Get productive during lockdown

Johannesburg, 28 Apr 2020
Read time 6min 00sec
Juanie Newby, Chief Executive Officer, CTU Training Solutions
Juanie Newby, Chief Executive Officer, CTU Training Solutions

The COVID-19 pandemic is impacting the way that people work, possibly changing it forever. It’s also highlighting more than ever before how technology can be used as a business enabler, with technologies such as online meetings and other productivity tools coming to the fore.

Companies that have enabled their workforce to operate remotely need to ensure they’re making the most of all of the productivity tools available to them, says Juanie Newby, CEO of CTU Training Solutions.

While almost all companies have productivity tools at their disposal, it’s often the case that they aren’t being utilised to their full potential – or that employees don’t even know they have access to them. Newby says the COVID-19 lockdown offers companies the perfect opportunity to educate their staff about these productivity tools and how best to use them. “Having your employees work remotely provides an opportunity for you to train them on the productivity tools at their disposal. Making use of online training courses is the easiest way to get your employees up to speed while enabling them to earn a certification.”

As an example of technology that can enable the remote workforce, Newby goes on to talk about the benefits of video conferencing. “Let’s say you need to have an important meeting, but half your team is travelling or working remotely. Video conferencing is a way to get all of the benefits of meeting face to face without the expense and hassle of planning something in person.”

Not only does video conferencing improve teamwork, it build better relationships in remote teams and, at the same time, saves on travel expenses. She cites the example of a software development firm that has several sizeable projects to discuss, but the team members are in three different offices across the country. Rather than create long e-mail chains or launch a conference call, both of which are easy to tune out, the team can get together in a virtual room. “Seeing your colleagues face to face increases engagement and productivity.

“The team can chat with each other from anywhere, anytime. Instant messaging tools also allow for screen sharing for fast decision-making. Saving a chat history helps hold onto the thinking that went into a decision.”

Newby lists 12 under-utilised Office 365 productivity tools that businesses could train their staff on during the lockdown period. (Source: Microsoft)

1. Microsoft Flow

This tool allows a user to automate workflows, called Flows, across applications. You can use Flow to connect e-mail and instant messaging alerts, synchronise files between applications or copy files from one service to another. For example, if someone fills out a form in SharePoint, you could use Flow to create a new lead in Dynamics365.

But it's not limited to Microsoft services. You could just as easily pull information from Facebook or push files into Dropbox using Flow. The key feature is connecting systems to enable your business to work.

2. Microsoft Forms

If you want to know what your readers think of your e-mail newsletter – or get your staff’s opinion of the new leave policy – this is the tool for you. It allows you to create surveys, quizzes and polls and monitor the results as they come in. The tool works with up to 5 000 recipients.

3. Microsoft MyAnalytics

Find out how you’re spending your work time, from how much time you spend on e-mail to who you collaborate with the most. The tool covers activities such as: Your Time, Network, Meetings, Email, Focus Hours, After Hours.

4. Microsoft Planner

If your team is distributed across the globe or even just the country, this tool can help you manage projects and deliverables, while organising teams. It provides four primary functions: an information hub, flexible categorisation, communication and insights. Users can create plans, assemble and assign tasks, share files, communicate with other users on the team and receive progress updates.

5. Microsoft PowerApps

You can build your own app using templates and then connect that new app to other services such as your CRM, SharePoint, an Oracle database and more.

6. Microsoft StaffHub

This app allows employees and their managers use a mobile device to manage schedules and keep in touch. Employees can use the tool to request time off or communicate with co-workers. Messages can be sent to individual members of the team or the entire team.

7. Microsoft Delve

This data visualisation tool brings together elements of social media with machine learning. Delve discovers content across four Microsoft integrated platforms – Exchange, OneDrive, SharePoint and Yammer, and in addition to aggregating data points, it looks for relevance in the information such as past interaction and activity between users.

8. Office 365 Groups

This platform provides a shared workspace for team members. It provides options to create and store documents, as well as shared e-mail. Group administrators can add members to the group or remove them.

9. Office 365 Video

This tool allows for upload, sharing and playback of video messages.

10. Sway

Sway is a professional presentation tool. It has a built-in design engine that helps produce visually appealing reports and presentations, allowing you to drag and drop images, text, videos and charts.

11. Power BI Pro

Power BI Pro is for those users publishing reports, sharing dashboards, collaborating with colleagues in workspaces and engaging in other related activities.

12. Microsoft Advanced eDiscovery

This tool supports easy search through Exchange Online mailboxes, SharePoint Online and OneDrive for Business sites in a single search. eDiscovery allows organisations to process thousands of files and to quickly and efficiently find relevant data.

Over and above productivity tools that will help employees make the most of their time at their remote workstations, Newby has the following tips for people working from home during the pandemic:

  • Start your day with gratitude.
  • Establish and follow a routine – this can also include an exercise programme to help reduce stress.
  • Set up a home office that is comfortable and efficient and free from any distractions.
  • Move around and take regular breaks.
  • Make time to be in contact with your teammates. You can create fun challenges and engagement activities that will keep you connected during the lockdown.
  • Use this time to attain valuable skills.

These are unprecedented times and this pandemic is changing everything. It creates opportunities to stand out and innovate.

  • We need to be positive, rational and smart.
  • We need to embrace this challenge and find a way forward.
  • We need leadership and faith in a time of uncertainty and fear.

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