2020—An international Boston Consulting Group (BCG) survey on employee sentiment reveals that productivity can be maintained surprisingly well in a virtual or hybrid work setting. BCG commissioned a survey over 12,000 respondents that spanned the US, Germany, and India
BCG asked the respondents about their attitudes toward flexibility, their relative productivity on individual, collaborative, and managerial tasks, their wellbeing, career security, social connectivity, culture, learning and development, and the work tools they use.
Despite both the speed of the shift to remote working and its scale (the survey found the pandemic forced employers to move about 40% of employees to remote working), some 75% of employees said that during the first few months of thecrisis, they have in fact been able to maintain or improve their perceived productivity on individual tasks (such as analyzing data, writing presentations, or executing administrative tasks).
While employees were working on collaborative tasks (such as exchanges with coworkers, working in teams, or interacting with clients), the number was lower, though still more than half—51%—of all respondents said they have been able to maintain or improve their productivity. This applies across geographic areas and both to employees working remotely and to those onsite.
“It turns out that social connectivity is a critical element of what enables us to be productive when collaborating in the workplace,” said Debbie Lovich, a BCG managing director and senior partner. “So, for any company looking to adapt to new virtual or hybrid virtual/onsite workplaces, promoting virtual social connectivity between colleagues is going to be critical.”
Those with improved physical health during COVID were 2.1x more likely to have maintained or improved productivity on collaborative tasks vs those with worse physical health. Those satisfied with their social connectivity at work during COVID were 2.4x more likely to have maintained or improved productivity on collaborative tasks vs those not satisfied. 50 percent of respondents report a desire for some flexibility in where and/or when they get their work done.
The future of work will be hybrid
Given the speed and scale of the pandemic and the fact that companies had no time to prepare their employees for the shift to remote work, a decline in employee efficiency and productivity was expected. The responses also reveal a significant shift in employee expectations for the future of work, with a keen appetite and increased openness for flexible ways of working.
Prateek Roongta, Managing Director and Partner & India Lead, People & Organization, BCG, said, "Our findings further suggest that the future of work will be increasingly hybrid. This presents both challenges and opportunities for employers: to reimagine employee experiences and to create conditions that allow employees to thrive in the workplace of the future—one that will be far less office-space centric."
This means developing new hybrid working models that enable employees to move seamlessly between onsite and remote work, as well as thinking about the appropriate physical space—both size and shape—for the hybrid office.
What all this means for employers is that they will have to work to implement new systems, norms, and technologies that will enable them to continue to support and increase workplace productivity. Key interventions include:
- Identifying ways to maximize social connectivity among employees—whether work happens face to face or remotely
- Creating awareness, tools, and benefits that support the mental and physical health of all employees
- Investing in and building capabilities to use the technologies, tools, and systems that enable employees to work and collaborate remotely
- Measuring employee productivity in conjunction with employee perceptions
- Ensuring that the transitions between respective team norms for onsite and remote are as smooth as possible, giving employees a cohesive experience that feels designed, not random
Those that get it right will not only position themselves for business success—they will also enable everyone to contribute to the creative, innovative, collaborative, and productive workplace of the future.