, applications and websites)
  • Record offline events

Which WorkTech Tools are Right for Your Team?

The number of productivity tools has exploded in recent years. Certainly, they can help team members work more effectively together. But too many tools – or the wrong ones – can be counterproductive. Pointless or unpopular tools can actually discourage people, disrupt workflows and decrease output.

So, before adding to your worktech stack, always research and test your selections. Start by asking your team for recommendations. They’re close to the action, so they’re likely to have good ideas. Plus, if you implement solutions recommended by team members, they’re more likely to adopt them and encourage others to do so.

Also, be sure to think about the best way to roll out new tools. Avoid overwhelming people with too many options all at once. Instead, prioritize and introduce tools over time, so everyone can learn about them and integrate them into their workflow. This also gives you time to determine the impact of each incremental step forward.

No matter what, keep driving toward improvement. Eventually, you’ll see more people working more collaboratively and effectively while meeting more deadlines. And ideally, wherever your people are located, they will feel more engaged, efficient and comfortable contributing to your organization’s success.

Workforce Engagement is Sinking - How Can You Turn the TIde? Good advice for modern leaders from a veteran HR executive

Workforce Engagement is Sinking. How Can You Turn the Tide?

Have you noticed that workforce engagement and motivation are slipping? You’re not the only one. In April, Gallup confirmed that U.S. workforce engagement declined from a high of 36% in 2020 to 34% in 2021.

2022 hasn’t been any better. This year, only 32% of full-time and part-time employees told Gallup they’re engaged, while 17% say they are actively disengaged.

What’s happening here? Why is work engagement declining? And what can you do to prevent burnout and unnecessary resignations on your team?

Why Is Engagement In a Slump?

Every business is different. However, there are some common trends we can point to as we search for underlying reasons for decreased engagement.

Burnout, high turnover, and poor communication are among the most prevalent causes. And these problems only get worse when good employees stop caring. That’s because new team members tend to look to high-achieving colleagues for advice, motivation, and guidance.

Let’s look closer at each of these factors:

1. Burnout

While burnout can be linked to chronic hustle culture, return-to-office concerns also are playing a role. After many people were forced to work from home in 2020, they’ve grown accustomed to choosing where and when they work. Now, when called back to the office, many want to hold on to remote or hybrid work models and flexible schedules. Who can blame them?

When employees feel they’re losing a sense of choice over their work, or they recognize an imbalance in work/life responsibilities, they’re more likely to disengage or “quiet quit.” No wonder this phenomenon has been gaining traction during the past year.

2. Turnover

All this dissatisfaction naturally leads to higher employee turnover, which (no surprise) also influences engagement.

On one hand, welcoming a new coworker or manager can be exciting. However, the learning curve that comes with getting a new team member up to speed can create a work imbalance for veteran employees, even if it’s just for a short time.

This imbalance can create feelings of resentment, especially when engagement is already suffering for other reasons. As a result, more people could decide to leave. And if you don’t pay close attention, this can spiral into a very costly vicious cycle.

3. Poor Communication

When organizations try to accommodate hybrid, remote, or flexible work, it can be hard to communicate effectively. Virtual meetings provide more flexibility and enable a sense of work-life balance that many employees now prefer.

But if instant messaging or online video calls are your team’s only form of communication, this isn’t a sustainable way to work. If you don’t use these tools wisely, it puts effective collaboration and productivity at risk. For strong results, you need a plan.

How to Lift Workforce Engagement

Current engagement numbers don’t look good, but that doesn’t mean HR and business managers are powerless. Some U.S. companies have been able to increase workforce engagement despite difficult circumstances. Here are four solutions that can help you improve:

1. Create a Game Plan for Remote or Hybrid Work

Not all companies are able to offer remote, hybrid, or flexible scheduling opportunities. If yours does, then make sure you develop and execute a supportive strategy, so everyone in these roles can succeed.

As previously mentioned, flexible work opportunities are likely to create confusion among employees if work processes and expectations aren’t communicated clearly or executed thoughtfully. Core workplace principles like accessibility, transparency, and inclusion are especially important.

Talk with your managers and colleagues to get their input about remote work practices they recommend for your organization. For example, you may find that using apps like Slack, Teams, or Monday to conduct brief daily online meetings will add a layer of accountability.

2. Encourage Employees to Take Time Off

42% of U.S. employees say they haven’t taken a vacation in the past year. That’s a huge percentage. Working too long without a break will only make stress and burnout worse.

