Productivity is a never-ending battle.
Everyone talks about it all the time. Business owners want their employees to be as productive as possible. Both owners and managers are doing their best to provide physical and virtual working environments that inspire productivity and help their teams focus. And, of course, as individuals we want to be as focused as we can be as well! Being busy and productive and efficient is fulfilling! But it can also quickly become overwhelming.
There needs to be a balance of being productive without overworking ourselves and burning out. And thankfully, the productivity tools in Microsoft 365 can help you do just that. That’s why we’ve put together this Office 365 tools list to help you make productivity a priority without compromising your teams’ wellbeing, and put the Office 365 Microsoft productivity tools to the test for your business.
Preparing Yourself for Productivity
Productivity starts with you, first and foremost. Whether you’re an owner, manager or employee, you need to be putting plans in place for staying productive and making the most of your time. These Office 365 tools are all about putting mechanisms in place that will aid in productivity, and see you working more efficiently.
Have you ever spent hours trying to find a file, only to discover that it’s on a different device. Or that you didn’t save the latest version. Or that it got deleted in error. You are not alone! Searching for files is a huge time-sink that takes you away from the tasks at hand. When it comes to productivity, it’s an absolute nightmare.
Save yourself the hassle right off the bat and start using Microsoft OneDrive. Install it on all your machines and set it to sync files at all times. That way, you’ll have access to all the information that you need to work productively. You’ll be able to quickly and easily find files that you recently worked on. Plus the search functionality is far superior to your Windows 10 menu’s search. You can look for key phrases or keywords that you used within the file, and voila – OneDrive will find the file you’re looking for!
When tasks are flying in left, right and centre, it can be easy to lose track of what needs to be done and where priorities should lie. This can see time being spent in the wrong areas, which in itself is bad for productivity. But it can also lead to a sense of being overwhelmed.
Microsoft Planner helps you keep track of the tasks and projects that are on your plate, even allowing you to break them down into checklists. You can assign due dates and labels to help you prioritise, and can put tasks into ‘buckets’ according to the project they fall under, or how soon they’re due. And while this is helpful for individuals to manage their own workflows, it’s also incredibly useful for teams that manage projects where tasks are shared between multiple team members.
When people think of Microsoft Outlook, so many of them jump straight into thinking about email. But Outlook is about so much more than that. It’s a calendar, keeping track of your meetings and appointments. It’s a task tracker (especially when you link it to Planner). It’s an address and phone book. And, sure, it also tells you about the emails that are coming in. For one mailbox, or two, or five depending on how you want to set it up.
Outlook can (and perhaps should) be the hub that you work from – connecting everything together to improve your productivity. For me, it’s the first app that I open every morning, and the last one that I check every evening. It helps me to keep track of the tasks I’ve accomplished while at the same time preparing me for what lies ahead. And, most importantly, the central aim behind it is communication – a concept that is critical for staying productive.
Not another meeting. Do you ever have days that feel like they’re one meeting after another, without anything actually getting done? It’s more common than you may think. With virtual meetings having risen in popularity, so many are being scheduled on a daily basis that it’s easy to spend hours on end talking and discussing without really working.
There’s this little feature embedded in Microsoft Viva (formerly MyAnalytics) known as Focus Time. You can schedule a few hours every day, week or month where you can’t be disturbed by emails coming in or messages being sent. Your calendar even shows you as busy to avoid meetings being scheduled. And making sure that you set aside focus time with Viva’s help is so important for productivity because it gives you a chance to catch up and actually get work done, rather than talking about how you are going to do it.
Pen and paper are in the past, and Microsoft OneNote is the future of collaborative note taking!
No man is an island, or so the song goes. And no company can rely on a single person to get everything done. Or, as we like to say at Solid Systems, “Teamwork makes the dream work!” It’s when we all come together and work towards a shared goal that we are most motivated, and most productive. Here are a few Office 365 productivity tools that help teams work together effectively and efficiently.
Where OneDrive is all about setting yourself up for productive working by storing your files in the cloud, Microsoft SharePoint is all about making collaboration on documents quick, easy and efficient.
It’s so much more than just a space to store team files. Each team has a Site that shows you the latest documents that have been worked on, and you can jump into the same files as your fellow team members and work on them together, without getting in each others’ way. This makes collaboration on projects completely seamless. Plus there’s no need for the back and forth of trying to get a colleague to send you the latest version of a document – if it’s stored in SharePoint, you’ll automatically have access to it.
