During the Covid-19 pandemic, most businesses have adopted new ways of working. Many employees have gone remote, interacting with customers and coworkers virtually. Others continue to go to a workplace each day, but perform their jobs very differently. Everyone is doing their best. But how productive have companies actually been during the pandemic relative to where they were before Covid-19?
The short answer: It depends on the company.
Some have remained remarkably productive during the Covid-era, capitalizing on latest technology to collaborate effectively and efficiently. Most, however, are less productive now than they were 12 months ago. The key difference between the best and the rest is how successful they were at managing the scarce time, talent, and energy of their workforces before Covid-19. The companies that are the very best at managing these three factors are 40% more productive than the rest.
Claim 1 – The best companies have minimised wasted time from excessive e-mails, meetings and processes – the rest have not.
Stay-at-home orders liberated time previously spent commuting and created flexibility in work schedules, enabling many employees to devote additional time to their jobs.
We estimate that the best organizations have seen productive time increase by 5% or more.
However, for companies that struggled to collaborate productively before the pandemic, work-from-home orders only made matters worse. Time consumed in virtual meetings exploded. Poor collaboration and inefficient work practices reduced productive time by 2% to 3% for most organizations.
Claim 2 – The best have capitalized on changing work patterns to access new talent.
Exceptional talent ― people with the ability to bring creativity and ingenuity to their work ― is a scarce and valuable resource. Our research suggests that the best companies are 20% more productive than the rest due to the way they acquire, develop, team, and lead such talent.
Remote work has created opportunities for organizations to access talent that may have been out of reach prior to Covid-19. Physical proximity to work is no longer a primary factor in determining the pool of available labor for most companies. The best companies are capitalizing on new and different sources of talent to build the capabilities they will need to win in the future.
Remote work has also enabled an organization’s most skilled workers to engage virtually in a broader range of initiatives and teams than they could physically — multiplying the influence these individuals have on performance.
However, most companies have struggled to tread water during the pandemic. A dearth of demand for products and services has kept them out of the labor market, unable to capitalize on opportunities to acquire new talent. Meanwhile, their current employees have faced mounting pressures at home, as they juggle work and family. As a result, some organizations have seen many of their star performers leave the workforce — at least temporarily — reducing overall productivity.
Employee engagement and inspiration matter. According to our research, an engaged employee is 45% more productive than a merely satisfied worker. And an inspired employee — one who has a profound personal connection to their work and/or their company ― is 55% more productive than an engaged employee, or more than twice as productive as a satisfied worker. The better an organization is engaging and inspiring its employees, the better its performance.
However, most organizations have struggled to engage their employees during the pandemic.
As Covid-19 and work-from-home orders persisted, regular surveys revealed that employees were growing tired, balancing the new realities of work and home. In response, Adobe, for example, gave all employees an extra day off — the third Friday of each month — to unplug and recharge.
The productivity gap between the best and the rest has widened during the pandemic. We estimate that the best companies — those that were already effective in managing the time, talent, and energy of their teams — have grown 5% to 8% more productive over the last 12 months. Additional work time, access to new star talent and continued engagement have bolstered productivity at these companies. Most organizations, however, have experienced a net reduction in productivity of 3% to 6% (or more) due to inefficient collaboration, wasteful ways of working, and an overall decline in employee engagement.
This all sounds logical and sensible – just don’t ask for details about how they actually measure the productivity of any one company (you can’t) in order to establish the above % differences – nor how they can ignore other drivers of productivity such as management quality, process efficiencies, invention and innovation from any source, capital investment in machinery/ IT/ AI/ robotics and not just Zoom – and luck