Encourage your staff to take their allotted PTO by creating a culture that supports taking time to rest and recharge. If you are on the leadership team, set an example. Take your time off and try not to respond to work messages outside of working hours.

3. Invest in the Right Tools

Another important way to prevent burnout is by investing in the right tools for your staff. Note that this isn’t just about technology. It may mean you’ll need to purchase new software or update existing technology. But it can also mean outsourcing specific activities to a specialized services provider.

Start by identifying the bottlenecks in your team’s workflows. Then consider any solutions that can reduce or remove redundant or unnecessary tasks. Think in terms of cost-effective ways to automate and streamline work activities.

4. Strive to be Approachable and Transparent

In a healthy workplace culture, communication moves freely to and from all corners of the organization. It’s not just about a top-down flow, but bottom-up, and side-to-side as well.

If employees aren’t comfortable voicing their opinions, feelings, and suggestions, they’re more likely to burn out. To lift engagement, commit to creating an open work environment that welcomes feedback and ideas at all levels.

This is less about formal initiatives and more about consistent behavior among leaders and managers. It’s about showing up every day, listening, and being responsive.

Final Thoughts

Many factors are contributing to the recent decline in workforce engagement. Although the solution may seem complex and out of reach, try some of these recommendations. I think you’ll be surprised at the difference it makes in the way employees view your company and their work.

More often than not, people want to do their jobs. But when little things like lack of information, inefficient technology, mundane tasks, lack of support, and strict schedules pile up, it’s only a matter of time before people start to disengage.

Be the boss that steps in and reignites the passion that got your employees to apply in the first place. If you keep at it, engagement is sure to follow.

How can employers help remote teams connect through new "watercooler" activities? Get ideas on our blog

How Can Remote Teams Build “Watercooler” Connections?

impact awardThere’s no doubt about it anymore—the workplace has shifted fundamentally. Now, according to Pew Research, almost 60% of employees are working from home at least most of the time. That compares with only 23% before the Covid pandemic struck. And although this shift to remote teams has translated into mostly happier, more productive employees, it has taken a toll on healthy,  connected work cultures.

The same Pew survey says 60% of employees feel less connected with their coworkers while working at home. That’s not great news for a number of reasons, notably, for workplace culture and its impact on team collaboration, retention and recruiting. To put a finer point on it, over the last two years, the workplace watercooler has vanished.

For sure, making a “best friend at work” has become difficult in a remote-first workplace. Forging informal bonds that lead to creating those “best friends at work” is increasingly tough when we’re stuck on Zoom calls all day and lack the human connection that was so familiar to anyone who worked in offices or other central locations prior to 2020.

HR leaders are acutely aware of this situation. They know they need to find creative ways to bring employees together in simple yet meaningful experiences. But that’s very hard to do when nearly everyone seems to be online. We’re seeing the same challenges among our clients. So today, I want to talk about a few ideas for how you could potentially use wellness programming to replace the physical watercooler and start to build a remote-forward culture that will help attract and retain top talent.

3 Ideas to Help Remote Teams Feel Connected

1. Create wellness challenges and friendly competitions

One way to break down the virtual barriers among employees is to get them excited about competing in friendly ways. There are endless possibilities, but here’s one that works for our clients.

You could offer relatively easy-to-host fitness challenges like Spring Madness, where employees form teams and earn points for completing group challenges with activities that support brain health, nutrition, and physical fitness. This can get the blood pumping, while also drawing employees closer so they can create and reinforce those connections many are craving.

How can something this simple enhance employee wellbeing? Consider the feedback we’ve received from Eddie, an employee at one of our client companies. Eddie has come to really value the fitness challenges he participates in. They’ve given him a chance to network with people across his geographically distributed company.

“I’ve made tons of friends at work through these fitness challenges,” Eddie says. In fact, he’s been on fitness challenge teams with his manager and several other coworkers. Many colleagues he’s met through these challenges have provided him with career advice, as well.

“The amount of networking I’ve been able to do has been truly remarkable. It’s amazing how many people you can meet while sharing the goal of creating a healthier lifestyle.”

2. Facilitate virtual wellness coffee talks and meet-ups

I think one of the biggest benefits of the watercooler we all miss most is just the opportunity to chat briefly about little things that aren’t work-related. Taking a few moments to exchange thoughts about what’s going on in the world or in our daily lives helps us feel connected with other people.

That just doesn’t happen anymore. But we’ve found that hosting virtual wellness coffee talks and meet-ups gives employees an opportunity to get together casually and talk about something other than work.

