So once again, everyone was sat around the big table in the conference room on the top floor. It took over a quarter of an hour to deal with the issue at hand. And that issue was changing the time of a scheduled board meeting. Ten well-paid individuals had just spent valuable time feverishly flicking through their diaries – an activity that could have taken just a few minutes with the help of a digital service.
How is it still acceptable to cheerfully defend a fine leather diary against a digital calendar and claim that a Mont Blanc pen is the best tool for a to-do list? How is it that notes and documents are still written locally on each personal computer or, even worse, by hand and disappear in old pads and dusty folders?
The question might seem banal, but it is about focusing on activities that add value rather than wasting time on administration or looking for information. Many minutes per day, perhaps even full-time jobs, could be saved if all the meetings were booked via Doodle instead of in never-ending rounds of e-mails. If everyone used Dropbox to make their documents accessible, even to external partners. If everyone installed smart e-mail filters to sort the wheat from the chaff. If Evernote was used to organise notes, Scannable to save business cards directly into a contact list, Pipes to quickly summarise long texts, Instapaper to collect articles worth reading and make them available to colleagues with a thirst for knowledge. Or if Slack was made the company’s social hub for discussing new ideas and obtaining immediate feedback. The digital economy does not allow important information to be held by a single individual, where it cannot be shared, searched or discussed. It is easy both to misinterpret and to lose the scribblings of a traditional pen.
In an industrial context, potential efficiencies and automation of working processes are defined in detail, with little scope for the individual to express preferences for artisanal working methods. In the service sector, within management teams and administrative units, the situation is very different.
It is time to hack the office worker. In addition to saving time, a digitalised workplace can help with a move away from silos, traditional hierarchies and rigid processes that were suited to a different era. A digital toolbox makes it easier to share knowledge and networks, develop new ideas and collect data for complex decision-making. As companies make increasing use of a flexible workforce with a large proportion of freelancers and distance workers, technology is needed to bridge the physical gap and enable joint discussions, exchanges of ideas and feedback.
According to Quora Research, a substantial 77 percent of young employees in tech-based start-ups are open to ways of working that challenge existing norms. The equivalent figure is only 19 percent among employees at more traditional companies.
It is not difficult for either an individual or a company to carry out an analysis of the worst time wasters and distractions, and then source a suite of digital tools that provide a cure for the chaos – all it takes is the will. Then there are all the digital solutions that open up possibilities for a new way of working. To quote Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s founder and CEO, conventional businesses use new technology to simplify what they already do, start-ups use the technology to challenge the way everything is done.