Building the role of Chief Focus Officer

Whilst employees are unanimous in loving the additional flexibility of hybrid working, they would also likely admit to having to combat new distractions that sap productivity – whether that’s blocking out the sound of kids when working from home, to getting work done in loud open plan offices. For IT teams, this requires them to don a new hat, and become the ‘Chief Focus Officer’, helping ensure employees’ remote and office working set-ups minimise distractions and facilitate optimum focus.

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In the past two years, working life has changed dramatically for many office-based employees. From being forced to work from home, to then getting used to new hybrid working models, many people have been adapting to new schedules, technologies and ways of collaborating. While many employees enjoy the flexibility (and the better work/life balance), that hybrid working affords, it has also brought challenges to levels of focus.

Working from home brings more distractions to combat, from blocking out the sound of other family members working or answering the doorbell. And the office has become somewhat more social (and therefore noisy) too, as teams opt for set office days to come in and see one another. So what can IT teams do to help employees focus, and maximise productivity wherever they are working?

IT teams are no strangers to the effects of change in working patterns and implementing technology to support hybrid working. From managing remote security for employees to handling IT requests from those working at home, IT teams have developed a new skill set since the start of the pandemic. However, they are now required to don a brand-new hat in a bid to help people stay on track. Enter the ‘Chief Focus Officer’, who is charged with ensuring employees’ remote and office working set-ups minimise distractions.

Here we explore how IT Officers can embrace this new role and what they need to do to facilitate optimum focus from employees:

Making technology easier to use for every employee

The Chief Focus Officer’s main objective is to streamline the array of tools and tech businesses had to adopt at the start of the pandemic, when quickly adapting to new ways of working was vital. A good place to start is simplifying the complicated mesh of tools and protocols, and removing any that are no longer fit for purpose. This will also ensure that employees aren’t overwhelmed by unfamiliar equipment and systems. Chief Focus Officers should also look to standardise solutions, with the aim to reduce compliance issues and the number of support requests that IT receive.

Anyone in this role will also need to prioritise solutions that strike a balance between giving users enough choice to pick the right option for their specific needs and function, but not so many options that they are overwhelmed. In doing this, the different roles, preferences and requirements of each employee and team will be addressed, rather than adopting a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach.

Eliminating distractions

Being able to work from anywhere inevitably adds to the number of distractions that an employee may face. From notifications from Instagram to being overwhelmed by background noise when working in a café, it can be harder to concentrate outside of the office environment. Overcoming these distractions can be a challenge, as shown by recent research that reveals that hybrid working is proving exhausting for employees. As a result, a Chief Focus Officer must ensure that tools are provided which not only drive productivity but also help to make ‘anywhere working’ less stressful.

Ensuring teams have the best IT equipment for their role - even if it’s as simple as offering employees the right headsets, microphones or webcams – can significantly improve productivity. It could be that employees who regularly work in noisy environments need headsets with advanced noise-cancellation technology, or that teams who are constantly on the go would benefit from a HD webcam that performs well on a laptop. Sometimes the simple solutions are the most effective, and getting the basics right can really go a long way to helping employees who may be teetering on the edge of ‘burn-out.’

Keeping track of teams

As IT teams invest in new technology, there is greater potential to monitor how it is performing and being used. And this isn’t as sinister as it may sound. By speaking to colleagues for feedback on new tools and systems, and even by spotting trends in which teams are using which equipment, Chief Focus Officers can be empowered to make more informed decisions about the tech that is purchased moving forward. By evaluating how their teams work best, IT leaders can protect gains made in lockdown (such as time and operational savings and a better work-life balance) and support the future of flexible working.

As many businesses are set to embrace hybrid working for the long term, it will be more important than ever for IT teams to monitor the best ways of working to ensure that productivity isn’t hampered.  This leaves the newly appointed Chief Focus Officer with three priorities; to concentrate on and respond to the changing needs and processes within teams, to get under the skin of what is distracting and taking up too much of employees’ time, and to bring in creative ways to ensure focus is on what matters.

This is a contributed article by Sean McCarry,VC Commercial at Logitech.