With more than a third of Americans now fully vaccinated, the days of WFH life are numbered. Although Twitter, Microsoft, and Facebook have given employees the option of permanent remote work, 83 percent of CEOs want employees back at the office.
If your company is preparing to welcome employees back, you should expect a transition period. Most employees now believe they’re more productive at home. There are no co-workers to distract them, no long commutes, and they can adjust their schedule as needed. As your team returns to the office, you should be thinking of ways you can help them focus and make time for meaningful work.
Here are six must-have tools to boost productivity in the office:
A strange thing happened to meetings during lockdown: The number of meetings workers attended increased, but the length of those meetings actually decreased. A return to the office means those Monday-morning meetings could start to drag on again. You need a permanent solution to keep things on-task, on-time, and ensure that everyone leaves with clear next steps.
Creating a meeting agenda can bring focus and purpose to any meeting. Fellow is a platform that allows you to build agendas, take notes, and jot down action items during the discussion. The platform has pre-designed templates built right in if you don’t know where to start. After the meeting’s over, you can give feedback on projects, assign tasks to specific team members, and send automated follow-ups.
If your company is like most, the return to work won’t mean having everyone in the office every day of the week. Three-quarters of companies plan to adopt a hybrid model, with some employees working remotely and some working on-site. If you didn’t adopt a streamlined task-management platform during lockdown, now is the time to get one. With teams being split up, it’s going to get even harder to keep track of who is doing what.
ClickUp is a productivity platform that makes it easy for teams to collaborate on projects. Employees can view the tasks assigned to them or see at a glance where tasks are in the team’s workflow. They can share documents and chat directly within the platform itself, so it’s much easier to stay on-task.
During lockdown, you probably found yourself tethered to your inbox more than usual. You didn’t want to miss important messages from your team, but checking your email every few minutes can seriously hamper productivity. For the average person, it takes 25 minutes to get back on task after an interruption. It’s also easy to get distracted by unanswered messages and lingering tasks cluttering up your inbox.
Boomerang is an email plugin that can help you reach inbox zero or simply improve focus when spending time in email. It allows you to make a message disappear and then reappear on a specific date, after a certain amount of time, or if you haven’t received a reply. Boomerang is a great productivity tool for managing items that aren’t urgent, as well as tasks that require followup.
Meetings don’t have to be a waste of time if you invite the right people and stick to an agenda. But it’s hard to justify the time your employees spend actually scheduling those meetings. According to one study, workers in large organizations spend more than four hours each week arranging meetings. This is mostly due to the back-and-forth of trying to coordinate schedules.
To curb this practice, get a tool like CalendarHero, which automatically schedules meetings using employees’ real-time availability. CalendarHero is super customizable, allowing users to set buffers between meetings and specify how much notice they require for a meeting to be booked. It also detects attendees’ time zones and will send automatic reminders.
One of the biggest challenges of returning to the office will be adjusting to a new workday rhythm. Working remotely allowed your team members to skip their commute, and they might have used some of that time to work undisturbed before everyone came online for the day.
As your team readjusts to a new schedule, time-tracking software like RescueTime can help them get real about their work habits. RescueTime tracks the time workers spend online, in applications, offline, and even in specific documents. Then it provides detailed reports on employees’ “productive time” and “distracting time.” If needed, your team can utilize the built-in time-management training and set goals for themselves to build better habits.
6. Cold Turkey Blocker
When your team members return to the office, they’re going to be dealing with a host of new distractions: employee birthdays, impromptu meetings, and that coworker who just can’t take a hint. To help employees in their time of need, invest in a tool to help them manage their distractions.
Cold Turkey is a tool that bills itself as “the toughest website blocker on the Internet.” While it can’t “block” that chatty coworker from appearing at an employee’s desk, it can block distracting websites and applications like Slack for set periods of time. Cold Turkey can block specific URLs, keywords, or the Internet as a whole. And because it’s system-based, users can’t cheat by switching browsers or changing the time zone on their computer.
Whether your team loved WFH or hated it, don’t expect it to be smooth sailing the first day back at work. Humans are, by nature, creatures of habit, and what worked during lockdown won’t necessarily work when everyone’s back in the office. Productivity may suffer at first, but it will likely return to pre-pandemic levels. Having an arsenal of tools at your disposal can pave the way for a smoother transition.