It’s no secret that many employees prefer hybrid work or at least a more flexible work week, a change incited by the COVID-19 pandemic that many business leaders are still navigating. The challenge is that this flexibility can also create struggle for some employees, who are now fitting work in their lifestyle rhythm. It’s all too easy to wind up working later than they normally would, even though they can better attend to personal responsibilities.
The impact on teams can be palpable. It may take more effort to schedule meetings, manage projects and coordinate collaboration among employees working from home and those in the office. Computer time is inching up and, because teams are operating in a focused way, they can become more siloed.
It can be a tricky balance for leaders, who need to drive results and plan for the future while supporting their workforce. So what can be done to empower both the business and employees?
A Shift in What Leadership Looks Like
The act of management itself needs to adjust. What many employees are asking for via flexible schedules is freedom in how they execute work. Instead of directing them, managers would be better served by loosening control and letting them deliver. Can you trust employees to do their jobs? Shouldn’t you hire talent that you can trust?
It’s not about tasks in this new work landscape, it’s more about the finished product and results. The best way to support employees is to set up communication channels (succinct ways to provide updates, for example), deadlines and other targets that help them deliver. An example would be the use of a collaboration and communication tool like Microsoft Teams for quick updates, and project management software where project stages, comments and statuses can be viewed and tracked by all.
The result? Employee empowerment, which goes a long way in affecting performance and culture. Management in this world becomes less about managing and more about supporting the team.
Technology Like AI Can Be a Liberator
The right tools and technology can mitigate digital exhaustion. Case in point: artificial intelligence (AI) and its ability to give workers more time back into their day to focus on more meaningful tasks.
IT service desk analysts are probably most vulnerable to exhaustion. They’ve been fielding requests for help during challenging transitions: office shutdowns, sudden employee setups at home, migrating employees back to an often-changed office space and hybrid support.
A high volume of support requests, often repetitive, coming from the entire employee base has meant long hours of screen time. But AI can be used in the service desk process to step in and:
- Address initial tech support requests, particularly redundant asks (reducing human interaction)
- Provide knowledge base responses that help employees fix issues if possible
- Gather relevant background information during the first interaction
- Allow analysts to take on escalated or more complicated requests
Tikit, an IT service desk solution built for Microsoft Teams, works this way, by injecting an AI-based virtual agent into the ticketing process so that employees get immediate acknowledgement and analysts get a bit of a break. Further efficiencies, like the use of templates, make greater use of automation so that analysts can almost take their hands off the wheel.
Tikit represents one way companies can improve processes, maximize talent and create better work-life balance. What other efficiencies will you create using AI?