Many procurement professionals have found themselves over-working without setting boundaries © Getty Images
Many procurement professionals have found themselves over-working without setting boundaries © Getty Images

Three ways to boost procurement productivity when WFH

12 February 2021

Many procurement professionals have now spent the best part of a year working from home, with all the challenges that brings.

Technology has enabled organisations to keep operating through the pandemic, but almost half of procurement leaders have reported a drop in productivity due to remote working, with poor efficiency and team coordination blamed.

Scott Dance, director of Hays Procurement and Supply Chain, described how the “lack of a structured nine-to-five working day can lead to struggles with motivation, and even over-working without setting boundaries between your work and home life”.

So what's the answer? SM asked some experts for advice on how to remain productive while working from home: 

1. Keep communicating

According to Mark Ellis, managing partner at 4C Associates, remote working has led to increased interaction between procurement professionals and their internal stakeholders or suppliers.

“Trust is extremely important with your own teams and with your supply chain at any time – so when it comes to productivity and remote working during the Covid-19 pandemic we need to believe people will be professional, do the right and appropriate things to get the job done,” he said. 

“It is clear that across many organisations (that are open and working), people are working at home and not having physical interaction. They are spending more time at their laptop and in meetings. This means more interaction with the wider business and connecting people across businesses.”

However, Suzanne Hathaway, director at Hathaway Lane, highlighted building stakeholder relationships can be tricky when working from home.

“When a procurement professional is buying indirects, they are helping their internal stakeholder spend their budget more effectively. Working from home can make it more challenging to build stakeholder relationships, because it's not as easy to pop by to the stakeholder's office or bump into them in the office canteen, so the use of video conferencing can play an important role in relationship building and output,” she said. 

Rupert Gaster, founder of Procurement Heads, added: “Try and avoid the habit of ‘just pinging off an email’ when you would have gone to someone’s desk for a chat. Call them instead. The volume of emails is probably everyone’s main issue right now.”

2. Don’t be afraid to say 'No' 

As time moves on, your priorities and areas of focus could shift almost on a daily basis, Dance said.  

“That means you need to have the confidence and conviction to say 'no' to tasks that aren’t going to help you or your organisation achieve what’s truly important right now. This is key and it will help improve your productivity by avoiding taking on tasks which can be distracting to what you should be focusing on.”

Dance added if the extra task is essential, it is important to be realistic about what you can manage during the working day, “perhaps offering a partial solution in the meantime”.

Ellis continued: “I have not seen many procurement professionals rebalance work and life – to be honest many have felt guilty that either they are not doing enough for their organisations or that they are fortunate to have a job during this time. 

“I see some people working 12-13 hour days and being extremely busy – however some direction needs to be given as some procurement and business leaders have been dragged into assisting their organisation to survive or to maximise their revenues through this difficult time.”


3. Think long term

While the rollout of vaccinations is happening, remote and home working are here to stay, so finding solutions to make the process easier in the long term is key. 

Gaster said: “Research productivity tools, AI and automation to help make the many repetitive tasks that employees perform easier and more efficient. You’ll be hailed internally if these tools really demonstrate significant bottom line value.”

But Ellis added it's important to “believe that procurement professionals have really delivered and been productive whilst home working”. 

“Many have set up their control towers and offices and managed their sourcing, supply engagement and category strategies through various business communication systems, at the same time managing home life, parenting, home-schooling, looking after ill family, and at times suffering from Covid themselves. This is a time to be proud to be a procurement professional.” 

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