Remote productivity suffers due to lack of office chat

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I think the response to lockdown is largely personality-driven. Extraverts miss the office chat, introverts are delighted not to be disturbed. Beyond that, companies will vary in the extent to which ...


Read More Martin Collinson
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The majority (70%) of remote office workers in a Unipos survey said the thing they miss the most about work is face-to-face chats with colleagues.

A further 25% said that their productivity has fallen, with 47% attributing it to communication difficulties, suggesting that the lack of chatter could be to blame for some.

Creativity is also suffering as 45% of workers said they miss being able to share ideas and feedback with co-workers.

Speaking to HR magazine Takashi Sato, managing director of Unipos, said: “Informal office conversation is far more important than just idle gossip or discussions of weekend plans – it also plays an integral business role.

“Communication difficulties are blamed for drops in productivity nearly half the time, which is posing a problem for businesses as distancing measures continue.”

Included in the survey were managers’ views on team leadership.

Though 73% of managers said that they are now spending either the same or less time on managing their remote teams, 69% said that regular calls and video meetings have been key to upholding employees’ motivation.

Sixty-two per cent also said that increased positive feedback has helped to maintain remote productivity.

For Jenny Crawford, chief people officer at City Pantry, maintaining close contact with colleagues is key to providing support in a time of crisis. She told HR magazine: “Productivity and communication are intrinsically linked, and as working from home will be a new experience for many, the most important thing businesses can do is listen to their employees, learn what is and isn’t working and adapt where it is needed.”

Regular surveys have been welcomed by many employers in this time to gauge how employees are handling the situation, and how they should respond.

At City Pantry, Crawford added: “In our most recent survey, we found that whilst ‘peer relationships’ remain very strong across the board, adapting to a new working routine definitely isn’t easy.

“Working from home will continue to have its challenges and benefits. However, for businesses to survive and thrive, employers will need to adopt new communications initiatives and adapt existing ones in order to maintain productivity.”

A further eighty-three per cent of Unipos’ respondents admitted their company has tried to implement mental and emotional wellbeing measures, yet 31% said the initiatives didn’t effectively support them.

Sato added: “The 2020 experiment with mass remote working has made many companies and employees realise that it is possible to operate without a central office, and that the flexibility it brings can be a huge positive.

“However, the dangers of isolation are clear. Positive collaboration, recognition and increased communication are crucial if businesses are to protect staff well-being and company productivity.”

Unipos’ survey results are based on the responses of 300 UK-based office workers in businesses of 250 or more employees. Ninety-three per cent of the respondents typically work in an office and had to switch to remote working because of the pandemic. The remaining 7% of respondents were already working from home pre-COVID-19.

Further reading:

HR's role in organisational creativity and innovation

Creativity flourishes when managers listen

Research reveals five main causes of poor workplace productivity

Four in ten employee helpline calls relate to mental health

Employee mental and physical wellbeing must remain a business priority

Comments

I think the response to lockdown is largely personality-driven. Extraverts miss the office chat, introverts are delighted not to be disturbed. Beyond that, companies will vary in the extent to which they adjust working practices to achieve their goals. Much of what was past was merely traditional, and certainly not designed deliberately to maximise teamwork, productivity or creativity. huge amounts of time and energy are wasted in the 9-5 tradition, both in the office and on the way to and from it. There have been a couple of experiments where companies have offered employees the opportunity to leave the office when the average production was achieved. Management thought staff might leave the office at lunchtime Friday. They'd all clocked off on Thursday morning. The lockdown has given every business an opportunity to reflect on what kind of culture and processes it might create to suit their goals. Those that do not take the opportunity to start with a clean page and really think it through are...well, not impressive.


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