Good leaders know that finding enough ‘headspace’ for themselves and their teams will make them more productive. Tech, used wisely, can help them to do this and achieve a better work-life balance, writes Alex Arundale, group HR director at Advanced
Encouraging business leaders to step back from their work and take time out will have the desired effect only if they are given the means to do so.
We all know that achieving a better work-life balance can be tough. To change ingrained habits – for instance, regularly working late – it’s essential to understand the strategies behind reducing the pressure of work. One solution is to unlock productivity by ensuring that everyone can work smarter, not harder – as explained in my article in the September/October issue of Director (“Win back time: the most crucial thing an SME owner can do”).
So what can alleviate such pressure, transform the way we all work and thereby create more agile and productive organisations? The answer comes in the form of a digital strategy. Reassuringly, some businesses have already implemented one. According to a recent survey of SME leaders by Advanced, 35 per cent are using digital tech to automate processes and free up their time. But which particular technologies can truly help leaders to switch off?
1. The cloud. Cloud services can help you to focus on your organisation’s core activities, obtain economies of scale, minimise costs and reduce operational risk. Providing a real-time view of key operations, they offer you greater control and give access to data that can help you run every part of your enterprise more smoothly.
2. Mobile systems. These technologies will underpin any efficient, agile and collaborative organisation. SMEs should look to empower their employees to use mobile tech to work on the move, with real-time information, streamlining tasks and minimising the potential for departments to work in isolation.
3. Automation. Robotic process automation (RPA) tools can take on repetitive tasks, enabling humans to focus on more value-adding work.
4. Artificial intelligence (AI). Like RPA tools, AI applications can automate manual and low-skilled work, freeing people to enrich their roles while driving efficiency. Last year Gartner predicted that 85 per cent of customers will manage 85 per cent of their relationship with businesses through AI by 2020.
5. Predictive analytics. This tech can help leaders to win back precious thinking time to work on the business, not in it. Using data-driven dashboards, they can make informed decisions, anticipate challenges and make the most of new opportunities.
While some of these technologies were once seen as the exclusive domain of the very largest corporations, that’s no longer the case. Today, any business can benefit from such innovations to increase efficiency while minimising the workload stress of its employees.
That said, there must be an appetite for change across the workforce: all employees need to understand the value of using digital tools to maximise productivity. Otherwise, system implementations will be a waste of time. Leaders are the key to raising awareness here. It’s vital that they demonstrate the technology’s time-saving value and can address any concerns. For instance, automation doesn’t mean that robots are going to take all our jobs – far from it.
Lastly, it’s important that directors focus on those solutions that really meet their needs, so that the tech becomes an essential ally in their daily work.
The bottom line? If business leaders truly want to be able to switch off and achieve work-life balance, it’s time to switch on the productivity-enabling tech that’s available to them.
For more details about Advanced and its survey of SME leaders, visit oneadvanced.com/reimagine