Discover how the pandemic has impacted productivity, see what’s behind the statistics, and explore how you can manage performance effectively.
The pandemic triggered a huge shift in working structures, with government guidance sending many employees to work from home – and with it, came a big shift in productivity.
With new working environments filled with different distractions, employees had to adapt quickly. For some, the freedom and lack of structure made them more productive, but for others, it had some serious consequences.
In this blog, we’ll look at productivity statistics from the pandemic to explore the true impact the disruption had on employees, what the results mean, and how you can manage productivity among your employees going forward.
A boost in productivity
Productivity statistics throughout the pandemic varied drastically across individuals, organisations, and industries. But surprisingly, for a time of such disruption, there were a lot of results that suggested remote working boosted productivity.
According to Deloitte, 55% of workers believe that their colleagues are just as, if not more, productive now than before the national lockdown measures. And according to a study by the University of Southampton, 54% of people thought their productivity had gotten higher for every hour they worked compared to before the pandemic.
For many organisations that saw remote workers’ productivity rise, technology has been at the forefront of that success.
In a lot of cases, the pandemic has sped up the adoption of technology – with 75% of office workers using at least two new types of technology for work. From teleconferencing platforms that support online video calls to workflow automation tools, the pandemic forced organisations to digitally transform to survive.
And for the most part, those that were quick to adopt these technologies saw the benefits in their productivity. Automation has helped employees focus on more valuable and important tasks, and remote working has seen 12.9% more meetings, keeping employees engaged, connected, and motivated.
Reports suggest employer support increased productivity
It isn’t just technology that’s had an important impact on employee productivity – employer support played a big role too.
Many employers recognised that happier workers are more productive, and introduced measures to support their employees’ wellbeing during the pandemic. These covered everything from being lenient towards childcare responsibilities and pandemic-related anxiety, to setting up virtual coffee mornings and social events. Ultimately, many of these efforts had a positive effect – 53% of UK workers think that wellbeing has become more of a priority for their employer since lockdown.
However, these positive effects in productivity might not necessarily all be down to helpful efforts from employers. Greater productivity could also be attributed to longer workdays and a blurring of workplace boundaries. The average workday increased by 48.5 minutes through the pandemic, and 8.3% more emails were sent after business hours – giving people more time and flexibility to complete tasks.
Where was productivity negatively affected?
While working longer hours increased productivity for some organisations, they haven’t triggered a rise in productivity for every team. In fact, 69% of employees experienced symptoms of burnout during the pandemic, and 56% said they found it harder to switch off.
Another main cause for a dip in productivity was employees working separately from their colleagues. Sitting at a screen all day is a very different experience from being in the office, collaborating, and spending lunch with colleagues, with 67% of people feeling less connected to their colleagues when working remotely.
This disconnected feeling was even worse for employees working from either a sofa or bedroom. Of those without a suitable desk or work environment, 59% said they felt more isolated from their colleagues.
Pandemic-related anxiety led to a negative effect on productivity
On top of unstable working conditions, the pandemic itself was also a key factor in why productivity was negatively affected for some organisations.
It comes as no surprise that anxiety was high in the pandemic, and government-imposed lockdowns and working from home guidance had big impacts on productivity. A recent report from Deloitte revealed that 38% of workers said lockdown measures had a negative impact on their wellbeing, leading to low morale and difficulty concentrating.
Plus, these effects were worse for people who were poorly productive before the pandemic. One study found the lack of productivity was rooted in the individual, and only exacerbated by remote working.
With a greater level of trust involved in remote working, it’s easier for employees to be less productive because they’re out of sight and isolated from their immediate colleagues or senior management. And this isn’t just a problem for those who already struggled with productivity – 85% of UK workers admitted to slacking off when working from home, and instead concentrating on household responsibilities and browsing online content.
How you can manage productivity
Managing remote workforces, many employers struggled to measure how their productivity was affected during the pandemic – but now, a lot of organisations are starting to find new solutions through technology.
A recent Gartner report revealed that 16% of employers have started monitoring their employees through virtual clocking in and out, tracking computer usage and checking email and internal communications.
Using automated solutions, employers can also track their employee’s productivity in granular detail, without being distracted themselves. For example, many employers are using performance management tools to track employee output, monitor their time and attendance, and manage their development goals.
It shouldn’t just stop at productivity, either. It’s also crucial to monitor employee engagement as wellbeing, as these factors are tightly linked to fluctuations in productivity.
Employees thrive in safe, clean, and strategically designed work environments, and can’t be expected to be productive all the time. It’s important to recognise productive limits and build these into KPI and performance targets, to protect from burnout and stress, and increase overall efficiency.
Enhance your productivity
If you’d like to discuss further how you can better track and improve productivity, we have consultants with decades of HR experience across a wide range of sectors – just get in touch to see how we can help.