An essential tool for amateurs and professionals alike, the pomodoro technique allows users to deal with high workloads, complex topics, and detailed content while avoiding burnout and learning more about their working practice.

So, what exactly does the process involve and how effective is it when it comes to managing workloads and employee effort?

What is the pomodoro technique?

A popular time management method, the Pomodoro technique was developed in the 1980’s to enable individuals to deal with their work demands and help them clear their responsibilities with greater efficiency and reduced effort.

Named after the Italian word for ‘tomato’, the method uses repetition and self-discipline to help complete tasks. This involves the use of a timer to regulate focus and commitment to complete a task. Now hugely popular, the process involves segmenting a project into manageable chunks and also improving an individual’s instinct for how long a task will take.

It’s high rate of uptake is due in part to its lack of complexity and ease of adoption. This allows users to trial the process with minimal risk and immediately see benefits for their work. And, if the system is tough to adopt, make lasting improvements to their approach that can potentially bring benefits to every corner of their daily practice.

How does the technique work?

The pomodoro technique is fundamentally low-tech and requires the purchase of only three items for those keen on following the process to the letter. This includes: a kitchen timer (ideally tomato shaped!), a pen, and pencil. These can be easily substituted with a phone or computer timer and whatever writing materials you have to hand.

Completing the process involves working for a number of time-bound cycles or ‘pomodoros’ during a set period (traditionally 25 minutes). These are designed to create a sense of flow and prevent the tiredness that can come from working for sustained periods of time on a piece of work.

In order to follow the process, you need to undertake the following steps-

1. Prepare your task: Firstly, take the time to look at the task you are trying to complete and confirm what ‘success’ or finishing your goal looks like. This can be hitting a wordcount for an article, reviewing a slice of code, unpicking a difficult technical problem, or any other kind of issue. Once this is confirmed, set your timer and notepad in front of you and-

2. Activate your timer: Start your timer and begin your pomodoro. Ideally, this should involve setting a physical timer to ‘commit’ to the process, but a digital timer is perfectly fine if it works for you.

3. Work for the allocated time: This should not be interrupted by any outside distractions or errant thoughts. If you need to note something down or remember a task, you can briefly note it on your notepad for review at the end of the session. The goal here is to work and develop focus for the 25 minute period.

4. End your pomodoro: Once the 25-minute period is up, the timer will sound, and you have to stop. Once finished, you place a checkmark on your paper and-

5. Check your notepad: Take a look at the number of checkmarks you have and any brief notes you have made during your session. If you have less than four checkmarks on your page, take a two to three minute break from your work. This can involve checking your phone, briefly responding to messages, or getting up for a short period to walk. If you have more than four checkmarks, it is time to take a longer break from your work for between fifteen minutes to half an hour. And once the timer is complete you start again, or if your allocated working period for the day has ended-

6. Repeat, revise, and review: Once a task or your working day is finished, it is time to undertake a brief review period to look at future work and assess how you worked across the immediate period. This should involve looking over the work you produced and checking for correctness, undertaking editing, or processes that allow you to give it a final polish and make it fit for use. In addition, it is important to reflect on your approach and review what you learned, how your understanding deepened, and where you can potentially revise your approach. Once complete, it is helpful to look at tomorrow’s tasks and break them down into distinct pomodoros to let you hit the ground running when it comes to your future efforts.

The cycle can then be repeated as many times as needed, allowing you to bring back practical knowledge into your working ecosystem and make any positive changes required with ease.

Is the pomodoro technique effective?

While there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach to productivity or time management, the pomodoro technique has enjoyed significant popularity. This is for two reasons-

1. Developing focus and flow: One of the key strengths of the technique is that it trains your body and mind to work within a flow state. The concept of flow involves becoming completely focused and absorbed in a task that you are working on. Working in short segments helps you concentrate and achieve that state with future cycles. The timebound nature also allow you to achieve a sense of purpose and achievement. And, if you’re struggling, the knowledge that only a few minutes remain can help give you the energy for a final push.

2. Developing a plan and self-knowledge: Arguably the key reason why the approach is so popular is that it tacitly trains individuals to take a more organised and mindful approach to their work. This can help in short-term planning where users quickly develop a sense of how many pomodoros a task will take to complete and back it up with previous evidence. This can also allow help you develop an instinctual knowledge of what tasks will involve, potentially cutting down the amount of mental effort required when working on significant or difficult projects.

However, like any practice or technique, in the workplace it requires buy-in from managers and commitment from staff members to use the process correctly. It’s light-touch nature allows it to be used alongside existing methodologies or in conjunction with daily working practice. Thankfully, the process can be adjusted as needed to suit individual working practice, professional demands, or adapted to a disrupted workspace.

What can change?

In addition to the above, the process potentially allows for a number of significant variations while still remaining highly effective. These include, but are not limited to-

Pomodoro Length: While 25-minute cycles are widely accepted to be the best way to achieve a flow state, this can be changed depending on the team or individual applying it. These can be extended for complex work or even shortened to deal with a tricky problem in fine detail.

Pomodoro Structure: The technique can easily be adjusted to work around your daily routine or personal and professional commitments. This can allow for external markers such as meetings or times for content delivery, natural biorhythms, or times you will be free to focus. While it is highly recommended to stick to as regular a schedule as possible,  being able to adjust your structure allows you to be flexible with your approach and apply the technique across a range of situations.

Digital Attachment: The Pomodoro technique works brilliantly when it is coupled with a platform or app that allows the harvesting of timebound data. This can allow users to develop better awareness of their own daily practice and validate it using metricised information. Making the call can help you work with greater insight, spot problem periods and potential logjams, or even future-proof your workforce as they move to a new post-Covid marketplace where remote working needs to be managed.

Practical Application: The nature of the system allows it to be easily adopted by individuals from all backgrounds – from university students all the way through to overburdened industry professionals. Pomodoro software is available on phones and can also be added to any existing or bespoke system by professional teams, letting you improve employee working practice with little effort or couple it with an extant platform – allowing for a quick win when it potentially matters most.

What next?

If you want to learn more about optimising employee efficiency or embedding positive practice, our team at Practical Software is here to help. With many years’ experience, we work with you to deploy a solution that fits your daily practice and directly tackles the obstacles standing in your way.

