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Defining the productivity threshold in the age of COVID-19

Stay at home or go back to work? Which delivers the greatest productivity? A new survey probes the issue.

Man working in an office at a computer. — Photo: © Tim Sandle
Man working in an office at a computer. — Photo: © Tim Sandle

Home and remote working a commonplace and post-coronavirus, while some firms are preparing for a full ‘return to office’, many other companies are planning to return to a type of hybrid working. Has remote working been productive and what do the answers mean for the future?

A new report finds that low-productivity workers contribute only 90 minutes – or around 20 percent – of an eight-hour day. This means a low-productivity worker is wasting $48,000 of a $60,000 annual salary, meaning least productive employees are earning more per hour than the most productive employees.

In this context, productivity is assessed in narrow economic terms, relating to the methods designed to measure the output that comes from units of input. That is, the efficiency of production of goods or services.

The report comes from Prodoscore and the aim to provide intelligence to businesses to consider as they develop their return to work plans and look at assessing their employees’ productivity.

To gather the information, Prodoscore examined over 21.7 million data points collected from close to 3,000 U.S.-based employees and 140 organizations. During the coronavirus era the report showed some strong contrasts with the approach to work. For example, highly productive employees send almost eight times more emails compared to employees with low productivity

In a related area, high- and average-productive employees schedule approximately 1.4 times more calendar time as employees with low productivity. Further with the utilization of digital business applications, the research showed that highly productive employees send 4 times as many chat messages as employees with low productivity.

Using a different measure, the data demonstrates that highly productive employees have two times as much voice and video activity as employees with low productivity. Plus this group of workers possess approximately 1.6 times more Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software activity as employees with low productivity. These go-getter employees are also working on more than twice as many documents as employees with low productivity.

Commenting on the findings for Digital Journal, David Powell, President of Prodoscore explains why the gathered data is important, stating: “Having more than 10% of your employees register such low rates of productivity and high gap times can negatively impact the health and morale of your company.”

He adds: “Our data also unpacks a troubling trend: based on hours worked, your least productive employees are earning more per hour than your most productive employees.”

In terms of learning points, it is commonly the case that the concept of organizational agility is central to business survival. From this, in the context of the survey, it stands that no matter where teams are located or how employees work, they need to remain engaged in the business in order to drive success.

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Written By

Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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