With the world changed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the days of working from the office for 8 hours, 5 days a week are over.
As most businesses move towards a hybrid working model whereby employees work flexibly between the home and office, productivity is being defined in different ways.
This World Productivity Day, WeAreTheCity spoke to six technology industry experts to discuss what productivity means to them and how it has changed since the pandemic.
Freedom and Flexibility
Productivity in the workplace doesn’t mean working every hour of the day. “In our new hybrid working world, you can be immensely productive in a couple of hours and, if you get everything done, take half a day off,” explains Hugh Scantlebury, Founder and CEO of Aqilla. “It’s the old saying work smarter, not harder. That’s everyone’s dream, right? Everyone wants to be the smart worker – not the plodder still sat at their desk at 7pm.
“Productivity is also a personal choice. You can choose to be productive (or not) and set yourself up to succeed. You can choose to prioritise, set objectives, write to-do lists – for daily tasks or longer-term objectives. Remember that sometimes even taking a few days off and doing nothing but relaxing in the sun by a swimming pool or on the beach can be productive in the long term – especially when you get back to work all refreshed and recharged.”
“You get more out of your employees when companies work flexibly, that’s been proven time and time again,” adds Kathryn Barnes, Employment Counsel EMEA, at Globalization Partners.
“Indeed, recent research from PowWowNow found that nearly three-quarters (73 per cent) of UK employees feel that they would be more productive if they could spend time working flexibly, with 40 per cent of decision-makers agreeing that the biggest benefit experienced during lockdown was being more productive due to the absence of their commutes. Flexible working enables workers to establish their own peak performance times, scheduling timely breaks to optimise their efficiency. Furthermore, by trusting employees to manage their own time – and balance work with home responsibilities such as the school run – employees feel more incentivised to work efficiently.
“As the world recovers post-pandemic, companies now have the opportunity to make temporary fixes into permanent benefits. Implementing flexible work structures can be instrumental in boosting productivity and engagement, making for a happier and more efficient team.”
Employee Engagement Remains Essential
Whilst allowing flexible working can increase productivity, it is important that businesses still engage with their employees to ensure that productivity levels do not falter once the hybrid working model becomes the norm.
“Engagement is the key to maintaining employee wellbeing, which in turn has been proven to lower absences, enable higher productivity and strengthen the overarching capacity of an organisation. It is for these reasons that employee engagement should be a permanent priority and consideration for all business leaders looking to maintain high levels of productivity as we move more deeply into this new era of working,” says Ian Thomas, Chief Operating Officer at Node4.
Microsoft Teams has become synonymous with this new hybrid working world and it has given people across the globe the tools they need to remain productive while away from the office. However, Tom Cotton, Agile Workspace Technical Director at Six Degrees, argues that “although Microsoft Teams has all the communication and collaboration functionality an organisation could ever want, it’s not enough for IT teams to simply deploy the software and leave their people to it.
He adds: “In order to maximise your Teams investment and ensure optimal productivity throughout your organisation, you should work to embed the software as part of your working culture. A carefully planned integration and ongoing user training for your Teams deployment are essential to successfully embedding the software as a key pillar of your new hybrid working model.”
Implementing Effective Strategies
World Productivity Day provides the perfect opportunity to reflect on the past year and reevaluate what is important and effective. Terry Storrar, UK Managing Director at Leaseweb, suggests that encouraging the right mindsets and implementing simple yet effective methods, such as the 80/20 rule, can provide immense value to productivity.
“The 80/20 rule states that 80 per cent of a business’ income comes from 20 per cent of its projects. It’s a tool used to highlight the importance of identifying the highest priority work ensuring that the available manpower is being spent on the most valuable projects instead of being wasted on unimportant details. During this big change [to hybrid working], it will be important to once again reflect on productivity models such as the 80/20 rule – reminding employers and employees alike what are the most essential tasks to complete to ensure business continues to run as efficiently as possible.”
“Automation, artificial intelligence and machine learning can help considerably,” furthers Hugh Scantlebury, CEO at Aqilla. “They can do the heavy lifting, the time-consuming data entry tasks and the repetitive work that can fill up so much of the working day. They also remove much of the grind and monotony – hopefully making work more enjoyable. I’m not sure if there are stats around this point, but my gut feeling is that you’re more likely to be productive and efficient if you’re enjoying your work.”
Research shows that while 94 per cent of organisations are seeking to increase on-the-job productivity, 29 per cent of leaders are overwhelmed and under-skilled. “Having a structured learning and development programme in place is key to help bridge that gap and enhance performance within specific roles,” concludes Agata Nowakowska, Skillsoft’s Area Vice President EMEA. “However, with an increasing number of organisations navigating a newly-hybrid or remote working business model, employees require training that meets the demands of the modern workplace.
“In the digital world, employees are often mobile and running against time. Intelligent learning solutions that provide employees with engaging and tailored learning paths that will help them develop themselves, their teams or their business, are the solution for many forward-thinking companies as it enables them to meet each individual’s requirements while encouraging them to take control over their own learning. By giving employees the freedom to choose their own path and investing in employee training, organizations can create a more engaged and productive workforce.”
Discover more for World Productivity Day:
Here is my question: if you are getting ready for bed, why would you not get ready to work in the morning?
We are all creatures of habit? This is a simple truth. It might be a distant memory now, but back in January last year, most of us had a structured day. Alarm, shower, get dressed, eat breakfast, commute – work – and returning home – see family and leisure time. Maybe you had the first coffee break at 10am and an espresso around 3pm, to keep you going.
Getting ready and leaving the house to go to work has always been a daily routine for most of us. When the first lockdown hit last March, it was springtime and many of us were excited to have an hour ‘extra hour’ before starting to WFH. An hour we had previously ‘lost’ due to commuting was repurposed for morning exercise, both indoors and outdoors. I used this hour to start running most mornings. A new ritual.
What most of us want is predictably consistent energy levels throughout the working day. What most of us get is a mid-afternoon lull. Why?
The answer lies in the food and drink choices we make for breakfast and lunch. Certain choices will leave us feeling low in energy, struggling to make any sense of our emails, struggling to concentrate throughout a 2-hour meeting. In terms of productivity and contributing to the business’ bottom line this is far from ideal.
The solution for predictably consistent energy throughout the working day is to reflect our natural circadian rhythm in our behaviours and our food and drink choices.