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Maximising Productivity in a Post-Lockdown World: Part 1

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Published Date: 23rd August 2023.

Welcome to the first part of my two-part blog series focusing on current trends and challenges facing CEOs, employers, business leaders and business owners in New Zealand.

The idea for this blog came from a recent article I read in the New Zealand Herald, referencing a study conducted in the US around remote working.

A survey conducted by travel advice website, Upgraded Points, showed that one in seven employees only completed three to four hours a day of productive work. Other time was spent on activities such as checking social media, doing household chores, online shopping and running errands, to name just a few.

Findings from the report echo conversations I’ve been having with hiring managers and employers trying to find the right balance between productivity and keeping their employees happy.

This blog will look at the productivity loss observed since the transition from remote work during lockdowns to a semi-return to the office.

The Productivity Paradox: From Lockdown to Freedom

During the lockdown period, many employers witnessed a surge in productivity as remote workers embraced the circumstances and focused on their tasks. With restricted movement and nowhere else to go, employees developed a sense of camaraderie, focus and commitment to being productive while working from home.

As restrictions eased and employees regained the freedom of movement, a decline in productivity has been observed across New Zealand, and the world. The challenge for the managers I’ve spoken to is understanding the factors contributing to this decline and finding practical solutions.

Striking the Right Balance

To mitigate the productivity loss experienced in a post-lockdown work environment, many organisations have implemented hybrid work models. One popular approach allows employees to work from home for one or more days a week but requires them to be present in the office for the remaining days.

This model provides the best of both worlds,­ allowing employees to enjoy the benefits of remote work while maintaining in-person collaboration and communication. I also recommend that managers work with their teams to establish clear expectations and guidelines for remote work days, emphasising the importance of maintaining focus and productivity.

Other business owners have been experimenting with alternative approaches, such as compressed workweeks. These compressed weeks involve employees working longer hours on fewer days, resulting in an extra day off, for example, a nine-day fortnight. While not suitable for all industries or job roles, compressed workweeks have proven successful in enhancing work-life balance and boosting productivity in certain instances.

While it's important to acknowledge that there isn't a one-size-fits-all solution, it's evident that organisations in New Zealand are adopting diverse approaches to remote work. Some are implementing structured hybrid models, while others offer employees the flexibility to choose their remote workdays.

Four-Day Work Week

In recent years, the concept of a four-day workweek has garnered attention and interest in New Zealand. Some have even started experimenting with this innovative approach to work in recent years. The idea behind a four-day workweek is to condense the traditional five days of work into four, allowing employees to enjoy a three-day weekend every week. The benefits have been reported as offering a healthier work-life balance and a boost in productivity and employee satisfaction.

There have been experiments with the concept of a four-day workweek with full pay, although this practice hasn't gained widespread adoption in New Zealand as of now. Perpetual Guardian, a New Zealand estate planning provider, first trialed the 32-hour week in 2018 successfully. Will we see more of this in the future in an effort to raise productivity in the workplace, while also contributing to the personal wellbeing of staff?

Overcoming Geographic Barriers

Before the pandemic, employers were generally against fully remote workers. However, the lockdowns and talent shortages forced organisations to embrace remote work as a temporary solution. Employees then proved their ability to be productive while working remotely, which led to a change in attitude and acceptance.

With the return to a semi-normal work environment, I’ve seen an increased reluctance to hire fully remote workers. Business leaders are now seeking a middle ground, resulting in the rise of what we at Beyond Recruitment call "location-agnostic roles." In these roles, employees work in a different office location from their team but still benefit from in-office collaboration, training and cultural immersion.

For organisations with multiple office locations, hiring location-agnostic staff allows them to tap into talent from different regions while ensuring the benefits of in-person work. It also allows employees to experience different work environments and expand their professional networks.

Recalibrating for Enhanced Productivity and Employee Satisfaction

New Zealand organisations are recalibrating their businesses to optimise productivity and create a positive work experience for their employees. With efficiency at the forefront of their minds, employers are exploring various strategies to address the challenges of a post-lockdown work environment.

Improving communication and collaboration is crucial for maintaining productivity. New Zealand employers can foster open lines of communication, encourage regular check-ins with team members and leverage digital collaboration tools to ensure seamless remote collaboration.

Creating a supportive work culture is also essential in maintaining high productivity levels. Organisations can invest in employee well-being programs, encourage a healthy work-life balance, and provide professional development and growth opportunities. Recognising and rewarding employee achievements can establish a positive and motivated work environment.

Technology solutions play a crucial role in facilitating seamless remote or hybrid work. Business leaders should invest in secure and efficient communication and project management tools that enable remote collaboration and ensure the accessibility of necessary resources. By empowering employees with the right technology, they will be able to work effectively regardless of their location.

Final Thoughts on Working From Home

As the work landscape continues to evolve, managers must adapt to ensure productivity remains high in the post-lockdown era. CEOs, employers, business leaders and business owners can create a harmonious work environment that promotes productivity and employee satisfaction by embracing hybrid work models, reevaluating attitudes towards remote work and recalibrating business practices.

Please feel free to contact me or one of the teams, here at Beyond Recruitment if you’d like to discuss workplace trends or how we can support your hiring strategy across New Zealand.

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