Erica Gunn
Erica Gunn 10 November 2022

How Can Marketers Meet the Productivity Challenge of Remote Work?

Managers must help bridge the divide between those who want to stay remote and the benefits of face-to-face collaboration in the office. But how?

As a return to normal begins, there hasn’t been a universal rush back to the office. Workers now feel they are as productive at home as in the office. But there’s a gap in perception growing between managers and their employees.

The Work Trend Index by Microsoft has produced some startling results, with 87% of employees feeling that home was as productive, if not more, than being in the office. Perhaps not surprisingly, only 12% of bosses felt the same way about the productivity of their remote teams.

This large disconnect between employers and employees has to be addressed. As Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella says: “We have to get past what we describe as ‘productivity paranoia’.”

Stated another way, productivity paranoia is simply a lack of trust. The market is already seeing those voting with their feet to find roles that suit their work/life balance needs. Understandably, those remote workers prefer this new flexibility. Not only do they cut out their commute, but they feel they can focus more and, in their eyes, deliver more too.

The strict views of ‘office first’ employers are no longer applicable in the post-pandemic market. Knowledge-based jobs can be done anywhere with good internet connectivity and the right set of tools.

So, perhaps the questioning approach of ‘I can’t see you; therefore, I don’t trust you’ should be flipped to ‘Do you have the right tools to deliver what we need to get done?’. Is productivity paranoia more of teams not being optimised to do their work?

Rethinking How we Work Thanks to the Pandemic

It’s fair to say that all the rules of office-based work were thrown upside down by the Covid pandemic.

While IT functions rose to the challenge of remote working for their employees through cloud-based software such as Office 365, Zoom, and Google Docs, organisations needed to think about how work would get done when the whole workforce was distributed geographically rather than in one location. 

Chris Marsh, at 451 Research, part of S&P Market Intelligence, has said: “It kind of exposed how little strategic thought companies historically gave to how work happened, how it was organised, how it was designed, how it was executed.” This seismic shift in workers has moved from a factory style of working that is firmly based on the previous century.

The word of 2020 was Zoom, as video conferencing kept the human interaction going. As connectivity and engagement products evolve, they are helping to answer the question, ‘How are we going to get work done?’. Despite these advances, much more work must be undertaken to improve the symbiosis between employer and employee.

Frustrations and Futility

At Canto, we recently undertook research with over 400 digital and creative teams across the UK and US. Unsurprisingly, only 22 percent expected a full return to permanent in-office work. 

The real challenge is overcoming the productivity pain points that have always been there. Fifty-eight percent of respondents stated that duplicating work and reworking is an even greater challenge than it was 12-18 months ago. This all leads to frustration, lack of job satisfaction and poor productivity.

Respondents to the research also stated their frustration with miscommunication and the ability to find the right materials and control the production process, with challenges around rights management and convoluted workflows cited.

Why has the ability to create new digital assets become more challenging from pre-pandemic times? Is remote work broken, or do remote teams need additional tools and platforms to get things done? The answer could be somewhere between, but with organisations using multiple platforms and tools within their remote ecosystems, there is likely to be plenty of friction. 

Empower me, Trust me

Loosely using an old proverb, if you give colleagues the right tools, they’ll get the work done efficiently and effectively. If you don’t, frustration will rise, and organisations may see more quiet quitting. As Satya Nadella said: “We shouldn’t be asking the worker “Can I see you?” but “Can I see the impact of your work?”.

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