During the COVID-19 pandemic, many businesses dramatically restructured their tools, their workflows, and the way they interacted with one another. Some of those solutions were cobbled together out of necessity and even desperation: a patchwork quilt of tools that helped get the job done through an emergency situation.
Now, many businesses are returning to the physical office environment, often with substantial changes to their workflows, their project management, and their expected productivity. Many businesses are shifting to a hybrid work model, in which they allow their employees to work from home part or all of the time or have all-remote employees who do not have to come into the office. While many things are going back to normal, COVID-19 has wrought permanent changes in the way many businesses operate.
How can you reshuffle all the workflow tools your business pulled together to maximize productivity during COVID-19 and ensure that they are a good fit for your current work environment?
1. Inventory the tools you have been using.
What tools did you purchase or pull together during COVID-19 to help meet the specific and changing needs of your business? What tools did your business already have? Start by making a clear list of your tools, then ask yourself a number of critical questions.
What do those tools accomplish?
Take inventory of the functionality of your tools. What purposes do they serve? What functions do they offer? Include functions that your business might not be using as well as the functions that your employees already make use of on a regular basis.
Is there any overlap between tools?
Many businesses quickly purchased whatever tools seemed to give them the best odds of accomplishing their goals in the midst of a difficult, trying year. Sometimes, you might have been able to modify your existing tools. Other times, you might have turned quickly to recommended solutions without taking the time to determine whether you already had solutions that might accomplish the same purpose–or whether a new tool could take over some of the functionality of an existing tool.
Take a look at the overlap between those tools. Determine whether you have two tools that accomplish a single purpose–or three tools in operation where you might only need two. Keep in mind that you aren’t necessarily immediately eliminating tools. Instead, you’re taking a look at the options you currently have available.
How are your employees using those tools?
Ultimately, your employees–and the way they make use of the tools you have on hand–are the best gauge of the effectiveness of those tools and how they work to help your business accomplish its goals. If you have tools that are gathering dust, virtually speaking, because your employees do not use them, chances are, they aren’t a good solution for your business–or your employees haven’t received the training and support necessary in order to use them. On the other hand, if you have a tool that your employees use on a regular basis, even if it does not necessarily fit all of your needs, omitting it from your business plan may result in disaster.
2. Consider the current (and future) needs of your business.
“Pivot” was named the ANA 2020 word marketing word of the year, and with good reason. Throughout 2020, as guidance and regulations changed–and were often different from one state to the next, much less from one month to the next–many businesses had to quickly pivot their marketing, their products, and their workflows. With the shift back to a more traditional office environment, many businesses are once again facing the need to pivot–but this time, you have a little more forewarning and a little more time to plan.
Carefully consider the current and future needs of your business. You may want to ask:
- When are employees returning to the office?
- What percentage of your employees will be returning to the office? Will any of your employees still be engaging in remote work for some time to come? Do you plan to offer hybrid scheduling options, which may change the tools you need in order to help employees be equally productive both in and out of the office?
- How do you measure productivity in your workplace? What specific measures show what employees are able to accomplish?
- How do your employees handle communication about projects?
- How do you make project data available to your employees? Are they able to easily access that data from wherever they are or do they need additional support in accessing data related to a project?
- Are your existing tools as streamlined as possible, or do you have communication, project management, and workflow tools that spread information over a confusing labyrinth of locations?
Then, compare your goals for your business with your existing tools. Do those tools help you meet your goals? Do you have tools that aren’t helping you meet your business goals or maintaining your overall workflow? If so, it may be time to remove those tools from your arsenal.
3. Consult your employees.
Your employees may have considerable opinions about the tools that are most efficient and the ones they actually use most often. Sometimes, the features they use may surprise you–and their specific needs may be different from the ones you think they have. Listen to your employees regarding the tools they use most often, what features they use, and what features they would like to see. Ask what difficulties your employees may have faced:
- Keeping up-to-date on the latest information about a project.
- Communicating about a project, especially between departments.
- Locating information or documents related to a product.
- Keeping track of their overall productivity or tracking hours, if relevant to your pay structure.
As your business returns to a new normal after COVID-19, it’s time to take an inventory of your existing processes and tools: to keep the ones that are working for your business, discard the ones that aren’t, and create a more effective plan for the future. If you need help accomplishing those goals or managing your tech tools, contact us to learn more about how we can help.