How To Help Your Team Avoid Productivity Tool Overload

By Adrian Fisher, Founder and CEO of PropertySimple, a real estate technology company that helps real estate agents build a brand worth talking about.

Before the onset of Covid-19, in 2018, 70% of the global workforce was working remotely at least once per week. Now, with quarantine measures in place in many locations, a lot of businesses are navigating working from home for the first time. 

To help employees stay motivated and connected, companies are turning to productivity apps. It is tempting to look to technology to smooth over any difficulties that teams are facing in this transition period. However, forcing your team to use too many tools at once can be overwhelming and cause unnecessary stress in an already chaotic time. 

In my experience managing a globally distributed team, it is important not to overcomplicate things by using too many platforms, and instead focus on the most useful ones. We’ve prioritized apps to improve communication, which has helped the team stay on the same page and continue to work efficiently. We determined what our most urgent needs were, selected tools that would meet those needs and made sure that all team members were trained on how to use them. This helped our remote team stay engaged and on top of projects.

In this article, I’ll share a few tips on how to audit the platforms you’re already using and choose the best tools for your remote team. 

Audit existing tools.

Before deciding what changes to make or which new apps to begin using, the first step is to take stock of those already in use. Many companies start using tech in response to specific needs or challenges. However, this reactive approach can lead to a haphazard collection of tools. Many platforms have overlapping functions, which can lead to overcomplicated workflows and redundant work if team members are using multiple tools for the same task. 

While many platforms are free, some have subscription fees for premium features and syncing between multiple users. When companies use tools that perform the same functions, they are paying for capabilities they don’t need. To avoid wasting money on unnecessary or redundant systems, take stock of all the platforms already in use. This list should include the names of the tools, what they do and who uses them. Using the list, make comparisons, and eliminate tools that aren’t effective, aren’t being used or are duplicating functions. 

Determine team goals.

One way teams can avoid productivity tool overload is to ensure that they are contributing to achieving specific goals. Begin by looking at company and team goals and identifying areas for improvement, whether that’s increasing efficiency or customizing the client experience. Identifying the workflows that can be improved demonstrates what features and systems can help your team work better and achieve these goals.

Some teams may decide to let individual productivity apps be a matter of personal choice for each employee. Others may recommend or require specific apps for functions such as time tracking, scheduling or note-taking, to keep everyone on the same page. In either case, it’s important to consider different needs, perspectives and ideas across departments and functions so that the systems put in place help everyone work better.

Research available apps.

With team needs clearly defined, companies can then determine the best capabilities to address those. This could involve replacing existing apps, supplementing the stack already in use or using new tools. 

Before researching new options, create a budget. Then, when evaluating a set of tools, consider the combinations of capabilities that stay within budget and also meet company productivity needs. Some platforms sync with others or offer multiple functions to help centralize work across departments, which can help decrease the number of apps used.

When researching new tools, take advantage of free trials or comprehensive demos to get a sense of the features and user interface before committing. Having multiple employees test new options ensures that you pick the best tools for their entire team. 

Train team members.

Introducing multiple new systems at once can overwhelm employees and budgets. Instead, rank the tools by priority, and create a timeline for introducing them. Give employees explicit training or time to figure out how to use the new systems, and set expectations for how to use them appropriately and fully. Taking the time to train the team is essential because there is no point in acquiring new tools if no one knows how to use them to better manage, track, produce and measure their work. 

There are an overwhelming number of productivity apps available, but with these tips, companies can determine the tools they need. Business needs may develop and change. If they do, revisit these steps, because the need to communicate better and work more efficiently remains key to business success.

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