Employee productivity proves remarkably resilient during pandemic

The surge in remote working coupled with the rapid adoption of communications and collaborative technology means many companies have seen no significant change in employee productivity, according to a new report from Willis Towers Watson. Organisations have responded to the rapid disruption caused by the dramatic spread of COVID-19 by finding innovative ways to help their workers cope with the impact of the pandemic, while at the same time preparing for an eventual return to the workplace for many employees, according to the  survey of employers’.

A total of 996 employers based in Great Britain and Western Europe, 472 from the UK, took part in the 2020 COVID-19 Pulse Survey, which was conducted during April 2020.

Key findings from the survey:

  • Two-thirds of companies (67 percent) surveyed say over 75 percent of their organisation are working remotely – a dramatic increase from 56 percent that had less than 10 percent working remotely prior to COVID-19
  • Productivity for those working remotely does not seem to have been impacted with only 15 percent of companies saying it has had a material negative impact, 22 percent reporting a small negative impact, 22 percent claiming no impact or a positive impact and one third not sure of the impact.
  • 85 percent of employers surveyed say their employees working from home have the technology, tools and resources needed to work productively for an extended period of time.

“It has been an incredibly challenging time for many businesses as we navigate unchartered waters and take part in what has become the world’s largest work-from-home experiment,” said Hazel Rees, GB Leader, Rewards Line of Business at Willis Towers Watson. “Technology has been a saving grace during this crisis, helping to keep productivity levels up, while organisations with a greater online presence have been able to continue more effectively and in some cases even thrive.

“COVID-19 has had a profound impact on how work gets done and the longer term implications for employers and employees are far reaching. For employers who have found their employees can be just as productive away from the office, it seems increasingly likely that we will see an accelerated shift towards more agile working, with reverberating effects across the economy.”

Additional findings from the survey demonstrate how companies are focusing on communication and employee wellbeing to support engagement and productivity:

  • Almost nine out of ten employers (87 percent) say they have put in place measures to ensure that people feel supported, from their manager or fellow team members, during the coronavirus outbreak.
  • Almost all (98 percent) of employers are conducting regular communication to keep all employees updated and engaged and 85 percent have implemented a virtual or social engagement initiative.
  • Three quarters (83 percent) of companies said they have no end date planned for flexible working arrangements.

“It is not only companies that are trying to come to terms with this new way of life, but their workers too,” said Rees. “By being flexible in their approach to work arrangements, companies can help their employees adjust to their new situation. Businesses, in turn, will benefit from more productive and engaged workers where they allow individuals to juggle the challenges that Covid-19 brings to them, both inside and outside of work.

“This is a defining leadership moment for many organisations,” said Rees. “The employers that take strong action to put people first will be the best positioned to enhance employee wellbeing and engagement, restore stability and achieve future business success.”

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