How has your team fared? While initial reports showed that productivity rose during lockdown, the big question is how sustainable this is in the longer term. Research from McKinsey in June found that while 28% of people working from home reported being as productive as they were, and 41% claimed they were more productive, it could have been the product of social capital built before the pandemic hit rather than due to the special merits of working remotely.
These past seven months have been a period of survival for many companies and this may have influenced the peak in productivity achieved by those employees who were not furloughed. Maintaining work-from-home productivity in the longer term is more challenging, however, as employees tire of being in isolation, suggesting that a hybrid solution, combining remote and in-office working, may be more effective.
Concerns about falling levels of work-from-home productivity are being increasingly voiced in recent weeks. Jamie Dimon, CEO of JPMorgan, suggested that employee work output was particularly affected on Mondays and Fridays and expressed regrets at the loss of ‘creative combustion’ that comes with working from home. There has been a palpable change in mood since the Government’s recent re-introduction of ‘work from home where possible’ measures. A sense of déjà vu is emerging and the realisation that isolated and monotonous working routines may be here to stay is having an inevitable effect on employee morale.
So, what is to be done? Many businesses, including Facebook and Twitter, are taking the first step by hiring a Director of Agile Working. Such a role comes with three key responsibilities.
Firstly, they are accountable for protecting the culture of the business in the shift to remote or hybrid working. They motivate, inspire and bring together the virtual and in-office teams, creating clear travel strategies and strong, frequent channels of communication to ensure all are aligned in their vision and efforts.
Secondly, they must ensure quality of life for employees, from ergonomic office set-ups at home to access to wellbeing services, mentors and digital resources that can support staff in achieving their personal goals and retaining strong boundaries between their personal and professional lives.
And finally, armed with a strong corporate culture and high levels of employee satisfaction, the Director of Agile Working has the greatest chance of achieving their third responsibility of maximising productivity.
While a hybrid future that combines working from home with working in-person at the office is the optimal future for productivity, with demand for remote working specialists growing rapidly, you must act fast if you want to stay ahead of the game.