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Working remotely has changed the shape of our teams as we know it. Since disruption began in March, many businesses have been forced to embrace remote working practice, manage furlough, and introduce new ways of working. Making such a sweeping adjustment in a short period of time has been a shock to even the most long-established businesses.

But once the shock of implementation was over, other issues arose.

Working remotely requires an entirely different discipline and set of skills from conventional practice. And while having an increased degree of flexibility and efficiency has been useful, many companies have struggled when it comes to managing remote teams effectively. 

So, how exactly did we find ourselves in the current situation and what do you need to know and consider when it comes to managing remote working?

Where are we?

Currently, in the middle of a global pandemic. And unfortunately, it doesn’t show any signs of slowing down soon.

Since the outbreak began in January, companies throughout the world have struggled to stay afloat in an incredibly disrupted marketplace. Travel bans, changing government guidance, and lockdowns may have caused uncertainty, but one of the biggest constants was a need to socially distance in order to help reduced the risk of infection.

As of the time of writing, Covid-19 has forced many companies to implement bespoke and out-of-the-box solutions that allow their teams to collaborate on projects, update clients, and carry out unique roles. But while a technical solution may be in place, having employees use software as intended and also managed correctly can be very difficult.

This makes it essential to understand the issues around remote worker management and some of the best practice options at your disposal.

What challenges does remote working involve?

Many companies have needed to reassess their daily practice and push for a remote working policy. Though the specifics may change from sector to sector, working from home or from remote locations instantly brings some novel issues into the mix.

Home working dramatically cuts back on much of the face-to-face interaction that managers need to carry out their job. With large amounts of unsupervised time, this can lead to employees working too much (or too little) and under or over budgeting, struggling with work prioritization, and failing to validate key principles.

This can also lead to significant disruptions to individuals throughout the day from poor internet infrastructure, domestic interruptions, emotional problems stemming from isolation and more. This can have knock-on effects for immediate productivity and long-term happiness, potentially resulting in a short-term drop in quality that evolves into the loss of a valued employee due to burnout or dissatisfaction.

What do I need to watch out for?

Some of the most common obstacles encountered by managers include, but are not limited to-

Disruption: Shifting to a new working methodology has a number of practical issues attached to it. Companies are quickly met with the challenge of providing new kit and equipment for employees, alongside any software packages and licenses required to allow team members to continue working. This represents a significant resource expenditure that many businesses may be reluctant to cover. Failing to correctly budget for a new system, training, and more can quickly result in additional expenditure that might not be correctly costed for. This can place additional stress on internal teams and result in loss of trust with clients and the potential of bad press.

Clear Communication: Arguably the greatest obstacle brought about by remote working is a change in communication style. Face-to-face interactions have been replaced with zoom calls, text chats, or voice notes. This can rob conversations of nuance and be a challenge for customer-led industries where negotiation and cultural differences form the heart of your value proposition. Taking the time to allow individuals to refine their communication styles, explicitly validate conversations, and practice email etiquette is essential but can be incredibly challenging.

What best-practice should I follow?

Failing to Optimise: In an ideal world, technical change is only brought about when it adds value to your business. With Covid-19, remote working platforms have been embraced through necessity. This can result in a failure to adopt by many team members who see it as a temporary imposition or an obstacle to them doing their work. However, just because you are being forced into adopting new working practice doesn’t mean that you can’t benefit. Taking the time to road-test a solution with your teams can help highlight holes in your process and areas for additional efficiency. And choosing a reliable provider can help you look at your existing workflows and suggest areas for long-term improvement, letting you drive value throughout your business.

When it comes to implementing a remote working solution for your business, it’s essential to put your teams front and centre. No matter whether you’re rolling out a fresh solution or making tweaks to an existing platform, it’s helpful to follow best practice guidance to make sure that your staff are supported. This includes-

Clean Onboarding: Once the system has been introduced, having a regimented onboarding process can help people get up and running fast. Choosing a reliable solutions provider can allow you to take advantage of tailored materials to help your remote workers get up to speed with confidence. This process can then be iterated and improved upon, ideally allowing for in-depth training for key team members who can then relay information to other members of staff.  

Regular Check-ins: Taking the time to check in regularly can allow you to embed best practice and use communication channels that can then be used between your teams. Using regular check-ins as a way to soft validate employee awareness can help provided targeted training for individuals that may be struggling with new ways of working or partner certain employees with experienced team members to help them get up to speed fast.

Support and Transparency: If you are rolling out a new system, it is essential that you take an open approach when handling employee concerns once the system is online. Changing daily working practice can be extremely disruptive for established members of staff and prove to be a significant burden to everyone else. Being clear about the purpose of your working practice and creating a supportive atmosphere is very helpful when it comes to building trust and encouraging ongoing adoption.

Providing training materials and a ‘bedding in’ period for each employee can help people get to grips easier. And encouraging an open ‘all in this together’ atmosphere can help support those with families or other responsibilities when working from home. This can help prevent burn-out and employees hiding a sliding workload til it is too late.

Listening to Issues: Once a system is up and running, it’s easy to become complacent and assume a job has been well done. Nothing is further from the truth.  Committing to regular reviews and seeking out feedback can help your managers understand where the system is falling down and the process steps where employees are encountering pain and frustration.   

In practical terms, this means committing to seeking out feedback from clients, staff, and managers to understand where friction is occurring and what element of the system is causing it. This can allow you to make changes in your practice, deploy additional training, or consult with your provider to put in place a solution that stops the issue. While software may be a great way to work remotely during Covid, always remember – it’s only as useful as the individual using it.

While there is no one-size-fits all solution for addressing your remote issues, carrying out some of the following can be a fantastic start.

Conducting Structured Online Meetings:</b> Holding structured online meetings allows your teams to share tasks for the day and give additional structure for their work. This can be broken down to one-on-ones on a semi-regular basis, giving employees a chance to raise issues that would normally come up organically.

Unifying Communications: Take some time to look at how your teams talk and choose a channel that allows no message to be wasted. Many bespoke platforms allow you to capture calls, emails, and text chats – letting you plan and collaborate with ease through the use of cloud technologies.

