METERMeetings, more meetings. A Zoom call. A Google Hangout. Another meeting. Answer emails. Have you checked out Slack? Did you sign off on those expenses at Concur? Have you ever felt too busy at work to do any real work? Well, apparently you’re right. According to a new report from Microsoft, our workplaces have a serious productivity problem.
The study, which surveyed nearly 31,000 freelancers or full-time employees in 31 markets between February 1, 2023 and March 14, 2023, found that 64% say they struggle to have the time and energy to do his job. Meeting overload is the biggest productivity killer. Respondents to the survey said meetings are their “number one productivity disruptor” with more than two-thirds saying they probably wouldn’t even miss if they weren’t there.
Other data supports the Microsoft study. A recently released EY-Parthenon report Using data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, it found that the productivity of US workers plunged 2.7% in the first quarter of 2023 compared to the same period last year, marking the fifth consecutive quarter. in which the productivity of workers has fallen.
Unsurprisingly, Microsoft, with its huge investment in AI tools like ChatGPT, says that AI is the solution. Never mind that it was Microsoft’s own technology (Teams, Office, Outlook) that promised productivity savings and delivered the opposite. Still, we must trust the Redmond technocrats to solve these problems with their new tools that will “radically rethink the workday” and “free up time and energy, protect focus time for creative work that leads to innovation.” .
Do not believe it.
Microsoft’s AI push won’t do much to solve the productivity problem, given the company’s history and our love of creating work for work’s sake.
So what is the answer to the productivity puzzle? Big tech and big business need look no further than Main Street. Small businesses have been showing the world how to be productive for years. They have been doing their job with fewer people.
Just last week, the National Federation of Independent Business reported that “small business owners continue to struggle to find workers, with 45% (seasonally adjusted) of all owners reporting openings they were unable to fill in the current period.”
As the retail, restaurant, service, and even manufacturing industries have recovered from the pandemic and most of my clients are busier than ever, how do they do this job when they have fewer employees?
The answer is easy: they give their workers more autonomy.
Visit a business with fewer than 100 employees, and you’ll find the people there at their desks, behind the counter, in front of a stove, or operating a machine. There are fewer meetings. There are fewer rules. There is more flexibility. Employees are given more freedom to make their own decisions. Decisions are made without committees and with the information available. Hiring is done on an educated hunch. Investments are made with more intuition. Technology is used when it is absolutely clear that it can save time and make money.
Microsoft laments the lack of innovation in corporate America. That’s because even the most trivial of decisions takes 27 meetings to pass. Not so in a smaller company. Innovation happens because it has to happen. Ideas that have the potential to save and earn money are approved faster and then quickly implemented.
Microsoft would have you believe that buying its artificial intelligence technology will solve the productivity problems of corporate America. AI will definitely make a difference soon. But it’s not too little technology that’s the problem.
Gene Marks is a columnist, author, and small business owner. His company, Marks Group PC, provides technology and financial management services to SMBs in the US and abroad.