The COVID cost: Employers walking into remote working productivity slump

Names & Faces
,
July 28, 2020
HQ

Last month, we conducted some research to explore the role that Names & Faces - and tools like it - can play in the global shift to remote work resulting from COVID-19.

Our survey with Censuswide, conducted with 2,403 employed respondents in US and UK companies with 250+ employees, exposed the link between remote working productivity levels and employee visibility - which we defined as 'the degree to which employees feel seen, know people across the company, and are quickly able to find and identify anyone they don't know'.

For the ten question survey, we found:

  • Three quarters (75%) of people who report being more productive since working from home know at least half of their company.
  • Almost two thirds (64%) who don’t feel visible within their organisation have experienced a productivity drop while working from home.
  • Over half (53%) of UK and US employees rely on asking colleagues to identify the right person within their organization to help them to do their job.

With 98% of people saying they would like to have the option to work remotely for the rest of their careers, employers are looking for ways to guarantee productivity in the new home working environment and to understand the longer term, unintended consequence of the switch. 

The survey revealed how employees report a reliance on pre-existing relationships to get work done, with three quarters (75%) of people who say they are more productive since working from home because of the COVID-19 lockdown knowing at least half of their company. In the US, this climbs to 84%, with more than half (54%) saying they recognize most or all of their company.

According to the survey, only a fifth (21%) of US and UK workers say they feel very visible within their organization since moving to remote working. Not being seen or being able to find and identify others appears to have a knock-on effect on productivity, with almost two thirds (64%) of those feeling invisible at work reporting a productivity drop since remote working became compulsory. In contrast, over two thirds (67%) of those who feel very visible at work have reported a productivity increase since moving to remote working.

A recent survey showed that 54% of US workers reported a positive impact on their productivity, but of the 25% who reported a negative impact, the main reason for this was that it took longer to get answers and information from co-workers. According to the Names & Faces findings, surveyed employees at UK companies who need to identify relevant people to help them with their job while working remotely spend on average 19 minutes every day on this task, which increases in the US to an average of 29 minutes per day. The most popular way of identifying this person is to ask a colleague (53%), with just over one fifth of people (22%) using an employee directory. 

Gabrielle Adams, Assistant Professor of Public Policy and Psychology and Director of Executive Education at the University of Virginia, comments: "Knowing colleagues, feeling seen, and being able to find and identify people in an organization is critical. It contributes to a greater sense of belonging and elevates a team from simply completing set tasks to being motivated to support their whole organization in achieving its goals. If the future of work is indeed remote working, then companies must create an organizational climate and culture that facilitates this sense of belonging and bolsters employee visibility.”

Richard Arscott, Co-founder of Names & Faces, comments: “Individuals’ efficiency and self-sufficiency at work are fundamental to an organisation’s commercial success. Employees are currently burning through the social capital they accrued while working in the same physical location as their colleagues, but this cannot power remote working indefinitely. This will be most evident when change comes, with new employees beginning roles remotely or people moving teams and beginning new projects, as they won’t have previously accrued social capital to leverage. 

“Currently employers are reliant on colleagues for help in identifying who who’s and who does what. Now those requests of colleagues exist in a world already overwhelmed by digital communications distractions. Giving people a tool to help them recognise, remember, and discover individuals in their organisation independently reduces time spent in this search, increases internal visibility, and fosters a sense of belonging and inclusion.”

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