Embedding Analytics: Choosing a software platform that allows you to digitally track projects and automate updates can help you stay informed about progress and make things easier for employees. This can help avoid scope creep, over-budgeting, and allow remote workers to flag issues before they become severe.

What next?

If you want to learn more about improving your remote pipeline, embedding technical solutions, and more, our team at Practical Software is here to help. With many years’ professional experience working with a range of clients, we understand the importance of implementing a  bespoke solution that is right for you.

No matter the size of your business, we work with you to understand your unique value proposition and help your teams work the way you need, with maximum efficiency.

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A conversation every employer seems to be having with their teams at the moment, home working is not only an opportunity for individuals but also a potential concern for businesses. With a lack of supervision, difficulty communicating, and an overall air of uncertainty – ensuring productivity can be a big worry.

So, how did home working get to be an ongoing solution for so many businesses and what should you consider when it comes to ensuring that your teams are as productive as possible when working from home?

How did this happen?

When it comes to the home working revolution, there is one clear and concrete culprit – Covid 19.

Since the virus became an issue in early January, companies have been forced to take increasingly extreme measures to protect their workers while still remaining viable. This has included significant restructuring across a range of businesses through furlough programs and allowing for professionals to carry out their jobs remotely.

Now, several months into quarantine, companies (and individuals) are seeing that it is a highly viable and flexible solution. Work is still being filed, teams are still able to collaborate, and certain sectors are even able to continue on with business as usual.

While it is still hard – if not impossible – to predict or understand all the changes brought about by Covid, pursuing productivity is a key concern for many businesses. This makes correctly testing and implementing systems essential for many employers, though it can be difficult to know exactly where and how to start.

Where are we? 

This change has led to the conversation shifting to whether home working is not only possible in the short-term but likely in the months if not years ahead. Technology has made communication, collaborative working, and completing projects possible if not more efficient.

Setting up document sharing, digital check-ins, and project management hierarchies have made clean and clear communication enforced through necessity. Data is captured through digital channels that would normally be discussed in person, leading to a more focused approach, and increased personal freedom for individuals in how they choose to complete their work.

However, this freedom does come with a few concerns.

What’s the problem?

Many company owners are worried that while the processes are working, long-term issues may become apparent.

Some key potential issues include-

Procrastination: While every employee should be trusted to complete their work to the fullest of their ability, there is a concern that procrastination could be a growing concern. Projects that should be completed in a day could quickly balloon and completion estimates run the risk of invoking Parkinson’s Law – namely, that work will expand to fill the time an employee has available to them. This would be tough, if not impossible to police – making it a significant worry for businesses with a tight bottom line.

Inefficiency: While best practice can help make remote communication quick, clean, and simple, inefficiencies are likely to creep in. What would be a simple question across a desk can turn into a significant game of email tennis, resulting in logjams and potential confusion. Technical issues can also easily derail a day’s work, and poor document sharing discipline can result in version control issues or create massive delays in the long run.

Bad Habits: Without regular guidance, poor working practice can run rampant. This can be as simple as bad phone etiquette, timekeeping, or a lack of diligence on projects. This carries a double-edged sword of being difficult to spot and even harder to course correct. This can hamper an employee’s professional development and cause numerous problems for a business in the long-term. 

How do I optimise productivity?

Thankfully, if productivity is a key concern for your business during lockdown, there are a number of steps that can be taken to improve your approach.

These include, but are not limited to-

’Chunking’ work: Procrastination is caused by employees having too much work to do, and no clear direction. Taking extra time to review materials placed in front of employees can help ensure that their workload is not only understood but digestible. Many employees will be working at home for the first time, with partners, housemates, or children. Ensuring that any assigned work is manageable can help prevent analysis paralysis or other similar issues.

Communicating clearly: Taking a moment to review your approach to in-person, written, and remote communication can bring a number of benefits throughout your business. This can help ensure that elements are not miscommunicated, clients are handled correctly with due care, and that members of staff feel supported and have channels to relay positive and negative feedback. Undertaking train the trainer training can allow one member of your team to relay this to the rest of the company and act as a powerful force multiplier while adding another valuable string to their bow.

Reviewing Your Infrastructure: If you are worried about your employee’s working practice, it is important to take a detailed and critical look at your internal infrastructure and remove any obstacles in their way that may exist. This includes the technical platforms that you choose to use, whether your internal software is fit-for-purpose, and if your teams are operating with the correct kit. Softer elements are those that are hard to quantify and directly apply to interpersonal engagement between managers and staff and are addressed further below.

Incentivising Employees: Remote working does run the risk of employees losing focus and feeling disincentivised to work as thoroughly as they would when on site. Taking the time to review and understand what broadly motivates key team members and using line managers to understand motivators for employees can help you incentivise them in even the most challenging of situations. This can be a combination of intrinsic and extrinsic rewards or providing additional structure and increased autonomy if required.

Embedding observance: Even if you make the changes you have identified, it can be hard – if not impossible – to track them correctly. Deploying a software system and light-touch in house reporting can help you capture stats about work and use analytics to understand how work is being completed and where potential issues or obstacles arise. The right software system can provide pathways to check-in and record employee progress and can be incredibly effective if implemented correctly.

What should you look out for?

While there are a variety of options available to help tackle issues around procrastination and communication, it is important to remember that there are a number of vital concerns or complaints that should always be addressed if you hear them reported by your employees or other professionals.

Some important examples include-

Excessive Oversight: While providing guidance can be incredibly helpful, being excessively vigilant can instantly have a negative effect. The disruption caused by Covid-19 may have a number of downsides, but many employees have enjoyed the freedom to carry out their assigned tasks as they like to and in the manner of their choosing. Actively instructing them in the specifics of how they work can quickly rub people up the wrong way, making careful communication key for the months ahead.

Project Updates: One of the most helpful ways to ensure that your employees avoid procrastination is through key updates at the end of the working week. These can be delivered directly to line managers so that they can track hours worked and handle any feedback. If required, these can be submitted on a daily basis and enable your estimates to be correct and motivate employees to manage their time effectively.

