The COVID-19 pandemic triggered a seismic shift in the entire professional landscape. Changes which were gradually appearing on the horizon were suddenly jolted into the spotlight; staff across all industries are now working in different locations, to different work schedules, while using new and impressive digital tools.
While remote work was a novel challenge for many businesses at the beginning of the crisis, it has since become a key strategic consideration for all businesses as we enter a new era of working. Remote or hybrid working is no longer viewed as a quick-fix or short-term solution – companies who continue to take this standpoint will continue to fall further behind to organizations who are investing in the infrastructure needed to become proactive and flexible.
Successful businesses will be those that enable their talent to work with the same productivity and security whether in the office or when working remotely.
The Economist recently set about surveying the lay of the land by interviewing hundreds of executives from a range of industries about remote work and its impact on productivity to produce Reshaping Productivity, A changed workplace after COVID-19, a report supported by Kyocera. It was discovered that, as a result of employees working from home, 39% of all executives claimed that productivity increased at their organizations, 28.5% reported no change, and 32.6% pointed to a decline. Each sector battled its own unique productivity challenges, but common factors that hindered productivity levels were tools and processes.
Whether its prioritizing time to be with their families or doing activities to improve their wellbeing, the remote model has offered employees unparalleled flexibility that has contributed to increasing work productivity. According to the previously mentioned report, 52.8% of employees say that being able to work flexible hours instead of the traditional nine-to-five schedule has increased their productivity.
Similarly, another key productivity factor was reducing commute time. In fact, 66.9% of executives specified the elimination of commute time as one of the reasons for better productivity at the workplace. Saving employees from the pain of spending several hours daily stuck in traffic jams or crowded public transport has unsurprisingly not only reduced their stress levels, but also enabled them to better focus on task completion and meeting deadlines.
Hybrid working promises employees less stress and a more balanced life, all leading to our desired outcome: greater productivity. While they are clear enthusiasts of this new model, what can we do enhance their productivity further?
Evidently, digital tools are crucial enablers of productivity in remote settings. Without them, work from home would be virtually impossible and it is therefore no surprise that employee work rate is partly determined by whether businesses already have the right digital tools and processes in place. 47,2% of respondents in The Economist’s report cited that the use of digital tools enhanced collaboration among team members, allowing them to effectively communicate and work on tasks together.
Most employees have now adapted to the new work model and are now familiar with the large variety of tools that help with organization and communication, allowing them to be just as productive, if not more, as in the office. The Economist also found that approximately 90% of employees have been supportive in the uptake of digital tools to ensure a seamless remote experience which demonstrates that the willingness to work alongside technology is there.
This strong positive correlation between productivity and employee support of using digital tools shows the value of investing in technology. But productivity is not the only benefit. Providing the right tools and training is an effective way to boost employee morale and ensure that they have a seamless and stress-free remote work experience.
On the other hand, among executives whose organizations experienced productivity reduction with remote work, 38.7% said this is because their employees did not have access to tools for information management that are used in the office, such as document and print-related services. This is also likely to be a factor in impeding collaboration among team members, which was the top reason cited for lower productivity at organizations.
However, investment in technology is not only crucial to amplifying productivity, but also to ensure maximum data protection, since new software solutions are better equipped with the ever more frequent cyber threats.
While remote and hybrid work settings have led to greater productivity for many businesses, they have also provoked a rise in more complex security threats. The increased traffic produced by organizations moving operations online combined with new digital tools has made networks more vulnerable to cyber-attacks. Businesses must protect themselves; not only to steer clear away from any information and financial loss, but also to avoid workflow disruption. Investment in information security is nowadays non-negotiable.
Out of the organizations included in the report that view information security as being “extremely important” and are investing heavily in it, 62% reported a slight or significant increase in productivity, while only 5.7% have seen a slight decrease and none a significant decrease. The research highlights that productivity is not a factor to be overlooked when considering information security investment.
When the COVID-19 pandemic upended our lives, the companies that transitioned to the hybrid work model successfully were those who already had the right foundations and pillars already in place. These structures allowed them to function in the virtual world with little stress.
We are still discovering how productivity can be optimized in the hybrid working world, but the current research sends a clear message: putting the right structures in place is critical. Embracing flexibility, investing in digital infrastructure, and galvanizing information security are just some of the factors that can lead to optimized productivity.
These should be at the heart of any business strategies going foward in this new age of working.