Being back in the office is not making UK workers more productive: report

Despite UK workers spending an average of three days a week in the office, new research from Slack research has found that the majority don’t believe it's where they’re most productive.

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New research from Slack has found that two and a half years after the UK government enforced its work from home order in response to the Coronavirus pandemic, 88% of desk-based employees in the UK are working from the office at least one day a week, with the average worker visiting the office three days a week.

While 60% of survey respondents coordinate their office attendance with their teams, the survey, based on responses from 1,000 knowledge workers of all ages, job levels and locations across the UK, found that being in the office actually makes employees feel less productive due to the wrong tasks being prioritised, a disorganised approach to communications and meetings, and time spent catching up with colleagues.

Speaking at Slack’s Frontiers event earlier this week, Daniel Hansens, EMEA senior director at Slack, said that over the last two years, we’ve seen that when offices are taken out of the equation, businesses can still survive and thrive in many cases.

“One of the interesting things that the research pulls up is, it’s not just about getting more people into the office, or getting them together as a team, the question is what they're actually doing when they're in the office,” Hansens said.

Video calls disrupt work

On average, respondents who have returned to the office said they’re spending nearly two hours a day joining video calls every time they are in, with that figure rising to 3-4 hours for 20% workers. Furthermore, so-called ‘deep work’, the tasks that knowledge workers are hired to do, are prioritised by 55% of respondents when they’re working from home, whereas only 16% of respondents cited that the office was the best place to get deep work done.

The report’s findings make it clear that many organisations are still a long way off from implementing a comprehensive hybrid work policy as, although a home environment might be more distraction-free, it’s not without its drawbacks.

While 53% of UK workers said they feel more productive working from home, 24% of those employees reported that they were regularly wasting time in scheduled 30-minute video meetings that in an office environment would have most likely been a quick chat.

Not only are these 30-minute default meetings encroaching on workers’ productivity, 65% of respondents believe that deskside conversations are vital for creativity and innovation, with 66% also believe that quick, desk side conversations are important for problem solving and 79% cite them as important for creating a feeling of belonging.

Workers cite need for automation

The report’s findings help to paint a picture of what employees clearly feel is lacking from the hybrid work policy that is being enacted from their current employer and when asked about what would help improve their ability to remain productive, an increased need for automation was cited by the majority of respondents.

Fifty nine percent of those surveyed agreed their company should invest in automation for completing mundane tasks, with 64% of respondents saying they would be happier if they didn’t have to do routine activities, such as checking diaries to schedule meetings, while 66% agreed that automating parts of their job would make them more productive.

Hansens said that with 66% of people agreeing that getting rid of those mundane tasks would allow them to ultimately focus more on that deep work, it’s clear that automation can add real value to organisations.

“On average, employees say that they could save two hours per day just through automation of mundane tasks, which shows how much mundane overhead there is in our day to day working lives,” he said.

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Copyright © 2022 IDG Communications, Inc.

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