Mental Health: Given the nature of the risk and interruption posed by Covid-19, providing support for your teams when facing down challenges with their work is vital. Fatigue, pressure, and stress is cumulative and can often manifest through procrastination or an apparent unwillingness to finish out tasks to the standard normally expected. Reviewing government guidance and disseminating it among your employees can provide vital support when it is needed.

What next?

If you want to learn more about how to optimise your workforce and prepare for the future, our team at Practical Software is here to help. With many years’ experience providing software solutions for a range of clients, we can help you to bolster productivity when it truly matters most.

You can review our options and processes in full from here and you can take a look at our regularly updated list of client testimonials from here. If you have specific questions and queries, please do not hesitate to contact us directly and let a member of our teamwork with you to find a solution for your unique productivity needs.

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The affects of Covid 19 have made an unquestionable impact on every sector in the UK, EU, and across the globe. While it is vital to respond to this threat responsibly and safely, taking the time to understand the impact made by the virus can help ensure that your business is prepared for the years ahead.

So, how exactly has the real and potential threat posed by the virus changed things and what should you expect as the marketplace responds to the impact.

Covid-19 – a quick recap

The first official impact of the Covid 19 outbreak was felt on the 25th of January when foreign offices throughout the world began to advise against travel to China Hubei Province, the confirmed epicentre of the initial outbreak. This led to a broad suspension of flights and, despite the best efforts of all involved, the UK confirmed the first two cases of Covid 19 in the UK in the 31st of January.

This led to an immediate spread in a range of regions and a spate of deaths in affected countries throughout the world. The interconnected nature of travel meant that the only way to slow the advance was to shut down travel and impose quarantines in a range of cities and locations. This led to the development of furlough schemes, working from home initiatives, and mass disruption – leaving the market in a place of peak uncertainty.

As of September 2020, schools have reopened, workers have slowly drifted back to their places of work and financial analysts have confirmed that that UK economy has suffered a tremendous Impact. This has left many workers unable to carry out their daily tasks with the usual routine, resulting in a wide range of uncertainty about the future of many sectors and having to adapt to a daily way of working that simply does not fit their lifestyle choices.

How did it impact recruitment?

This period of mass uncertainty has had a significant negative impact on a range of sectors throughout the UK and further afield.

The nature of the virus means that, in addition to professional disruption, all elements of engagement and contact have been affected. This makes meetings, planning, and any in-person activities close to impossible or incredibly difficult to conduct successfully.

For many businesses, the end result is a blanket of uncertainty. As none are able to accurately predict what way the virus will continue to impact the sector, or how things will resolve, a range of industries have chosen to freeze in their tracks. This has resulted in significant layoffs in sectors such as hospitality, retail and entertainment.

In short, many businesses have found it necessary to put a hard and fast freeze on recruitment or have kicked start dates for new employees into the long grass. With recruitment lying at the heart of the issue for the current economy, the decisions made by the government will have far-reaching impacts across a range of industries. This makes it essential to take stock of the opportunities that exist but also put in place concrete plans that protect your clients and business in the months ahead in this highly volatile market.

How will things continue in the months ahead?

One of the greatest issues posed by the virus is an inability to predict what is going to happen in the weeks and months ahead. However, some clear issues have made themselves known, including-

Sectoral Disruption: This means that candidates will likely be thin on the ground and many businesses unlikely to commit to hiring. However, those industries that are able to work remotely – such as those that are software or tech adjacent – are set to be pressing ahead as usual. Assessing how your clients will be affected can allow you to take action to protect them, secure quality care, or ensure that you are placed to take advantage of any opportunities that may arise.

Furloughing: As the furlough scheme comes to an end, there is likely to be a greater and greater push for companies to evaluate their staffing requirements. This in turn carries the potential of businesses being compelled to bring individuals back into the workspace or look at redundancies. Further extensions to the furlough scheme are not on the table at the moment but any changes to the scheme will be felt by the recruitment sector almost immediately.

The Rise of Video Conferencing: The importance of video conferencing cannot be underestimated when it comes to operating in the sector in the weeks and months ahead. As meeting in person can be unadvisable, being able to quickly hold a cross-team video call is essential. This makes investing in a webcam and decent microphone essential – allowing you to take part in a call that is clear, effective, and removes any obstacles in your way when it comes to reaching out to clients.  

New Work: Whether employees are jumping before they are pushed, hiring freezes will make it difficult for certain professionals to justify sitting still – leading many to consider changing their jobs for better benefits and incentives. Keeping an eye out and tracking these can be complex and ensuring that you have quality in-house infrastructure and suite of tools can help you quickly catalogue and engage with clients – ensuring that your company is perfectly placed to provide the support that your clients need.

What next?

There are numerous challenges ahead but with the inevitable redundancies that will be taking place, more and more high-quality candidates will become available in the marketplace. This presents an opportunity to bolster your workforce with new talent.

If you want to deploy a software solution that helps improve your preparedness, our team at Practical Software is here to help. With many years’ experience, we understand the importance of providing the timely care that your business needs.

You can view our list of services in full from here and you can take a look at our regularly updated list of client reviews . If you have any specific questions or queries, please do not hesitate to directly and let our team know exactly what you need in order to get the results you need in the uncertain months ahead. 

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Whether you’re in charge of a busy team, dealing with your own workload, or helping troubleshoot long-standing issues within your company – effective stress management is essential. Taking the time to understand the issues that cause stress can help bring benefits throughout your business but being able to enact them successfully can be difficult.

So, how exactly can time management help with controlling stress and what simple actions can you and your teams take to keep things under control?

What is stress management?

A real and present threat to every employee, stress can cause significant harm throughout your business. Overworked employees can make mistakes, pursue time off work, or even end up causing themselves long-term damage.

While every business has a responsibility to watch its bottom line, it is essential that you take every opportunity to manage your worker’s stress. This can involve enacting steps and processes that help prevent problems before they start, allow employees avenues to talk, or take part in programs and activities to help cut back on stress throughout the working week.

Doing so can help with morale, ensure that your employees are healthy and happy, and ensure that your teams produce the best results possible in every given scenario.

How does managing your time help?

