The impact of COVID-19 on employee productivity

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Now that we have said goodbye to most restrictions and Covid-19 is entering its endgame (fingers crossed!), let’s take a look at the impact the pandemic had on employees over the last two years. It looks like employee productivity has passed the test. Studies show that productivity has remained stable during the pandemic. In a lot of cases, knowledge workers who had the ability to work from home have even become more productive.

 

Less distractions, more focus

 

 While the pandemic was still raging, Microsoft and Boston Consulting Group surveyed 9,000 people in companies across 15 European countries. The ‘Future of Work’ study concluded that remote working does not result in a decline of productivity. Many people have even become more productive. They were stripped from distractions – noisy landscape offices, chatty colleagues, long and crowded meetings – and they were able to create their own ideal working environment. ‘Employees can be comfortable in their own setting, they can really focus’, according to the researchers.

In a survey from the University of Southampton, 54 percent of the respondents say that their productivity while working from home felt higher than before. They got more work done in every hour they worked. In a study that Deloitte conducted in the UK, 55 percent of the workers believe that their colleagues were just, if not more, productive during the pandemic than before the lockdowns.

 

Goodbye, autopilot

 

Of course, after two years of mainly working from home, those results might not be fully reliable anymore. But if there is one thing that we take with us, it’s probably that we make smarter choices on what to do with our precious working time. Is this meeting really necessary? Should I really take the train to Paris or London for just one day? Will I work most efficiently at home or at the office today? We don’t just do things on autopilot anymore, just ‘because we have always done them this way’. That’s a huge boost for employee productivity.

 

Negative effects on creativity and innovation

 

But of course, it’s no black and white story. The same studies that claim that remote working had no effect, or even a positive effect, on employee productivity also point out that it had a negative effect on creativity and innovation. On a company level and an even bigger scale (economies), those are very important drivers of productivity. It’s harder to be creative and innovative on your own, from a distance.

Collaboration sparks creativity. People who come together inspire each other; the clash of ideas leads to groundbreaking new ideas. Often, it’s not the brainstorms and the stand-ups that have the biggest added value. In many companies the coffee machine is where the real magic happens. So, don’t cram your employees’ agendas with meetings, but make sure you make room for informal and spontaneous meetings.

 

Employee engagement boosts productivity

 

 An underestimated point of interest is the impact of Covid-19 on employee engagement. There is a strong, direct link between employee engagement and employee productivity. According to the experts from Herculean Alliance, engaged employees are up to 51 percent more productive. A staggering number that shows just how crucial it is to invest in employee engagement.

During the pandemic, companies struggled with finding new ways to keep the team spirit up and connect their employees. Not just with each other, but also with their employer. In the US, we witnessed the so-called Great Resignation. In December 2021 alone, over 4 million Americans quit their job. The pandemic was a wake-up call for slumbered employees everywhere. Employee engagement is one of the key pillars to keep employees on board. Engaged employees are not only more productive, they also tend to stay longer. Two birds with one stone.

Given the enormous impact of employee engagement on productivity and retention, it might just be the most important challenge when shaping the future of work.

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