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Productivity Seeing Ups and Downs During Pandemic

Productivity Seeing Ups and Downs During Pandemic

We’re not telling you anything you don’t know when we say that productivity is important for every business. When the COVID-19 pandemic struck in early 2020, there was widespread fear that productivity would drop to levels that would ruin the economy. Today, we’ll talk about the change in strategy that kept that from happening, by looking at the past year’s numbers. 

Remote Workers

Let’s face it, before COVID-19 was a thing, a large percentage of businesses wouldn’t dream of letting their staff work from home for more than one day (or less). The strategy had been thoroughly tested—with varying degrees of success—since technology made it possible. Some businesses that tried the strategy functioned as expected, others perceived that they weren’t getting everything they needed out of their staff and nixed the strategy completely.

Then COVID-19 started spreading.

To stop the spread, governments started instituting shelter-in-place mandates, leaving business owners little choice other than to let their staff work remotely. Since circumstances dictated their decision to allow remote workers, there was very little time to plan, which resulted in many organizations dealing with inefficiencies, security issues, and more. 

Not-so-surprisingly, workers also struggled at first. Most workers—who wanted to work from home for years—suddenly got their wish and didn’t have an idea of how to maintain productivity from their house. 

All this led to a drop in productivity. By summer, many business owners were asking themselves if moving their workforce offsite was a cost effective strategy when compared with suspending operations. A lot of businesses closed their doors, many of them wouldn’t re-open.

Comfortable Workers Boost Productivity

As the summer months approached, productivity began to increase. Those same workers had settled into working from home, and with solutions coming about on how to maneuver during a pandemic, most workers found their new work situation to be advantageous. With workers wanting to show that they can be productive while working from home, productivity was surprisingly high for months. 

A lot of this was the result of technology. Remote access technology began to provide workers with much of the same access they had when they were at the office. