People & Leadership

Maximize employee productivity during times of uncertainty

Employee productivity during times of uncertainty can drop. Here are some tips on raising employee productivity during a crisis.

Man sitting on park bench

Operating at peak efficiency is a fundamental necessity in any competitive business environment. But focusing on employee productivity during times of uncertainty is more important than ever, given the added challenges that typically accompany such conditions.

The good news is there are always methods to boost productivity, no matter what may be hampering it. And it’s not always clear to business leaders that inefficiencies, such as in financial and HR administration, are an unnecessary drag on their profitability. Sometimes it takes a period of disruption to recognize that such a situation exists.

A study commissioned by Sage prior to the novel coronavirus outbreak quantified opportunities for productivity improvement that are particularly strong in the small and mid-sized enterprise sector. Lost productivity due to inefficient manual execution and the use of legacy, on-site based IT systems to perform essential administrative tasks and strategic planning is estimated to have cost companies $346 billion in foregone revenue in 2019.

The study’s overarching conclusions are that:

  • Managers are spending too much time on administrative tasks,
  • Managers need to learn more about the availability of certain digital solutions, and
  • U.S. businesses are under-investing in digital tools and in training of employees to harness those solutions.

These shortfalls come into sharp focus when a pandemic causes employee to work remotely, even if only for a few weeks. Some administrative processes may not be handled well with a dispersed workforce without the right technology. Even during more settled times, improved information technology can pay substantial dividends.

Technology for uncertain times

Even when employees aren’t forced by public health concerns to work remotely, many do so when they can, not only to accommodate work/life balance issues but because they can be more productive in less congested and distraction-filled settings.

A technology stack that includes accounting and business finance applications, is sure to offer employees flexibility and agility even during times of uncertainty and, for that matter, in less volatile periods as well:

  • Real-time information: Instant synchronization with your bank tells you what you need to know to make timely financial decisions.
  • Data security: Cloud-based systems with multiple back-ups enable highly secure data storage.
  • Collaboration potential: Secure multi-user options facilitate teamwork.
  • Invoicing and payment receipt modules: Such tools enable optimized cash management and efficiency in bookkeeping.
  • Customized report generation: Your accounting system should be tailored to your information needs to run your business effectively.
  • Compliance assistance: Whether your business operates across multiple taxing jurisdictions or not, staying up to date on those ever-changing obligations can be a productivity killer. The best cloud-based accounting systems do the heavy lifting.

Another key technology tool to maximize employee productivity during times of uncertainty is a human resource management system (HRMS) that streamlines employee benefits, payroll, time and attendance record keeping. While these systems enhance your HR staff’s productivity, it also takes HR data analytics capability to adapt quickly to changes in your overall workforce needs.

HR data analytics

HR data analytics enables you to assess, among other things, workforce performance and individuals’ roles in achieving organizational objectives. A good HR analytics package should also allow you to model different workforce organizational structure configurations, should business or economic developments indicate a need for restructuring. During times of uncertainty, such what-if modeling helps you to construct contingency plans to adapt to new conditions quickly while maintaining employee productivity.

Even with quickly optimized talent configuration around your organization, uncertain times can lead to a productivity drain among some team members. This happens most often when those uncertain times involve stress-inducing economic turbulence. Understanding common stressors and, ideally, being able to reduce stress levels, can complement technology-assisted productivity enhancement strategies.

Many employees may be concerned about job security, family health, and personal finances.

Utilize proactive communication to address employee concerns

When there might be a sound basis for such questions, sometimes just getting them out on the table, even with no clear way to eliminate them, helps to alleviate stress. Proactive and transparent communication of these issues can address their worries head-on. All you can do is to treat employees with respect by keeping them abreast of what’s happening with the company and your efforts to keep the ship steady with their help.

Explain that the company is stronger when everybody does their best, and encourage their input on solutions to challenges you may be facing. Open, two-way communication can help mitigate the concerns shared throughout the organization.

Stress isn’t the only potential cause of a decline in employee productivity. Another is burnout due to overwork caused by a decline in staff. If that’s the culprit, carefully evaluate the workload distribution to assess whether shifting some responsibilities is possible. Also, acknowledge the difficulty of the situation and point to any visible light at the end of the tunnel.

That light might not be the likelihood of an early return to “normal” conditions. It could instead be the prospect of the application of technology solutions that, by increasing employee productivity, will enable staff to accomplish what they need to in less time. Plus, a more efficiently run company is a more profitable one, inspiring confidence in the future.

The information contained herein is for general guidance purposes only. It should not be taken for, nor is it intended as, legal advice. We would like to stress that there is no substitute for customers making their own detailed investigations or seeking their own legal advice.

While we have made every effort to ensure that the information provided herein is correct and up to date, Sage makes no promises as to completeness or accuracy and the information is delivered on an “as is” basis without any warranties, express or implied. Sage will not accept any liability for errors or omissions and will not be liable for any damage (including, without limitation, damage for loss of business or loss of profits) arising in contract, tort or otherwise from the use of or reliance on this information or from any action or decisions taken as a result of using this information.