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Apps such as Skype, FaceTime or Google Duo allow employees to connect and collaborate regardless of their location. (Rawpixel.com)

@Work | Tools

Texting, email among biggest productivity killers in the workplace

But there’s no shortage of tools that can help, including Yammer and Skype

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With all the technology available today, you would think that improved productivity is a given. But sometimes technology can hurt productivity more than it helps. A 2014 study by Harris Poll and CareerBuilder on the top productivity killers at work, areas cited by employees included cell phone/texting (50 per cent of respondents), the Internet (39 per cent), social media (38 per cent), and email (23 per cent).

Add that to lengthy meetings or commutes, workplace distractions, and overly complicated administrative tasks (think scheduling and file searches), and it becomes clear that things are not always as efficient as they could be.

On the upside, there is no shortage of tools that can reduce wasted time and effort, says Cheri Chevalier, general manager, Modern Workplace for Microsoft Canada. For example:

Mobile connectivity tools

“Commuting is a huge time waster,” Chevalier says. “Mobility can save hours of commute time by allowing complete connectivity and access to the office tools people need to create a seamless work experience.”

Video conferencing apps

For the same reasons, apps such as Skype, FaceTime or Google Duo provide a quick and easy way for people to connect and collaborate regardless of their location.

AI and machine learning

Microsoft and Intuit QuickBooks are among the tools actively engaged in integrating AI capabilities into their product suites. Whether creating advanced PowerPoint presentations or crunching numbers, the productivity benefits can be huge, Chevalier says.

Enterprise social/project management tools

Tools such as Yammer and Slack can break down communications barriers by connecting project team members in multiple places so they can access the same information and engage in real-time conversations.

Cloud-based scheduling, payroll and accounting apps

There is an endless choice of cloud-based offerings (such as FreshBooks, QuickBooks and Sage) that can help managers stay on top of essential administrative tasks.

File sharing apps

Hunting around for the right information or the most current version of a document can be simplified through popular services such as Dropbox™ and Google Drive.

Virtual assistants

Virtual assistants such as Google Assistant, Cortana or Amazon Alexa for Business can help workers keep track of schedules and other day-to-day activities with a simple voice command. Some assistants will even record, transcribe and translate conversations, Chevalier says.

Some productivity tools are free to end users. But even where there is a cost involved, it won’t be long before the productivity gains make that investment worthwhile.