Has the pandemic created the most productive workforce the UK has seen?

The LinkedIn surveys asking us whether we prefer remote working, office working or a mixture of both have been popping up for some time, and for good reason. After a year of remote working and flexibility over where we work, for the first time in the history of the workplace environment, do we now actually know how we prefer to work?

We’ve been stuck for some time in antiquated working patterns and beliefs within businesses that ‘if you’re not in the office you’re not working’. We were that entrenched as a workforce that it took a global pandemic for employers to realise their teams could be trusted to work at home, so much so that CIPD have reported that home working levels will more than double in comparison to pre-pandemic levels.

With the forced remote working of the pandemic, employers came to realise that not only can their employees be trusted to work remotely, but actually the best person to decide this is the worker themself. Having spent month after month trying to complete workloads whilst juggling the stress and worry of a global pandemic, workers came to learn how and when they work best. Some individuals find home working frustrating, whether that be because of the home environment or the nature of their work, whilst others find office work more distracting and some now recognise they need the balance between the two in order to effectively complete their work.

This seems to be recognised by employers, where hybrid remote working options are being implemented. CIPD reported that two thirds of businesses are adopting a hybrid work model where employees only spend part of their time in the office, all as a result of the success of homeworking during the pandemic.

This change really puts the emphasis of working on the outputs or results, allowing the employee to drive activities with little concern to their location when doing that work. It seems we’re entering a time where you’re not clocking in at 9 and clocking out at 5 but flexing your work location and hours to suit the outputs you need to achieve that day. And with that we’re starting to understand where and how we as employees work best to achieve the outputs needed for specific tasks.

Could this better understanding of how we operate and more importantly in what environments we operate best, allow us to improve productivity?

Stanford University completed a study in China back in 2013 where they identified that offering home working as an option to their employees increased productivity overall by 22%. More recently, Capgemini Research Institute reported that 63% of the 500 organisations worldwide they surveyed reported productivity gains through utilising home working across the pandemic. The UK independently reported gains of 10% on average across various sectors from adopting home working or flexible working practices.

Given productivity in the UK has been relatively low over the past decade, is the boost in productivity as a result of flexible and remote working what the UK has needed all along?

It seems clear when looking at the data that operating leaner and partnering with your teams to ensure you’re facilitating them to perform as best as possible seems the ideal option, although not feasible in all sectors. It will be some time before we can see the true impact of the new way of working outside of forced remote working.

Hopefully, we’re moving into a new era of choice, where employees have a say on where and how they work and this as a result benefits the employee, the organisation they work for and the wider industry.