Change your Workforce with Technology Intersection and In-person Communication

By Steve ZoBell, Chief Product & Technology Officer, Workfront

The integration of technology into the modern workforce has drastically impacted what the typical day looks like and the variety of responsibilities expected from employees. Between responding to emails, providing status updates in project management tools, attending meetings and all the in between – many find it difficult to focus on what they were hired to do. At Workfront, we discovered enterprise workers spent only 39% of their day on primary job duties. So what makes up the other 61%? While there are of course the occasional breaks, the rest of the day is made up of what we call Shadow Work. The concept and necessity of shadow work will never go away. But as technology in the workplace is increasingly streamlined to enhance productivity, there are ways to bring these extra tasks out of the shadows, illustrate impact and provide visibility into work that is not a value add and should be automated.

Here are four key ways to highlight the breadth and depth of the work you’re doing and harness the power of technology to redefine your workday.

1. Establish a process by bringing the online, offline

Before you can use technology effectively, you must have a good process in place. Leaders can jumpstart this by bringing the online, offline with an in-person communication. As unnecessary meetings are often cited as one of the biggest time wasters, make sure there is a clear, focused goal so everyone walks away feeling productive. Teams need to learn how to identify things that are both urgent and important – and to have that same shared focus across the group. A common issue is for teams to be misaligned on priorities and the resources available to get tasks done. By bringing this focus together in-person, teams will learn to better communicate and think through which items are both urgent and important. Once this shared understanding is developed, technology and productivity tools can be integrated to further enhance the process. Another simple measurement you can use to validate the value of your meeting is to simply multiply the number of people in the room by the length of the meeting, then truly evaluate if, for example, the 9-person, 2-hour meeting is really worth devoting 18 hours of total time.

2. Get everything into a trusted system

Too much time and mental capacity is spent trying to remember things – to do lists, meetings, status updates. Rather than spend our mental energy trying to remember what the last update was on a project, teams need to aggregate everything into a central, trusted system. This shifts the administrative work online, and allows you to free up your brain power to solve bigger problems more creatively. If you are a team member and your technology resources are seriously lacking, advocate for yourself and your team. Do some research internally on what you and your team would like in a system, and how you feel it would benefit the company if you had the additional resource in place. Then start doing external research to find a product that aligns with your goals and your budget so you can make a strong case to leadership for the addition.

3. Categorize your work

Once you have a trusted system in place and can use technology to provide some more visibility into how you are spending your day, start categorizing your work. How much time is spent on responding to emails? How much time is spent in meetings? How much time do is spent on administrative tasks? How much time is spent on strategizing and big picture items? Once you have a clearer view, you can take ownership of your time and start to identify things that can be cut out or trimmed down. We need to get rid of the notion that meetings are unnecessary. Rather, look at the amount of time you spend in meetings to see what can be combined or communicated online to make better use of your time.

4. Automate non-value add work

Non-value add work (aka work that doesn’t contribute to your company’s goals) should be automated. This isn’t to say all work will be creatively stimulating 100% of the time. But there are items that can be removed from your day-to-day to relieve some of this administrative burden. Automated work is a higher order of the trusted system, so be sure that process and systems are in place before automating anything. This automation can be as simple as having key rules set up in your email solution that automatically file and store certain emails based upon sender or content, to more sophisticated work management systems that use machine learning to learn the way you are working.

Shadow work isn’t always a bad thing. But we need to be mindful of making the right trade-offs and setting clear priorities to bring visibility to our days, and instill an initiative and goal around it. It’s important to acknowledge these extra tasks exist and bring it out of the shadows. Only then will we will able to streamline for efficiency and spend more time contributing in a meaningful way.

Quote - Automated work is a higher order of the trusted system, so be sure that process and systems are in place before automating anything