Oh, and did I mention just how easy it was to control that access? If a new employee joins your company, adding them to the right team and giving them access to the files they need is as easy as typing in their email address. And if a team member leaves or changes roles, removing their access is as simple as the click of a button.
Remember how earlier in this article I mentioned that communication is a critical concept for staying productive? Well, Microsoft Teams is the best possible communication tool for remote and hybrid work environments.
Sending emails can often feel like you’re sending missives into the world with instructions on what needs to be done. While it’s effective for assigning and keeping track of tasks, there’s no real engagement involved. What we need is conversations. When people are in the same physical space together, these discussions happen in person. But in an ever-shifting digital world where remote and hybrid work environments are becoming the norm, in-person chats and meetings are few and far between. You need a space where teams can connect, and Teams is the perfect solution.
Teams integrates with your Outlook calendar, Planner, SharePoint, OneDrive and just about every other app. Which all contribute towards making it a great tool for productivity, but it’s not what gives it an edge when it comes to collaboration. What really sets Teams apart is the way that you can set up spaces for discussion as groups, and as individuals. Unlike emails, you can have conversations and immediately see when your team sees your messages, when they are typing out responses, when they have reacted to what you’ve said. This type of real-time discussion is far more conducive to productivity, because you can get immediate feedback to be put into immediate action.
I have a collection of notebooks sitting in a drawer of my desk. And I haven’t opened a single one of them in years. Why? Because all my notetaking is digitised. And it’s not my notes that have changed.
Microsoft OneNote takes note taking to another level, as it brings teams together, allowing for collaborative notetaking and sharing. When you have a meeting, your digital notes can be merged with those from other attendees to give a greater sense of what transpired. But you can also add in a recording from the meeting, voice notes, links to documents, and anything else that may be relevant to the conversation that you had.
Having everything that you need in a single space makes it easier to be productive. There’s no searching around for the right file, or flicking through pages trying to remember exactly what was said. It’s all right in front of you, and in front of everyone else who needs to be involved.
You can have the best tools in the world in place (and I truly believe that Microsoft 365 productivity tools are the best out there). But how can you be sure that they’re having a real impact for your business. How can you judge whether your teams are actually as productive as you want them to be? Once again, Microsoft is here to help with even more tools that can help you measure productivity in your organisation.
I mentioned Viva (formerly MyAnalytics) earlier on when it came to setting yourself up for productivity as an individual. But it does far more than just scheduling Focus Time. It helps you keep track of how productive you’re being. It shows you how long you’re spending on documents, how well you’re able to focus, how effectively you’re collaborating with your team members.
Not only does it show you stats, but it provides suggestions for improving them as well. It gives you the data that you need to refine your workflow and increase your productivity. On top of that, it tracks your wellbeing in an attempt to ensure that you’re not becoming overworked, reducing the risk of burnout.
Which documents have your employees been working on recently? While SharePoint can show you which documents have been opened by your teams, Microsoft Delve allows you an in-depth look into each of the files that individual team members and collaborators are working on, together with a glimpse of their schedule and a breakdown of who they’ve recently been working with. This makes it an ideal tool for managers and owners to drill down into how productive their employees and team members are, and where improvements can be made.
Want to see Delve in action? Check out this recorded Microsoft Delve webinar that we put together.
Getting feedback is a vital part of gauging how effective solutions are. You want to ensure that the Microsoft Office productivity tools you’re putting in place are being used, and put to their best possible use. (And these are two different matters entirely!)
Microsoft Forms is a great place to start. It’s a platform for asking the right questions from the right people. It’s ideal for putting together questionnaires and quizzes that can give you insight into your teams and employees, what they think work, and how productive they think they are. Put into place alongside Viva, Forms can help you get a feeling for how conducive your work environment is for productivity, and where improvements can be made.
Are You Making the Most of These Tools?
With so many productivity tools in Microsoft 365, it can be difficult to pinpoint which features are being put to use, and whether they’re being used optimally. And this is where a Microsoft Gold Partner like Solid Systems comes in. We don’t only provide Microsoft solutions to businesses and offer IT support in Johannesburg, Cape Town and London. We also help companies to adopt these tools in ways that will see productivity and efficiency skyrocket. From implementation, to support, to training, Solid Systems can help your business to step into the future with confidence when using Microsoft Office 365 tools.