UK workers suffer productivity drain due to poor hybrid work policies: Report

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New research from Slack highlights the ongoing disconnect between UK business leaders and employees when it comes to hybrid work, with the average worker only spending the equivalent of one day a week focused on deep work.

Despite 28% of UK workers being defined as hybrid workers, and 16% working from home, Slack’s new How Productivity Platforms Can Power Business Impact report shows that while 87% of leaders say they are investing in improving the hybrid experience, only 50% of workers believe that expectation has been met.

The report is based on a survey of 1,650 UK knowledge workers and 350 IT decision makers, with the aim of identifying the barriers and opportunities that are presented by hybrid work.

Since the global COVID-19 pandemic forced offices to shut, hybrid working has become the default model for many office-based companies, with research from Slack’s Future Forum finding that 56% of IT decision makers and 54% of knowledge workers believe having flexibility in where and when they work helps them to be more productive. Flexible remote work policies were cited as the number one factor that has improved company culture over the past two years.

However, despite both executives and employees acknowledging the benefits of hybrid work, some business leaders are still struggling to make sure the hybrid work polices they’re enacting are helping to drive meaningful connections and foster better collaboration.

Thirty-three percent of respondents to the survey said that their firms’ current approach to hybrid work has created greater silos and fragmentation of knowledge.

Remote and hybrid workers — 35% and 37%, respectively —were also more likely to feel concerned that they connect less with co-workers due to hybrid working while 34% of 18-34 year olds surveyed by Slack said they were concerned about a lack of connection and opportunity to learn from senior co-workers.

More meetings don’t equal greater productivity

Meetings are also proving to be a threat to business productivity, with 60% of employees surveyed for the report stating that they are a time drain.

According to data provided by Slack, UK workers spend an average of seven hours and 42 minutes a week either coordinating or attending meetings, with 36% of respondents saying they spend more time on video calls now than they did 12 months ago.

In comparison, knowledge workers spend just over nine hours a week on deep work, a figure that drops to seven hours and  one minute for IT decision makers, who are now averaging 10 hours and 58 minutes a week in meetings.

In order to address this, 34% of employees surveyed said that cutting down on the number of meetings they’re required to attend would help boost productivity as it would given them more time to focus on the work they were hired to do. IT leaders also expressed a willingness to make work days less meeting-heavy, with 27% saying that replacing 30-minute meetings with shorter, asynchronous audio clips would make them more productive.

Tech-driven solutions to productivity

When IT decision makers were asked how they see technology driving productivity in the next year, 37% said it could improve collaboration among cross-functional teams, while 31% said it could offer more flexibility over where people can work.

Additionally, while 47% of IT decision makers said automating mundane and repetitive tasks would also help to boost productivity, only 27% of employees agreed with this statement, showing that more needs to be done to help workers understand where simple automation can be deployed and the areas of work where these specific productivity gains can be achieved.

Providing a good digital experience is critical to success in today’s digital-first world and it’s clear there’s a disconnect between IT leaders and employees on that front, said Stuart Templeton, head of UK at Slack, commenting on the report’s findings.

While Templeton acknowledged that this is the first time most businesses have faced tough economic headwinds since the adopting a hybrid work model, he said that it was clear from the research that this shouldn’t stop business leaders from seizing on opportunities to “improve alignment, efficiency and productivity across their teams no matter where or when they work.”

Copyright © 2023 IDG Communications, Inc.

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