Covid’s Hidden Casualty: Business Productivity
It goes without saying the Covid pandemic has changed the way we live our day-to-day lives. From mundane pleasures like eating out to the looming global financial uncertainties on the horizon, what lies ahead remains unclear to many.
Particularly when it comes to our working lives, many employees have gone remote full-time. Businesses have adopted new technologies and new ways of working to interact successfully with both colleagues and customers.
In fact, the silver lining of the pandemic is that it’s pushed the digital transformation of many companies. For companies that embraced the new norm, they’ve actually seen increased business productivity from happier employees with a better work/life balance.
But this accelerated digital transformation comes with a caveat. Many companies have failed to successfully embrace the best technologies and practices throughout the pandemic with significant costs to business productivity.
The Business Productivity Crisis Isn’t New
Business productivity isn’t a new topic. For many countries, there has been an ongoing crisis for some time. Recent events have merely amplified the existing issues within companies
Within the G7 nations, Canada and the UK notably lag behind the rest in terms of productivity, at around 16% below the average. Consider this statistic alongside the studies that have suggested Covid-19 will further reduce productivity by between 3-6% on average and you see where the crisis lies.
The G7 nations represent a majority of global net wealth and global gross domestic product. All this is to say, a small decrease in business productivity will resonate for global economies. Meanwhile, a small increase in business productivity could create huge gains; not just for companies, but for employees and the societies within which they live.
Large Firms Were The Big Winners
While economies and governments were plunged into uncertainty, it was large firms that took bold steps towards digital transformation. Those same companies have reaped the rewards of doing so.
By investing in the best technologies for collaboration and remote working, these companies have helped employees navigate their way through the changes successfully. Many of these businesses are now reporting happier, more motivated, and more productive employees.
While the above is great news for big business, the stark reality is most companies are less productive now than they were 12 months ago. Despite mounting evidence that the new norm may be irrevocable, they have failed to adapt.
Tackling Business Productivity During Covid
Business productivity isn’t a grand mystery, driven only by economic factors. The larger firms that have thrived in the last year have some clear similarities. Mostly, how they interact with and treat their employees.
Treating employees as individuals, empowering them, and allowing them to use their unique talents is a huge part of this. Companies that have tapped into the talents of their employees and let them lead in the workplace have increased their business productivity.
Similarly, employees with more productive time throughout the day contribute to higher productivity levels. So employees with fewer unnecessary meetings, excessive email chains, and bureaucratic processes to adhere to are more productive.
Closely related to both previous points, the amount of energy each employee is willing to dedicate to work makes a huge difference to the productivity levels of a company. Employees who are empowered to use their talents and manage their time better will be far more likely to be dedicated to the success of the company they work for.
In layman’s terms, companies that thrive at managing the time, talent, and energy of their employees are the most productive. This has always been the case but has never been more apparent than throughout the pandemic.
Employee Well-Being Is Key To Productivity
Ironically, companies with no flexible or remote working options, due to a false belief that employee productivity would somehow suffer, are the companies that have suffered the most. They’ve been playing catch up, while forward-thinking companies have had these options in place for years.
Not only did these companies already have technologies in place, but they’ve identified new ways to keep employees focused and collaborate to minimize wasted time. But for companies that struggled to collaborate productively beforehand, employees saw hours of their day swallowed up by virtual meetings.
In regard to unique employee talents, the companies that have done the best used the switch to remote as an opportunity. They’ve been able to hire exceptionally talented candidates whose physical proximity to a workplace would have prevented them previously.
Initially, many companies saw an increase in energy levels due to employees no longer facing a commute. But many saw that dwindle as the months in the home office went on. Companies that found ways to inspire and engage their employees throughout the pandemic are the ones that have kept up the initial productivity increase. Some issued “no lay off” pledges to ease anxiety while others began running virtual town halls. Adobe even went so far as to offer the third Friday of each month off to recharge.
The Productivity Gap
There are many shining examples of companies that have successfully navigated the challenges of the pandemic. However, these are few and far between.
The reality is the productivity gap between these companies and the rest has merely widened throughout the pandemic. The impact of this productivity gap is real. These companies were ahead before the pandemic and have increased this lead throughout it. Their productivity boost will allow them to out-innovate competitors for years to come.
Companies that want to thrive long-term need to address the productivity roadblocks within their business now with a business productivity strategy fit for today’s workplace.