Digital distractions bleeding your productivity? It’s time to take charge.

Embracing digital tools in business is a key step to reducing risk and costs and increasing revenues – but what about the new risks that these tools can bring with them?

Digital Distraction

Two of the biggest risks are digital distraction and exposure of sensitive information. Digital distraction is a constant productivity leech, thanks to the fact that large parts of the internet – from social media to news to gaming sites – have been carefully designed to hijack our attention. Thanks partly to the Time Well Spent movement founded by former Google designer Tristan Harris, many of us now understand that the addictive feed-checking we see all around us, the constant search for the next hit of digital validation, is not just about lack of individual willpower. These digital distractions are deliberately engineered to keep our eyeballs glued to our screens so they’re more valuable to advertisers.

Nobody is immune. Teenagers get a lot of bad press for technology addiction, but a quick look around any public space will show that their parents, and even grandparents, are just as bad. Inevitably, this spills over into the workplace as well – and let’s be honest, we’ve all been there. You open a browser tab to check a competitor’s price, and before you know it, you’re following a sports match, getting lost in a comment thread or ‘quickly’ ordering a new charging cable. No wonder so many of us reach the end of the day feeling like we’ve been running without ever getting anywhere.

A Constant Drain On Productivity

For individuals, it’s precious moments of our lives down the drain. For businesses, it’s a constant drain on productivity; just half an hour a day of distraction adds up to ten hours a month for every employee, which in even the smallest workplace can have a massive impact on revenue and profitability. To block the leaks and truly realise the potential for digital tools to increase revenues, we need to take back control.

Just switching off or blocking all distractions isn’t an option: if you’re in sales or marketing, for example, you actually need to spend some time connecting with customers on social media. What we need are tools to help us identify problem areas and manage them effectively.

No Wonder Nothing Gets Done…

For individuals, apps like RescueTime and Freedom provide valuable information about where we’re spending time, as well as tools for blocking distracting sites. But businesses need more: time management and productivity tools that work for the whole company, not just individuals.

We like tools like KnowIT, which empower managers and employees alike with information about what applications they’re using, when and for how long. When people can monitor their own productivity, sometimes the information alone is enough to change behaviour: “I spent five hours on email yesterday? No wonder nothing got done.” If that’s not enough, managers have clear data for planning training or disciplinary interventions – which can increase productivity and revenue.

Good monitoring tools also address the second big risk:  Exposure of sensitive information. A firewall may stop employees from sending sensitive information out via email, but there are many other threats. For example, a staff member who copies a spreadsheet full of customer information to a flash drive so they can work at home may mean well, but they’re creating a big risk for the company if the flash drive is lost or their home computer security isn’t 100%.

Tools like KnowIT extend the protection of your existing firewall by creating an alert whenever sensitive files are copied, or by alerting network managers to unusual activity that might be a sign of spambots or other attacks.

It Is Not About Spying On Your Staff

Today’s productivity and security monitoring tools are not about spying on your staff or creating digital sweatshop conditions. They work best when planned and implemented with complete transparency, and an emphasis on positive change rather than punishment. Employees should understand exactly what is being monitored and why, be assured that their privacy is protected and be encouraged to use the information to improve their own productivity.

To emphasise that this is about empowerment not spying, it helps if every single staff member, right up to the top leadership, uses the same software and must follow the same rules. And to help highlight and spread good behaviour, employers should not just identify and reward star performers, but also analyse what makes them stand out and help others to achieve similar results.

Improving workplace productivity and reducing risky behaviour are constant challenges, with the threats evolving as fast as the internet itself. But by using the smartest tools available, companies can slash the costs of wasted productivity, increase their revenues and manage digital risks more efficiently.

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