Whilst we probably all agree and have observed that the pandemic has been mostly challenging for organisations, we equally recognise that there are opportunities to accelerate the transformation agenda – the productivity of divisions, departments, teams and indeed individuals, driven by changing ways of working, is a key pillar of this transformation
From Boardroom to Zoom
All too often, consultants look for innovation, trends and anything that could be fashionable, easy to market and saleable. The current pandemic provides an opportunity, and challenges us to set the scene and lead the transformation of how we work. Although arguably very few new trends were unleashed, the pandemic certainly accelerated existing or looming developments. One such example is the increasing levels of remote working with potentially fundamental implications on social structures in organisations. A recent study by Cardiff University points out that this number increased from 6% to 43% in 2020. Looking at productivity, there appears to be a core of around 40% of respondents in the same study who believe that their productivity remained constant while 30% believe it decreased or increased respectively. Prodoscore – a California-based company that develops employee visibility software – has seen a productivity increase of about 47% based on data from its thirty thousand users. This is particularly pertinent in the context of the UK’s traditionally, relatively low productivity when compared to other developed economies. The fundamental reshaping of the workplace could, or even should, be viewed as an opportunity for leapfrogging on that metric.
Whilst all of this is mainly positive, there are several considerations for leaders and HR professionals related to productivity. Firstly, measuring productivity in some industries such as the service sector is incredibly difficult and even more so when considering remote working. It will require management at all levels to reimagine the workplace and define comprehensive strategies and policies geared even more than today towards outcome-based activities, roles and careers. Secondly, as pressure mounts to maintain and increase productivity and implement new approaches to measuring outcomes and performance, there must be a strong focus on employee and partner wellbeing. This is an area with tremendous potential for the UK to lead on, set standards and define best-practices internationally. A survey commissioned by the Institute for Employment Studies (IES) surfaced that around 50% or respondents are not happy with their current work-life balance, 33% frequently feel isolated, 21% are worried about job security. Whilst mental wellbeing is crucial, physical impact is equally important, amid a significant rise in musculoskeletal complaints. Respondents reported new aches and pains, especially in the neck (58%), shoulder (56%) and back (55%), compared to their normal physical condition. Thirdly, the inequality, due to the individual's housing situation, can make it difficult to perform roles from home. An associated area of concern is the challenge, which comes with the hybrid-model. Arguably, this existed prior to the pandemic. In fact, for some time now, we observed the naturally evolving divergent core and periphery in most social structures. Those based mostly from hub offices in the metropolis and those working from spokes or home with power gravitating towards the centre. Although during the pandemic, power notably shifted away from these hubs, it is likely to re-centre, although at which pace and how concentrated it will be, remains open.
We, professionals, tasked with Organisational Design responsibilities and defining operating models, performance measurement frameworks and role descriptions are facing a range of decisions, which can be daunting in light of the present turbulences. However, this unprecedented time represents a unique chance to make our organisations more resilient for a perhaps less certain future.