When it comes to actively tackling stress in the workplace, one of the most common complaints is lack of time to complete a task. This can result in rushed work, errors, or even failure to deliver – quickly resulting in a snowball effect that compounds the issue. Work can be taken home or result in the individual experiencing further stress and feeling that their job is at risk.

Taking the time to embed time management best-practice throughout your business will allow your employees the opportunity to prevent stress before it becomes an issue. This can be as simple as giving employees access to tools, formal training, or changing your business infrastructure to help ensure employees have somewhere to turn if they are struggling with their workload.

This can also act as a powerful force multiplier, allowing your teams to capture information about how stress and workloads are being shared throughout the business. Choosing the right time management solution, or combination of options, can help you draw benefits throughout your business.

What tips should I follow?

If you are considering changes to your approach to time management, some popular options include – 

Timeboxing: Teaching employees the fundamentals of timeboxing can help all aspects of their approach to work. This involves breaking their daily work into segments that are 25 minutes long and then, once complete, taking a break for two minutes then starting again. This can help team members retain focus even when working through demanding projects and help give them a sense of how long certain tasks take to complete. Doing so helps give a greater sense of control and allows for a greater capacity to plan their work correctly and raise the issue in advance if they think they are unable to complete it in time.

Teamwork: It is essential to remember that stress management is – at its core – a mental health issue. Embedded pathways for employees to discus their stress and what is causing it can be great for your team members and your business at large. This allows individuals to get the help they need and allow your company to identify pain points to tackle in the future – preventing similar problems from arising again.

Software: When it comes to managing time, software is continuously proving to be a popular and highly effective solution. A solid platform will allow you to help manage your team’s workload, budget time for projects, and check the day-to-day progress with ease. This also allows you to harvest key data and analytics for future projects and – in addition to keeping tabs on ongoing projects – ensure that your teams are able to work efficiently and correctly for the foreseeable future.

What next?

If you want to learn more about how software can help with your time management tasks, our team at Practical Software is here to help. With many years’ experience providing care for a range of clients, we work with you to supply a solution that cares for your team’s mental health and saves on stress without compromising efficiency. You can view our full list of software and services from here. Or if you have specific questions, queries, or requirements, please do not hesitate to get in touch directly and let our in-house team know exactly what you need to take the stress out of your daily working practice.

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Securing qualified candidates can be challenging at the best of times, but with the high degree of disruption the market is currently experiencing, it can feel close to impossible.

So, why exactly is it so difficult to find the right candidates in the current marketplace and what helpful options are available to ensure that you are able to acquire the talent you need?

Why is it a challenge?

Quite simply, Covid 19 has not helped things.

Since the early alarm bells in January, restrictions in the current marketplace have made it incredibly difficult to not only find but to contact individuals. Individuals have ben furloughed, hiring freezes are set to be the norm, and zoom and video calls lack the personal touch needed to meaningful engage with a potential client.

While this may be challenging, taking a moment to reflect and plan can help ensure that you not only tackle the problems immediately ahead of you, but help set in place solid business practice for the months ahead.

What can we do?

Though Covid is currently causing disruption throughout the modern marketplace, taking the time to review your ongoing processes and understand the opportunities and take positive action is paramount.

Some key options include, but are not limited to-

Playing the Numbers: While it may seem exhaustive, there’s arguably never been a better time to start the ball rolling on cold calling clients and taking the temperature of the market. Many professionals may find themselves in a position where they are evaluating their career and potentially considering pivoting to another sector. Researching LinkedIn is a tried and tested way of doing this and in the current market many individuals are making it known that they are looking for employment. Being able to facilitate that career transition can help you create a mutually beneficial relationship.

Sourcing Referrals: As with the above, finding inroads to individuals who may be struggling with their current position and hungry for alternatives or an escape is essential. Reaching out to former clients can help you reconnect, confirm if they are happy in their position, and ask if they know other professionals who may be interested in new roles and opportunities. Adding a finder’s fee can help you secure ‘boots on the ground’ help, and with the number of professional networking groups that currently exist, you can quickly find a  former client doing the groundwork for you.

Attend Meetups: While physical events may be a no-go, the market is currently full of video networking events for professionals looking to upskill or keep abreast of the sector. Paying the admission fee for these events can help you put your team’s face out there and get in front of any individuals that may be attending. While this can be time consuming, the fact that the majority of these events are online can work massively in your favour. And, for the cost of a second monitor, you can put talks or chatrooms on one screen and your daily work on the other – letting you truly multitask with ease.

Generate Your Content: Whether you choose to produce it in-house or hire an external advisor, creating interviews, blogs, and articles can help position you as a resource for many candidates that may be passively considering a change of career or new opportunities. This should ideally be done by looking at the sector you support, the client you are looking for, and finding a number of topics where the two overlap. Material can then be pushed through your usual channels and allow you to position yourselves as a source of professional excellence and make your material an efficient part of your engagement funnel. Building up a bank of scheduled articles can help keep your business providing guidance for professionals in the months ahead and help ensure that your company is seen as an authority well worth listening to.

Do your homework: No matter what sector you cover, it is essential that you stay up to date with the latest trends and developments that are drawing people’s attention. Whether it’s a flash-in-the pan development or an ongoing opportunity, developing a broad awareness of what employers are looking for can help you target the right clients during the months ahead. While it normally can be difficult to carry out the research necessary, the additional time on your hands caused by Covid can make it easier to justify the level of research required.

Change your infrastructure: Taking the time to review and understand your internal setup can quickly allow you to spot weaknesses and put plans in place to resolve them. This can range from client data management, outreach, analytics, or a range of other options. Carrying out a full review of your in-house infrastructure can quickly allow you to draw up a specification document that can be handed over to a provider. If completed correctly, this allows you to deploy a suitable bespoke solution or an end-to-end platform to drive efficiency throughout your business.

What next?

If you want to learn more about how digital solutions can help with your business, our team at Practical Software is here to help. With many years’ professional experience, we work with you to find a solution that is right for your business.

You can view our full list of services from here and you can take a look at our regularly updated list of client testimonials from here. If you have any other questions or queries, you can contact us directly and let a member of our in-house team do what we can to help provide the support you need to improve your client outreach today.

