The world of human resources is frenetic. Time remains a forever-escaping entity due to the multitude of ways in which we can now be contacted, the presence of seemingly endless to-do lists and meetings that continue long past their allotted time and agenda.
How on earth can one remain productive in such a world? Is it even possible, or should we simply accept that we’ll be forever chasing our tails while the constant chime of new email provides the soundtrack to our working days?
It doesn’t have to be like this. As an HR professional, you have it within you to find your productivity ‘A’ game (such a thing exists – we promise), and in this post, we’ll look at some of the things you can do to alleviate the stress of the modern working day.
Turn off email
Email shouldn’t rule you. It remains a vital method of communication in business, but it isn’t a hotline people can use to grab your attention.
It may feel unnatural – dangerous, even – but by turning your email off for significant periods of the day, you’ll get far more done.
Would you put up with the postman continually entering your office and demanding that you open a bunch of new letters immediately? Of course, you wouldn’t – treat email in the same way and you’ll retrieve the time you’d otherwise lose dealing with spam and ‘reply all’ conversations of which you simply don’t need to be a part.
Take a hands-off approach with employees
Wait… a hands-off approach in HR? That’s not what you’re taught while training for the role!
Bear with us on this one.
Answering employee questions, dealing with chains of command and processing requests that require a multitude of forms to be filled out are real productivity killers for HR professionals. Frustratingly, they’re entirely needless, too, because, sometimes, it pays to be rather more distanced from members of staff. There may be too much red tape in your organisation. Why aren’t employees empowered to make their own decisions? Why can’t they problem solve without having to seek authority from those above them?
If processes are weighing you down, they’re having the exact same effect on staff. Cut the red tape and ensure that a culture is developed where employees are encouraged to think for themselves and take shortcuts that result in fantastic customer experiences. You’ll have far less paperwork to process, as a result.
Try working from home
Not every workplace will allow this, but working from home is becoming increasingly acceptable within businesses of all sizes. Working in HR requires you to have a presence in the office, of course, but if you have a significant amount of work to battle through, doing so from the comfort of your dining room table will help you complete it more efficiently.
Offices are full of distractions. The process of arriving, making coffee, catching up with colleagues and eventually settling down at your desk can take an inordinate amount of time.
If you have an understanding boss who values modern working methods and you know you can take a day or two out from the daily grind of the office, do so – you’ll get so much work done.
Like so many positions in business, human resources is usually very task-based, and the absence of a robust to-do list tool can make working days fraught affairs where you feel like your constantly chasing your tail.
Thankfully, we now live in a rich digital world where there is a multitude of fantastic, free apps available for keeping your list of actions in check. They’re brilliantly addictive, too. Swapping a manual diary featuring hastily-written, illegible to-dos for a piece of software that lets you categorise your work and conveniently swipe each task off the list when completed is rather liberating.
What’s more, most to-do list apps are cross-platform, which means you’re never without your list of tasks; they’ll be on your smartphone, tablet and desktop PC, whenever you need them (how often have you lost your diary?).
Share the load
You don’t have to do everything. You can’t do everything. Even in small organisations where you may be the only person tasked with HR duties, you’ll have to occasionally share the load if you’re to get to the bottom of that to-do list. The answer isn’t necessarily roping in colleagues, either – there are some brilliant tools for expense claiming, compliance, health and safety and enrolment. And by adopting such tools, you’ll free up time you’d typically have spent undertaking menial tasks that should, in this day and age, really be undertaken by digital assistants.
If you work in HR and you’re constantly fighting fires, there’s something wrong. Sure, the odd emergency will always crop up and require your immediate attention, but firefighting consistently will destroy any gains you make in productivity by taking on the other tips within this blog post. Prevention is better than cure, and nowhere has that mantra been more important than in the land of HR. Why are the issues you’re regularly dealing with taking place? Keep asking that question. It’s HR’s job to mitigate issues that have a negative effect on employees and their working environment, so invest as much time as you can in sniffing out root causes of common issues – you’ll only have to do it once.
First, we suggest you take a hands-off approach with staff, and now we’re suggesting that HR departments should stop recruiting. Is this an April Fool of a blog post? Not at all! We now live in the age of the gigging economy. Positions that once required full-time workers are often swapped for external consultants and freelancers due to the flexibility offered by those who can be called on as and when required by specific projects. The result is a lower wage bill, a far easier handle on budgets and a lower headcount, internally. And you know what? That benefits you, too, because HR will be doing far less recruiting as a result.
You’ll always need in-house staff, but once a good team has been established within the four walls of the business, do all you can to facilitate the use of external helpers. Developing relationships with such people will take the job of recruiting off your desk as individual departmental managers simply call on external assistance themselves when required.
Rise early, eat well and exercise more
The shape of your health has a significant impact on your productivity. If you’re regularly burning the midnight oil, arriving at the office one minute before your start time, eating junk food and failing to make use of your gym membership, your work will suffer. Rise early and consistently at the same time every day. It’ll be difficult at first, but your mind and body will soon get used to the new regime. Similarly, put that gym membership to use or head out for a run around the neighbourhood a few times a week. Combine exercise with healthy eating and you’ll be ready for anything.
We have it within us to be ultra-productive, but it doesn’t come easily or naturally for everyone. However, if you implement just a few of the suggestions above, you’ll quickly start to reap the benefits and beat your to-do list into submission on a daily basis.