Employee productivity has not been significantly damaged by the almost wholesale move to remote working by huge numbers companies as a result of the pandemic.
A survey by employee benefits and HR consultancy Willis Towers Watson suggests that the move to remote or home working – supported by the growing prevalence of innovative technology – means many companies have maintained worker productivity, despite the pandemic’s “profound” impact on the workplace.
The poll of almost 1,000 companies in the UK and Western Europe found that two-thirds of employers say over 75% of their organisation are working remotely.
That is a huge increase from the 56% of businesses that had less than 10% working remotely prior to the pandemic.
And crucially, only 15% of companies say working remotely has had a “material” negative impact on productivity.
Just over a fifth (22%) said it had resulted in a “small” negative impact – and the same proportion (22%) said they had seen no impact or had in fact noticed a “positive” impact as a result of the changing work patterns.
One third of companies, though, say that are not yet sure of the impact of remote working on productivity.
More than eight in ten (85%) employers surveyed say their employees working from home have the technology, tools and resources needed to work productively for an extended period of time.
Hazel Rees, GB Leader, Rewards Line of Business at Willis Towers Watson, said 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”.
She said: “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.”
Rees said that the pandemic has had a “profound” impact on how work gets done and the longer term implications for employers and employees are “far-reaching”.
She said: “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.”
The survey also found that three quarters (83%) of companies have no end date planned for flexible working arrangements – and bosses that learn the lessons from the current “experiment” stand to make their businesses and employees flourish in the years to come.
Rees said: “It is not only companies that are trying to come to terms with this new way of life, but their workers too.
“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.”
Rees said the pandemic is “a defining leadership moment” for many organisations.
She said: “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.”