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An essential part of any organisation, creating and maintaining your company culture can bring massive benefits to your business. And when it comes to the front-facing world of recruitment, crafting a quality office environment comes with a wealth of advantages for employer and staff alike.  

So, what exactly makes a great office environment and what are some simple changes you can make to improve your space today?

What makes up an office environment?

A combination of inherent and man-made factors, your office environment is the sum total of what working at your company is like. This can create an environment that is supportive, clean, efficient, and enjoyable. Or it can be stressful, inefficient, or even intimidating. And the longer you go without taking the time to consider how your business is internally (and externally perceived) the longer you go without taking the opportunity to improve…or allow things to get even worse.

Some of these factors include-

Your Geographic Location: This can be unavoidable, but the office can be in a bustling urban centre, scenic area, or in a cramped back alley with little daylight – with other elements like transport and ease of access coming into play. Is it easy for clients to access or is it a trial to secure suitable candidates with ease?

Your Infrastructure: This includes your office setup. Are the systems and equipment up to date and easy to use or are your programs and software outdated or unintuitive? Does this allow for the cloud-based sharing of project data or do employees have to go the extra mile to retrieve recruitment information?

Your Training and Support System: How do you onboard new clients or staff and how streamlined is the process? Do you have an established system that is clear and easily deployed? Or are people left to fend for themselves and sift through outdated recruitment information or learn bad habits that are impossible to break?

Your Work: Are employees – and clients – rewarded for engaging with your company? Are the roles you are recruiting for readily defined and are clients easy to work with? Are employees properly motivated or are they just an afterthought?

Your Perks: Is there anything that sets your company out from other recruitment businesses in the same field? Is there a certain quality of service that clients enjoy, and how are staff intrinsically and extrinsically rewarded for their time?

And much more, with many businesses enjoying a reputation that precedes them, solid word of mouth, or a setup that is genuinely enjoyable for employees to be part of.

What can I do?

While it may be difficult to know where to start when it comes to improving your office environment, there are a number of simple actions you can carry out that can bring significant improvements to your setup.

These include-

Embedding Communication: One of the biggest challenges facing the world of recruitment is capturing candidate information and relating it to key members of staff. Paper notes and word of mouth is lost and, while the shortest pencil is longer than the most accurate memory, implementing a digital communications pipeline can ensure no information is lost. Setting up a dedicated Slack channel or telecoms system can help minimise interruptions and allow individuals and teams to communicate with ease.

Changing your Office Plan: Undertaking ‘intelligent’ workspace design can help improve productivity and ensure that your footage is maximised without resulting in crowding and cramping. This can help create a throughflow for your space, create dedicated areas for interviews and conference calls and give each location in your office a specific utility without being prescriptive. This can breathe new life into an old office and ensure that clients and customers are impressed from the moment they step into your reception.

Implementing Technical Solutions: Taking a detailed look at your office infrastructure can add a number of benefits. This can include the provision of fit-for-purpose laptops and smart devices to help unify comms and optimise your team’s work. Looking at cloud-based solutions can also allow you to quickly create a client database and cut back on the errors and guesswork that can come as part and parcel of a long-running business. Reviewing bespoke solutions can also allow you to deploy a new tailored platform that suits your need, retrofit new functionality to old systems, or be deployed as you see fit.

Sound and Light: One of the biggest quick wins for a space is maximising exposure to light during the day and dampening excessive noise to prevent distraction or annoyance. Remodelling your space with larger windows or suitable low-blue lighting can help make working or interviewing in your office more effective. And deploying artistic baffle can help quiet conference rooms or prevent cubicle chat from being too noisy.

Flexible Work Practice: Adding and following through on key perks can massively improve employee morale and add to your office environment. This can range from buying into a cycle-to-work scheme, offering a company pension scheme, or allowing flexitime or adding the option to work from home. Granting greater agency can help improve your employee’s perception of the business and have that enthusiasm filter through to the clients they work with.

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For many businesses, motivation is a key concern and an ongoing issue for their teams. Motivation is the panacea that can allow lean companies to punch above their weight, or, conversely, cause larger businesses to struggle to hit goals and targets that should otherwise be readily achievable.

So, what exactly is employee motivation and what are some key opportunities – and pitfalls – when it comes to encouraging your teams to go the extra mile when it comes to their work?

What is motivation?

Employee motivation represents your employees’ drive to carry out their jobs and carry out work adjacent actions. A motivated employee can work harder, smarter, or fulfil specific tasks with a high degree of diligence – spreading their desire to do well to other members of a team. But by the same token, demotivated employees can be a ‘fly in the ointment’ and make the work of other individuals harder to complete – resulting in a net drain on resources.

What types of motivation are there?

While there are many theories and approaches to motivating employees, the discipline breaks down into two distinct categories – intrinsic and extrinsic motivation.

Intrinsic motivation refers to an individual’s ‘drive’ or internal desire to carry out a task. These feed internal rewards for the individual and foster a sense of accomplishment and wellbeing. For example: A programmer on a software team can enjoy the challenge and mental effort of solving a particular programming issue or working with others to optimise code and finding purpose as a part of a team.

Extrinsic motivation comes from outside the employee’s sphere of influence and normally takes the form of a reward or element that intrinsic rewards cannot provide. For example: Hitting key KPI’s can allow an employee to advance within an organisation, or successfully bidding for projects or bringing them in under budget can result in a bonus or the delivery of other company privileges.

employees

Understanding these helps form the basis of many motivation theories, from Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, Locke’s goal theory, or any number of contemporary self-help books that address specific issues you may be encountering with your business.

How can it help…or hinder?

However, it is important not to focus too much on the principles of motivation and more on follow through. Failing to provide promised rewards can result in individuals becoming disillusioned and even open you up to formal complaints or lawsuits. As your workforce changes, your employee’s needs will shift and grow. For example: A younger individual on the team may be willing to work long hours to secure financial reward, but a more seasoned employee with a young family may be willing to carry out specific tasks for more flexible working hours or benefits.

Providing the right motivators for your business can help attract quality candidates, or those with specialised skillsets that may be able to pick and choose their fields of employment. This can help provide opportunities for smaller businesses to secure a highly motivated workforce that is ‘in it together’ and willing to weather periods of disruption.

