The new poll, commissioned by Citrix and carried out by Censuswide, quizzed 1000 employees as well as 750 IT and HR leaders from across large organisations (employing at least 250 people) in the UK’s retail, financial services, insurance, utilities and public sectors. The initial research which took place in February 2020 was repeated in May 2020 to gauge how COVID-driven changes during lockdown have impacted HR, IT and staff perceptions and plans around workforce productivity.
Productivity concerns rife amongst UK employees and IT leaders
The poll revealed that two-thirds (66%) of IT decision makers believe staff efficiency is currently restricted by the limitations of their IT systems – an increase from 58% pre-lockdown. In fact, 42% of HR leaders and 59% of IT leaders now believe their organisation will never see an increase in productivity without investment in better IT systems and adapting organisational culture.
Responding to the most recent poll, over half (56%) of employees surveyed agree that serious change still needs to happen for their employer to be set up in a way which allows them to be the most productive they possibly can be.
Increased awareness of tech as a productivity enabler
The research reveals that employees became increasingly aware of the role technology played in boosting productivity during lockdown. In February, over a third (36%) of surveyed staff claimed that financial rewards were key to making them more productive or efficient in their role. Yet post-lockdown, this dropped to just one quarter (25%) of staff, with employees more likely to agree that technology is the most significant catalyst for greater productivity.
When asked what would enable them to be more productive or efficient in their role, more than two-fifths (42%) of staff chose better technology that empowers them to be more efficient so they can use their time better and dedicate more time to higher value tasks – compared to just one third (35%) pre-lockdown. Similarly, over a third (35%) chose more flexible technology that lets them work in the way that suits them as key to boosting their productivity – an increase from 29% pre-lockdown.
While staff agree with IT and HR leaders on the role technology plays in boosting productivity, the polls suggest a disconnect with senior management. Over half (57%) of IT leaders believe senior management still view technology as a “keeping the lights on" function rather than a "productivity enabler” – an increase from the 51% of IT leaders who took this view in February, despite the pandemic putting the role of technology firmly in the spotlight.
Technology frustrations and ‘burn-out’ concerns
Unfortunately, staff frustrations with workplace technology have also increased during lockdown. In February, just over one fifth (22%) of staff blamed current workplace technology for inhibiting productivity – flagging that staff could work flexibly with it but the tech wasn’t user friendly or simple to use. In May, this figure increased to 28%, with the same proportion (28%) of HR and IT leaders in agreement.
Beyond frustrations with technology itself, the research uncovered leadership concerns that enabling staff to work flexibly by being equally productive on their work device – whether in the workplace, on the move or working remotely – could negatively impact staff. In fact, 43% of HR leaders and 57% of IT leaders believe enabling more flexible working creates a risk of pushing an always-on culture on staff so they feel obliged to be more available for work, no matter where they are or what time it is. The research also revealed that almost half of HR leaders (46%) and IT leaders (48%) say that in their experience, flexible working always leads to burn-out.
Rising employee engagement levels
Despite these concerns, employee engagement is on the rise. IT and HR departments recognise the positive impact this has on productivity, with 61% of HR leaders and 79% of IT leaders agreeing that improving employee engagement is key to boosting employee productivity.
In fact, the research revealed that more than two-thirds of staff (69%) now feel their company is making an investment in them, whether their skills or their work environment, to help them become more productive – up from 60% pre-lockdown.
Additionally, the changes implemented during lockdown – including more remote working – have made staff feel more engaged in their organisation’s future and its push for better enabling staff productivity post-lockdown. A third (33%) feel involved and engaged (an increase from 21% pre-lockdown) and a further 39% agree that they know what their role is and how they can contribute to the business-wide focus on increased productivity.
“COVID-19 has upended working culture. For many organisations, lockdown measures quickly forced them further up the tech adoption curve – triggering speedy digital transformation efforts in a bid to ensure staff could work remotely and maintain ‘business as usual’. Despite this, many businesses have further to go in their attempts to create working environments which enable staff to perform at their best, no matter what additional disruption lies ahead,” said Darren Fields, Vice President, Networking, EMEA at Citrix.
“HR and IT leaders must consider the role both technology and working culture play in productivity if they are to get the best out of their employees. Implementing up-to-date, fast and performing technology must go hand-in-hand with adjusting workplace culture if businesses are to prioritise employee experience and maximise productivity. The reality is organisations must make employee experience a critical business priority if they are to successfully shift to a more flexible future of work while maintaining an engaged workforce.”