Recently published data by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) claims that the UK is in a productivity crisis, lagging behind many other G7 nations in workforce output.
However, the majority (85%) of business leaders do not feel that remote and hybrid working is a cause for this, according to new research of over 500 business leaders from Okta.
Over half (61%) state that their employees are more productive while working remotely, a quarter (24%) say that they are equally so, and only a minority (15%) feel that productivity has decreased.
However, business leaders in Germany (94%) and France (91%) report higher levels of productivity, in tandem with the ONS findings that these regions surpass the UK. This suggests that businesses could gain more productivity advantages from hybrid working.
Perceptions of productivity levels while working remotely have largely advanced in the UK. In an Okta study from 2020, more than a quarter (27%) felt that there was a distinct perception that employees were doing little work while at home, but most (64%) felt that this improved during the course of the pandemic.
Over a third (37%) of business leaders now see better productivity as one of the main business drivers in adopting a hybrid model. However, a quarter (26%) feel that this is still a challenge, and a third (32%) say that this is a top priority to improve.
Hybrid on the rise, along with proximity bias
Over the past few years, there has been an increasing desire for employees to adopt hybrid working, rising from April 2020 (35%) to March 2021 (43%), with three-quarters (72%) now using this model in 2023. Okta’s 2020 research found that over half (55%) were in the office everyday prior to the first national lockdown, and in March 2021, almost a third (31%) believed that their employer would require them to return full-time. However, the new study finds that this is now the case for just a quarter (25%).
The rise of hybrid work has simultaneously led to a growth in proximity bias, which is a tendency to give preferential treatment to those working onsite compared to those working remotely. This is regarded as an increasing challenge for a fifth (19%) of UK businesses. Two-fifths (42%) of leaders are actively investing in ways to prevent this, while a similar number (41%) would consider investments in this space.
Additional priorities for businesses in 2023 include improving employee experience (33%), maintaining a positive workplace culture (30%), and getting collaboration right (27%). To do this, leaders plan to increase investment into video conferencing tools (78%), productivity and collaboration tools (70%) and employee engagement tools (68%) over the next three years.
“Many employees predicted that they would be required to return to pre-pandemic ways of working, but this hasn’t been the case,” comments Ian Lowe, Head of Industry Solutions EMEA at Okta.
“Business leaders and governments alike have in fact listened to employee demands and the general public sentiment, recognising the benefits of hybrid work, from improved productivity and better wellbeing, to reduced operational costs.
“As a result, most businesses have now adopted a hybrid model, while various legislation has been implemented in the UK and globally to introduce more rights and protections for remote workers.”