This can also support a wider data-gathering and outreach program, allowing you to collect vital data on your teams and enjoy a reciprocal value-creating relationship. And in a world where employees hold more clout and the ability to work remotely opens up their options, it is vital to seize every opportunity you can to learn from and support the members of your in-house team.

How do you motive employees?

How long do you have? While it seems that everyone and their cat has an approach, there are some key themes. Any solution you provide should be optimised and based on evidential data, with key motivators that include-

Employee Empowerment: Giving employees the ability to tackle work the way they prefer can help give them a sense of agency and control. Even the smallest degree of autonomy can help an employee feel more invested in their role and allow them to operate with greater self-direction. This can also be combined with set goals and targets, enabling them to operate in a way that dovetails with your metrics and doesn’t cause issues. This can be as simple as reducing oversight, allowing them to source tools they are familiar with, or allowing them to choose how and where they approach each task.

Clear Communication: An absolutely vital tenet of modern business, maintaining lines of clear communication can allow employees to feel valued and raise issues before they become significant. Good communication is an essential tool for fostering trust and creating a pathway that allows employees to raise issues or suggestions that can help you take the temperature of your teams and capture insight that may otherwise be unavailable to you. This can also allow you to provide additional motivations if an employee’s priorities change and for line managers to deliver transparent, constructive criticism if the individual is falling behind on their work.

Provision of Perks: Different from financial benefits, perks are ‘nice to have’ extras that can make working at your business enjoyable. This can range from a new coffee machine, games in your rec-room, free food, and more. Companies like Google are the kings of this, laying on breakfast and lunch for employees and offering unlimited work from home days to employees – with ‘free’ items rarely being exploited through peer pressure. However, it is important that you do not deliver small perks in lieu of making significant, requested change. This can result in frustration and ongoing issues for employees who may feel their needs are not being met.

Professional Training: Self improvement is a powerful motivator for team members looking to expand their skillsets. This can allow you to provide skills training on tools and software or professional qualifications, allowing you to improve the quality of your staff and provide a key motivation for certain individuals. Be warned though – it is vital that you make any caveats about training clear to employees that undertake the practice. This can leave employees ‘locked in’ to the business after completing a course as they may be required to pay back the company for any courses they undertook. This can be massively frustrating and breed resentment among your teams.

Professional Benefits: Employee benefits are an essential part of motivating extrinsically motivated employees and – in some cases – intrinsically motivated individuals too. These can take the form of compensation packages, bonuses, additional holidays and more. While using the ‘carrot’ method can motivate individuals, it is important to be clear about what the perks include and have full follow-through on their implementation. Pulling the carpet out under a hard-working employee can be disastrous for motivation but fully compensating your employees can be extremely powerful when deployed correctly. However, it is important to choose options that are of interest to your workforce and using your communication channels can help you understand your team’s needs and make the right decision for them.

Organisation and Supportive Frameworks: Discussing an employee’s professional development with a business can leave individuals feeling supported and trusted. This builds loyalty while also setting specific goals and expectations about their time with your company, helping to streamline the onboarding process and helping you get a sense of their interest in the years ahead. This can help provide validation, recognition of accomplishments, and make your teams feel empowered and invested in their workload.

What demotivates employees?

While you can provide the opportunity to encourage employees, certain actions – or lack thereof – can have a net negative effect on employee engagement and morale. Some simple issues include-

Lack of Confidence: Some employees may simply feel they are unable to complete a role. This can be due to self-limiting beliefs or a genuine lack of training.

Lack of feedback: The definition of insanity is carrying out the same task time and time again and expecting a different result. Failing to secure the feedback they need to change their approach can be a net negative for your business.

Personal Issues: Mental health or physical issues can make jobs or tasks much more difficult to complete. Taking the time to understand your team’s needs can make a massive difference in their personal and professional lives,

They simply don’t care: Also known as a motivational mismatch, failing to understand the ‘levers’ that move them can result in disillusionment and increased ‘sickness’ levels.

What next?

If you want to learn more about the importance of employee motivation or how a technical solution can help your business, our team at Practical Software is here to help. With many years’ experience providing solutions to a range of clients, we work with you to understand your unique situation and deploy a software solution that suits your unique needs.

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A mainstay in the marketplace, recruitment has played – and continues to play – a vital role in bolstering UK business. But with recent changes and upheaval coming from the global pandemic and disruptive technology, it can be difficult to know where the industry currently stands.

So, how much is the recruitment sector currently worth and how has Covid-19 affected the sector over the last couple of months?

How much is the industry worth currently?

Now more valuable than ever before in its history, the UK recruitment sector is worth £38.9bn, enjoying a record turnover despite long standing global upheaval. While this is an on-the-books valuation, recent changes and issues facing the UK stand to significantly knock that value down in the years ahead.

For the time being, companies are finding themselves inundated with requests to find skilled workers who are able to work remotely – making digital innovation a must for businesses looking to thrive, or survive, in what is set to be a challenging marketplace.

How has the industry changed over time?

While the recruitment industry may have been relatively straightforward in the past, technical innovation has caused disruption for every business and sector.

Many companies are required to cultivate information about clients from online sources, engage in social media advertising, and develop scalable in-house software solutions to compete with their opposition. This has given rise to analysis and database cultivation, allowing practitioners to interact, convert, and allocate employees at a rate that was simply unheard of before.

While many may see the future as being dominated by platforms like AI and algorithms – the truth is that things will simply work in simpatico. Humans can carry out interviews and the intuitive work of sourcing and managing clients, with software taking care of spreadsheet management and number crunching – reducing human error and increasing the efficiency of employees across the board.

With these changes coming into play at the end of the 2010’s, the sector has enjoyed strong growth across the 2008-2018 period. This was accompanied by an significant leap in professionals using social media platforms such as Twitter and LinkedIn to advertise their services. This helped provide additional resources for recruitment agencies to earmark, headhunt, and convert professionals – this led to an average turnover of £27bn per annum across the period, starting from a depressed position that reached a nadir in 09/10 before sharply rising the following year and continuing a strong upward trend.    

As we’ve seen, the rise of the tech industry has completely revolutionised the need for staff and the manner in which they are interviewed and employed.

