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When tools like word processing software and Excel spreadsheets were introduced in the 80’s, the U.S. saw an incredible productivity boost. In the past 10 years, technology has only grown at a more rapid pace, so why have productivity levels tapered off? According to the latest US labor productivity statistics, American workers are putting in more work for a lower output.

The truth is that today most workers are more distracted than ever. They spend their days in a state of constant task switching. This results in perpetual stress, and employees being busy, but not productive. All this distraction affects work quality, with research showing that multitasking can be detrimental to focus and concentration.

Employees who manage their attention poorly and constantly in reactive mode have no time to reflect and apply their knowledge to their organizations’ business goals. However, the good news is that there are new tools on the market to help you focus your work day and get more done.

The best productivity tools available

Productivity tools are becoming more and more integral to companies as the pace of business changes, and competition heightens. Employees must contend with providing immediate responses and high quality service to customers – coupled with the strain of working with teams across different locations and often across the world in different time zones.

Here are the tools that I’ve seen be most effective at empowering teams to work more productively:

  • Slack allows instant group chats between remote teams that can be integrated easily with other team to-do list collaboration tools such as MeisterTask or Droptask
  • Google Docs and Dropbox allow you to co-author and collaborate with your teammates in real time
  • Time management tools like Toggl measure time spent on tasks so that you can better evaluate how you’re spending your time
  • Streak, an app for Gmail and Google Apps, create pipelines inside your inbox to guide your work
  • There are also other packages such as Office 365 which provide an integrated solution so everyone can collaborate more effectively with team chat, online meetings, co-authoring and sharing files securely – as well as group email and social network for work

What you need beyond the tools

If tools aren’t implemented properly, they’ll be useless to the company and to you. You also need to address the fundamental reasons behind lower productivity levels.

Before any productivity tool can be effective, leaders need to address the wider issues. The workplace as we know it is changing. Technology, data, and the way we work have collided to reshape human resources. Just as Personnel evolved to become HR in the 1980s, so HR is now changing to become a people function. HR teams need to complete tasks quicker and more efficiently, so they can focus on employee experiences to boost productivity. Companies which do this I call People Companies.

Progressive businesses have grasped this reality and realize that the way people work has changed and industrial age HR best practices are out of date. Instead of focusing on tools and working practices, they focus on people. They become People Companies, able to know their employees so well that they can choose productivity tools that best suit the company. With the goal of saving time and alleviating stress, leaders who have a strong focus on what’s best for their people will be able to choose tools that are user friendly and can truly help you save time and alleviate stress.

Find out more about what being a People Company means. Read the research report.