Save Time and Money with These 5 Free Tools to Boost Productivity at Work
We’ve all heard the old saying, “time is money”. Team leaders are always looking for ways to improve employee productivity in the workplace. And, with today’s ever changing digital landscape and an increasing focus on maximizing output and productivity, businesses have to be more tech savvy than ever to keep up.
There are thousands of office productivity applications available, but many enterprise level solutions are too costly for small and medium sized businesses to integrate into their systems architecture.
To help maximize productivity without breaking the bank, or even touching it, here are our 5 favorite free productivity tools that you can start using to streamline your office today.
#1: Skype for Instant Messaging
Most of us are familiar with instant messaging and online chat applications to keep in touch with friends but did you know that instant messaging can also be a powerful tool to streamline interoffice communications and external communications with remote contractors and vendors?
With everyone drowning in email, it can be difficult to to get information you need quickly when your colleague has 150 emails in front of yours to read first. A typical workaround to this problem is to get up and walk over to the office of your colleague and ask them the question in person.
While this can be an effective way to get information quickly, the “in-person” question method has several drawbacks, including:
- Depending on the size of your office, it might take you a few minutes to walk back and forth between your desk and your coworker’s. It is also more likely that you’ll get stopped by others who have questions of their own for you or who just want to chat, which can easily add an additional 5-30 minutes to each trip (not to mention the time spent discussing your original question). While this may not seem like much time, if you are doing this multiple times a day you can lose 5 hours or more per week just in traveling from desk to desk.
- Your colleague may be busy working on something that is more important to the business than the project or initiative that you want to ask them about. When you interrupt them, you disrupt their schedule and deadline commitments both while you are in their office but also after you leave. Studies show that it takes the average person up to 15 minutes to mentally reset between tasks.
With instant messaging applications, all of this can be avoided. Escape the dreaded email abyss, save time, and minimize disruptions and distractions by implementing an office-wide instant messaging system and policy. If someone is busy, they can ignore an IM and get back to you when it’s appropriate based on their priorities.
Our favorite instant messaging tool is Skype, which allows you to do free chat, video calling, and even screen sharing for quick and easy collaboration with anyone, anywhere – which is also great for working with remote workers, partners, and vendors. There is also a mobile app available for on-the-go communications.
#2 Asana for Task Management
Sometimes it can seem like you are being bombarded with tasks from 100 sources every minute of the day. When you’ve had 20 requests in your inbox today (on top of the 5 left over from yesterday), 8 requests from people walking by your desk, 3 requests from your manager during a meeting, 5 requests from clients calling in, and you’re working on multiple projects that require daily tasks that have already been assigned with deadlines for this week – how can you possibly keep track of it all?
This is where Asana comes in. Asana is a free (for up to 15 users) productivity tool that allows you to create departments, projects, and tasks within a centralized, web-based platform. In Asana you can keep tasks organized by project, by priority, and by due date as well as keep your team up-to-date without the need for email with comments, file sharing, and reporting capabilities.
Never miss a deadline again with this powerful tool that also features a mobile app for easy task management whether you’re in meetings or traveling.
#3: Yammer for Team Collaboration
Another way to increase productivity in your office is to streamline the team collaboration process. Instant messaging is typically a one-on-one communication method, email threads with multiple people on copy can get confusing and cumbersome, and status update meetings waste precious time.
A great way to combat this problem is to introduce a team collaboration tool like Yammer. Yammer allows you to create a social media style platform for your team to share updates and photos, get quick input from multiple team members on the same issue, and access frequently used documents.
With Yammer, you can create various groups so that only the team members who need to know what’s going on with a particular initiative receive updates and the whole team can share in the company’s wins (like a much less distracting “sales bell”).
Team collaboration tools like Yammer also promote team interaction and can help bring remote teams together.
#4 Google Drive for Document Sharing
Have you ever tried to email a document that was too large to send or that contained sensitive information that you wanted to restrict access to? What about trying to collaborate with other team members to suggest edits to a document via email (and getting confused and frustrated in the process)?
With Google Drive, each user can create an account tied to their work email address for free and receive up to 10GB of storage (there is also a paid business account option that provides more storage and admin security controls).
Like Dropbox and other document sharing tools, you can upload files to Google Drive and share them with others using links (which are less secure) or by inviting the intended recipients to login and access the documents via their own Google accounts.
But what really sets Google Drive apart are the Google Docs and collaboration features. Not only can you upload files to Google Drive, but you can also edit them directly in Drive. Microsoft Word and Excel documents can be converted to Google Docs and Sheets where you can then edit them with autosaving and document revision history in place. In addition, you can create Google Docs and Sheets directly in Drive (which is a great money saver if you can’t afford an enterprise edition of Microsoft Office).
With Google Drive’s collaboration features, document collaboration becomes a breeze. You and your colleagues can edit the same document at the same time, and the whole time it will show you what each user is doing. There’s a chat function so that you can collaborate on the changes being made and you can also set up permission for certain users so that they can suggest changes rather than edit the document, allowing for change control.
This makes revising documents a breeze and prevents frustrating rework (no more reviewing and redlining documents that aren’t the latest version!).
#5: CamScanner for Mobile Document Scanning
With the high costs of network scanners (not to mention the disruption when they break down or there is a network connectivity issue), many smaller offices are looking for a better solution to document scanning than purchasing large multi-function printer/scanner combo machines.
One great solution to this problem is a mobile document scanning app called CamScanner. Available for IOS and Android based smartphones and tablets, CamScanner allows you to snap pictures of any document with your mobile device and email it to yourself and others as a PDF. Sign and email documents quickly from anywhere with this handy little tool.
Other Productivity Factors
All of these tools can have a tremendous impact on workplace productivity, but another major factor of office efficiency is the office environment itself. At Workspace Solutions in Fort Wayne, IN, we want to help you maximize your office space by providing free office furniture layout consultations.
Contact us today to meet with an experienced associate that can help you achieve your office’s design, furniture, and functionality goals.