These meet-ups are facilitated by one of our program managers in a way that makes them very conversational and non-threatening. Some topics we’ve focused on include mindfulness, sleep, social wellbeing, and more. This is a lightweight, low-risk, low-resource way to get employees more actively engaged with one another.

3. Encourage employees to join recreation leagues and clubs

Just because people may not be interested in commuting to a central location for a full day of work doesn’t mean they don’t want to get together. A local softball or kickball league organized by your organization could get employees coming together to move, catch up and have some fun as a group.

Also, don’t underestimate the power these kinds of recreation leagues can have on overall team building and work culture. Playing a sport together can have an incredibly powerful effect on your employees’ motivation, as well as their ability to bond as a team and work as a cohesive unit.

These team-building experiences can translate directly into happier, more productive employees pretty quickly. Ultimately, it can improve their sense of wellbeing and overall appreciation of their employee experience—no matter where they may be working from day to day.

Final Thoughts

Don’t these ideas sound relatively simple and doable? None of them require a huge resource lift. And they all have the potential to help you start creating that remote-friendly culture so many companies are trying to build right now.

It’s not just a fun way to take a break and replace classic watercooler conversations. It’s actually a way to develop trust, communication, and human connection that we all find indispensable in our work lives. Who knows? It may also become a differentiator that plays a key role in the future of your organization’s talent attraction and retention strategy.

Hybrid

How the Era of Hybrid Work Impacts Employee Travel, Spending, and the Workplace Experience

Sponsored by: SAP Concur

The next chapter of the future of work – hybrid work—is underway as businesses return to the physical office in some capacity while honoring employee flexibility to work from home. Hybrid work is new territory, and there’s more to consider than desk assignments. 

With employees working from different locations on any given day, there’s a need to reconsider the processes and policies that govern day-to-day work. Especially when it comes to employee spending. 

Here’s what is important to know about employee spend – through travel and expenses – in the era of hybrid work, and how it impacts the workplace experience.

Work From Anywhere Business Trips

Business travel took new shapes during the pandemic. While many organizations paused formal travel programs, some employees took personal trips with a business component. For example, the “work from vacation home” trend. Workers took advantage of remote work settings by taking trips with long stays. All they needed was Wi-Fi and a charging station, and they could work from Hawaii for a month. 

The flexibility to mix work and personal trips is likely to stick and become an expected aspect of workplace benefits. A recent SAP Concur survey of 1,000 U.S. business travelers found that nearly half of business travelers perceive “bleisure” travel – taking personal time off while on a business trip – as a standard workplace benefit. 

The hybrid workplace is likely to travel as well. Business travelers say that common workspaces during a business trip have included a café or coffee shop (70%), lobby (64%), waiting room (57%), and poolside (31%). Employees are now used to working from the couch or their bed. It makes sense that they’re more accustomed to non-traditional workspaces during business trips as well. Now, they’ll appreciate the flexibility to choose alternative lodging accommodations or casual business meeting spaces. 

As a side note, more than a third of business travelers (39%) have reported working from a restroom. But we’re not anticipating the start of porcelain cafes. 

Bumps in Hybrid Spend Processes

The hybrid work environment calls for adapted spend management processes. Not only are employees spending on new expense categories, like home office equipment, but the associated processes used to manage spending have typically relied on workers being in the office. Now, they’re conducting business from waiting rooms or restrooms, and without proper infrastructures, errors are likely to occur. 

An SAP Concur survey of 100 U.S. finance managers and 1,000 U.S. business travelers found that nearly all finance managers (98%) have seen an increase in non-compliant expenses during the past year. Though most (53%) believe those expenses stem from unclear policies, employees admit to being a bit more mischievous. Nearly two-thirds of business travelers admit to intentionally trying to get reimbursed for personal expenses. In fact, nearly all (89%) have submitted at least one travel expense in the past year that might have violated their company’s travel policies. On average, $3,397 of questionable expenses.

What could be motivating employees to skirt policies? In the past year, 86% of business travelers have reported that their company has been delayed in reimbursing their business expenses at least once. Nearly all agree this impacts their personal finances. Many people have been challenged by rising costs from inflation. As a result, late expense reimbursements that create added stress for workers are an issue.  

The Digital Office

One aspect of work provides consistency: the digital office. No matter where employees are, they’re plugged into digital infrastructures that enable them to do their best work. Travel and expense management solutions should fit within this framework and enable workers to make purchases, on the go, simply. 

Learn how to support and adapt to the future of travel and expense management in our eBook.