How Has Covid-19 affected the industry?

Unfortunately, Covid-19 has had a significant negative impact on the sector. Governmental policies on lockdown and isolation have impacted the industry, resulting in disruption throughout the market and making it difficult for businesses to plan in the short and long-term.

This has resulted in a significant rise in unemployment and companies being reluctant to take on new hires – with many putting a hold on their recruitment actions in the months ahead.  

The key issue is the fact that Covid-19 has now instigated a recession – meaning that an inability to recruit due to lack of capital is doubly affected by the risk of infection and quarantine. This has proven to be massively disruptive as even the most-savvy companies are unable to plan for the future.

However, while sectors that require manual labour, front-facing, or in office roles may struggle – those businesses that allow for remote work have prospered. This includes the tech and finance industries, with many companies following suit as they prep for changes.

While many companies may require an in-house presence for their employees, the ability to work from home and to a high degree of efficiency will likely prove to be a genie that will not willingly return to its bottle.

What situation are we facing in 2020?

While financial forecasts are good for the previous years, the following months are set to be challenging in the extreme for many companies and employers.

However, recruitment companies do stand at an advantage if they follow protocol correctly. Many employers and employees are concerned about in-person interviews, embedding, and training – potentially positioning recruitment agencies as powerful vetting tools for clients.

A key challenge for recruitment companies is making do in a tech adjacent field. With money and time tight, many companies are looking at  technical solutions for recruiting – either creating their own pipeline or using an established or hybrid solution to their recruiting tasks to get the job done.

In this environment, businesses that can offer a hybrid approach will prove to be attractive. And it’s those companies that deploy innovative tech platforms to give more oversight to the process that will be able to benefit the most from streamlining the interview process and maximise on client acquisition.

This disruption also raises important questions about recruitment methods being fair, when to drop freezes on non-essential hiring, and putting in place staffing reductions. This means that businesses and recruitment agencies have to be opportunistic but cautious, and do everything they can to support individuals, companies, and the economy in innovative ways in the years ahead.

What next?

If you want to adapt to changes in the industry or learn more about how digital solutions can help your business, our team at Practical Software is here to help. With many years’ experience, we understand the importance of providing timely, up-to-date care that allows you to respond to change and pivot your teams to take advantage of opportunities in the sector.

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Finding the right person for the job is a constant headache for any business. No matter whether you’re trying to staff up to deal with an increasing workload or hunting out that specific someone to tackle a longstanding weakness – securing quality can feel close to impossible.

However, undertaking proactive recruiting actions can help reframe your approach and make sure that your business is perfectly set to find the right hire and optimise your actions when it truly matters most.

So, what exactly is proactive recruitment and how can you start?

What does proactive recruitment mean?

An essential part of the modern recruitment pipeline, proactive recruitment involves capturing information and approaching potential clients before positions open in your business. This is done in advance of a concrete role being created or – ideally – as part of ongoing recruitment practice, allowing you to earmark candidates long-before your company has need of them.

This can involve bracketing your search by desirable criteria such as geographic location, educational background, professional skill set and more. Once these parameters have been set, your business can actively reach out and build relationships with the professionals before you have need of them. This can range from building connections with universities, centres of professional excellence, or actively letting clients come to you through social media advertising.

While it is essential to follow the letter of the law when it comes to recruitment actions, earmarking professionals in advance can help refine your candidate selection process and allow you to develop a better understanding of their professional skillset, motivations, and how they would potentially fit within your company culture.

How does it help?

Taking the time to carry out proactive recruitment or adopt elements of the strategy in your approach can come with a range of benefits. Some of these positives include-

Accelerating Your Timeframe: Earmarking candidates in advance ensures that you can get running with your project or tackle an ongoing issue as quickly as possible. While this may be less of a concern for some businesses, this can be a critical value-add for time sensitive or competitive industries and help supply the winning edge you need.

Developing Loyalty: Contacting a candidate in advance will allow your business and the new member of staff to get the measure of each other. This can allow you to offer incentives that match their career goals and allow you to secure a long-term hire and reduce the risk of losing embodied skills and knowledge.

Advance Vetting: Skilled or high-value hires will often require extensive internal review and vetting. Getting approvals out of the way in advance can help minimise the onboarding process and get your new hire up and running quickly. This can be attractive for the candidate and allow you to make use of their skills quickly and with a high degree of efficiency. Out of all the benefits, this can provide the most significant long-term advantages as issues around screening, background checks, and logistics can be squared away in advance.

What do I need to do?

While there is no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to proactive recruitment, there are a number of approved strategies that work for a range of businesses. These include, but are not limited to-

Networking: If you’re looking to attract the best possible hires it’s important to take the time to understand the current marketplace and maintain place of prominence. This means attending regular trade events, networking meetings, and more. This can help you earmark groups, entities, or individuals that would be great to add to your conversion pipeline for employees.

Headhunting: Finding the right hire can be challenging when it comes to high demand roles – this means sourcing quality over quantity, which makes it helpful to make initial overtures to potential employees. This can involve asking professional partners or contacts for introductions and inviting individuals for coffee or lunch to discuss their current position and future goals. While this can be exacting, treating it as a rolling process can help you easily embed it in your work and quickly develop a roster of vetted professionals you have a pre-existing relationship with.

Online Prominence: If you want to attract the right candidates, your marketing materials and copy must be of the highest possible quality. This means taking the time to highlight the benefits of working with your business and creating an engagement funnel that potential employers can use to contact your company, which can then be used as part of an active approach. This can be supported by a sustained social media campaign, allowing you to use Twitter, Facebook, or platforms to improve your approach. This can also be bolstered by targeted engagement through Google AdWords or other SEO tools, letting you reach out and analyse your approach to help refine your work.

Pursuing Digital Innovation: One of the biggest advantages open to businesses is combining a qualitative engagement approach with the quantitative power of digital platforms and systems. This can quickly allow you to acquire and update a database of potential contacts – taking a great deal of effort out of the process and allow you to be more accurate and efficient with your regular engagement. While there is no one-size-fits-all solution, any reliable provider will be able to work with you to deliver a package that supports your key business actions.

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