March 31, 2023

Its CEO ActiveTrackAn experienced technology executive and entrepreneur focused on delivering enterprise-class solutions to mid-market businesses.

It is a challenging time to be a leader.

My social feeds overflow with articles about the growing headwinds undermining our economy—the impact of remote and hybrid work on recruiting and retention, the cost of idle commercial office space, the blot of SaaS technology consuming budgets.

Once a generational epidemic, today’s reality Looks very different Compared to past recessions, we need different guideposts to guide us forward. As I talk to other companies, there are four key areas of concern that keep coming up — and I thought I’d share a few thoughts on recommendations to help address them.

Workforce planning

Operational consistency in today’s work environment can affect employees’ ability to stay productive, stay focused and feel engaged. According to Gallup Information, only 36% of US employees are engaged in their work, leaving significant room for improvement. Consideration needs to be given to how resource requirements can be met within tight conditions for spending and recruitment.

Before taking drastic measures like reducing headcount, it’s worth asking first: Is anyone or any group currently underutilized or overutilized? Can certain employees take on more work or can work be redistributed? How does team productivity change in remote, hybrid and office work environments? Do we have the right training and policies to ensure sustainable balance and wellness? Answers to these questions can help prioritize key business initiatives that are less disruptive to the workforce, more engaging with employees, and more conducive to better business results.

Employee engagement and burnout

According to a 2021 report published By Asana (via CIO Dive), “72% of employees [feel] The stress of multitasking during the day with multiple platforms clamoring for attention.” How does this affect their focus, fatigue and morale? Even before the pandemic, 91% of professionals in the US said That uncontrollable stress or depression affects the quality of their work, and nearly 70% say their employer doesn’t do enough to reduce burnout. The shift to remote and hybrid work has exacerbated this. As we think about workforce planning and headcount, we must also think about how to retain and nurture the employees we already have.

As leaders, it is imperative that we ask: Where are employees spending their time? Is it too much, not enough or just right? How does it vary by time of day, day of the week or different locations? Are they constantly bombarded by interruptions and distractions? How does that compare across groups and individuals? Armed with this data, organizations can take steps to ensure healthy work practices that directly affect employee engagement and retention. This might include reducing unproductive meetings, eliminating constant management “check-ins,” or scheduling key work hours for collaboration.

Process optimization

For decades, organizational design experts have focused on a human-centered approach to improving how people work together and how companies respond to change. However, business leaders face many challenges in doing so, as NOBL Academy does describes:

“Bureaucracy stands in the way of our work moving forward. We’ve become less customer-centric, and don’t see how our actions affect the bigger picture. We’re tasked with responding to the world faster, not smarter, by working longer and harder.”

That “smart” part is the key How are top performers executing processes? How much of that work is deep work vs. multitasking vs. collaboration? Are there opportunities to learn from them and train others? What are the right metrics to choose to capture a baseline of productive work? How can we more effectively engage and empower employees to see and improve their own work practices? Establishing metrics for work hours, productive hours, and focused work hours can be a powerful way to gain insight into team efficiency and effectiveness—which brings me to the fourth and final consideration: technology use and investment.

Resource utilization and investment

“Assets” in this category include technology as well as real estate. According to Research By Ladder, “25% of all professional jobs in North America will be remote” by 2023. That’s not accounting for a lot of empty conference rooms and potential SaaS licenses. Mark Wayland, Box’s chief revenue officer, put it bluntly: “Our tech stack is like a crowded club — I can’t let another app in until I’ve given a few days off. … If you’re like, ‘Can I retire?’ Can’t answer that? Question, I’m not listening.”

He is not alone. While it’s true that remote work places an operational burden on IT, more CIOs are asking: Which technologies are responsible for my biggest costs? How are they being used, and by whom? Do any opportunities exist to optimize licenses or enhance training? Similar considerations apply to office space. Like back to the office ramps up, so rent and operating costs are inflation-driven. Hybrid and remote teams make these investments more difficult to justify. Do you know how often employees come to the office? Do you have more space than you really need? Is that space optimally configured to facilitate focused and collaborative activities that drive productivity and results?

Having the right insights can help turn economic uncertainty into action in tough times. Fortunately, many of the answers we need are right in front of us; We just need to look closer and harder to find them. The four areas above are a great place to start.

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