With the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccines across many states in the US and around the world, some businesses have reopened their offices. For some organizations, remote work is only an option, and employees are not obliged to work from their office space against their will.
But if working from home has taught many business owners anything, it is a realization that some processes they use in person or in the office are inefficient.
So if you’re considering reopening your official workspace, or for some industries that never really shut down, here’s how you can streamline office work from now on.
Embracing technology is often ever-present in lists like these, and for good reasons. There are countless creative ways you can embrace technology in your office. These include but aren’t limited to:
Use electronic signatures
Before the pandemic, some employees working in offices passed around physical papers or documents whenever they needed other employees’ endorsements. With the outbreak of COVID-19 and the subsequent shift to remote work for most businesses, employees still signed documents, but they did it online.
Even if you go back to a physical office, encourage employees to use a signature maker to sign documents online and curb passing around papers. For some employees, some time will elapse before they get used to physical interactions of this nature without a rise in their anxiety levels. Additionally, embracing electronic signatures can also help you reduce your overall paper trail in the office, thus eliminating clutter.
Take project collaboration online
There’s no shortage of project collaboration tools to simplify project collaboration between teams or members of the same team. Trello, Slack, Asana, Basecamp, and many other tools exist solely for this purpose. Eliminate the unnecessary back and forth and even meetings by using a project collaboration tool.
Email is still a godsend. Apart from project collaboration tools, encourage employees to use emails more in communication instead of going over to another coworkers’ desks to resolve any issues. Often, these issues may not need any physical interactions to achieve resolution.
Co-worker “drive-by’s” is a common cause of interruptions in the office. Embracing technology may just help you to eliminate it.
According to the Harvard Business Review, 65 percent of senior managers have complained that meetings keep them from completing their work. Additionally, meetings, even when well-intended are known to interrupt workflow and stop employees from carrying out their job roles to the best of their abilities. Sometimes, employees procrastinate on urgent tasks because of lengthy or unending meetings.
No, the solution isn’t eliminating meetings. It is asking yourself these questions before scheduling any meeting:
- Can this be resolved over email or a project collaboration tool without sacrificing the quality of the resolution?
- Is it an emergency, or can the meeting wait?
- Which employees must attend this meeting?
- How will I ensure that the meeting sticks to its agenda?
In my experience, these changes are strenuous. But if you talk to your staff, you’ll get a better glimpse of how they feel about meetings at work and any necessary adjustments. Also, understand that implementation may take time. But stick to it, and you’ll be glad you did.
Audit your business processes
Streamlining office work is not a set-and-forget affair. Just because the last sub-head was about reducing meetings does not mean your organization must do it, especially after getting employee input.
What is more important than just reading this and hurrying off to implement it is pausing to think:
- Do we need this in our organization?
- Will this streamline our processes or complicate them?
- When can I confidently assess the impact of a particular process on productivity?
Remember, just because a new system or approach is challenging doesn’t mean it should be written off. It can reveal other areas that can benefit from an overhaul in the office.
For example, you may not notice how much paper trail your employees leave at work until you introduce electronic signatures. Or you may not realize how much meetings are a time-suck and productivity killer until you reduce them.
The point is, you can only get this information by a process audit, and getting an audit is impossible for processes you do not adopt in the office.
Streamlining office work is a science and an art
Successfully streamlining office work involves a mix of data, analysis, intuition, creativity, emotions, and logic.
Sometimes inspiration comes from articles like these, but you must trust and analyze data from your employees or your office, in addition to using your creativity to decide what will work best for your business needs. Streamlining processes in this manner will enable you to make the right decisions regarding your office work in a way that keeps your employees happy and grows your business.