Minimum effort, maximum result: top tech to help you get more from your working day

Kieran Alger
Photograph: Luis Alvarez/Getty

Enabling those who work for you to have a better work-life balance isn’t just good for a company’s productivity – it’s also central to the health, wellbeing and retention of your people.

Turning to the latest technology could help your people work smarter not harder, with new tools to empower them to cut time spent on uninspiring tasks, filter out the communications noise that hampers efficiency, and unplug altogether – to reset busy minds. We’ve rounded up a selection of the latest efficiency-increasing tech designed to tackle some of the most obvious drains on time at work.

Mobile Device Management (MDM)
Flexibility is right up there when it comes to creating a decent work-life balance, and a mobile-first approach to business can deliver big benefits in terms of employee agility and productivity. However, the complexity of managing a suite of company smartphones, including how they’re used and all the sensitive data they hold, can be a big task in itself. O2’s Mobile Device Management system mitigates many of these concerns. Centralised controls make it easier to ensure devices are used securely and appropriately; including which sites, services and content can be accessed. Security is taken care of by a 24/7 lock-and-wipe, so critical company data loss isn’t something to worry about. Employees can also access third-party productivity tools, such as Microsoft 365 and Box, so everything they need to work smartly on the move is right where it should be.

Work-life balance isn’t just about spending more time at home – it’s about managing the intensity of your working day and how much stress you load on. This Saent disc sits on your desk and gives you more control over the flow of your day, combining periods of focus with well-earned mental breaks. You simply tap Saent to start a timed session for a focus task and it’ll lock down unproductive sites and digital distractions to create space for you to really concentrate. A green-red light system also alerts colleagues that you’re working on something and want to avoid interruptions. After you complete your head-down working session, the app automatically calculates the length of the break you need to take to recharge.
Writing up the minutes or notes from meetings is a classic workplace time-killer. It’s also a distraction for employees, who spend more time making sure they’ve made good notes than engaging in the meeting as it’s taking place. Otter is an app that lets you get your head out of your notebook, or close your laptop screen. It automatically turns voice into editable notes in real time, can be embellished with pictures and worked on collaboratively. Like all dictation apps it’s not perfect, but the accuracy is ample for logging meetings, and notes can be shared with all attendees in an instant.

Just Call Me
Conference calls can save time wasted on travelling for face-to-face conversations. But setting up remote meetings for groups can be a complicated time sink. Not to mention there’s always a healthy dose of faff while people trawl emails and meeting invites for the dial-in codes, or realise they’ve not downloaded the desktop plugin they need to join a call. O2’s Just Call Me app simplifies the process, removing the need for premium rate dial-in numbers or complicated pin codes – you simply use the app to set the date and time, and invite all the participants to call your mobile number. Only the meeting coordinator needs the app and meetings sync straight to your calendar. And you can invite hundreds on to a call – should you want to.

Email is a classic example of a communication tool that was designed to make life easier but regularly makes it less efficient. SaneBox is a fantastic app that lets you take back control of your inbox with a suite of features that learns your email flow well enough to smooth out the irritations of incoming messages. It can identify important messages, hold non-urgent emails, block annoying repeat mailers and remind you to follow up important emails. It’ll automatically store attachments in Dropbox or Google Drive and even has a Do Not Disturb function. In other words, it makes email much, much easier.

Related: Top of your class: how to ensure you have the right tech for your business needs

Muse 2.0
A headset that teaches you how to be mindful might not seem like the obvious tool to add to your company’s communal chill-out spaces, but studies show that periods of mindfulness can boost focus and productivity, lower stress and even help employees make smarter decisions. Muse uses electroencephalogram (EEG) sensors, along with motion and heart-rate monitors, to track brain activity, heart rate, movement and breathing, and works with a smartphone app to provide audio-guided coaching to help you learn to control your body and mind more effectively. When your thoughts wander, your heart rate races due to stress or you fidget, the soundscape changes – from a calm breeze to a rainstorm, for example – so you can tell when you’re really hitting the restorative zone. The headset can be paired to more than one phone too, making it ideal as a shared tool for easing workplace stress.

Used well, smartphones are liberating tools that let your people get work done whenever and wherever they need to. Myo2business simplifies the process of managing a fleet of phones in businesses of any size. From one centralised dashboard you can see which members of staff have a mobile at any given time, monitor activity and spot trends in usage. This results in potentially money-saving data being available in an instant. You can also order new equipment, hardware and phones, and even use Myo2business to set up internal billing for mobile phone usage across different departments.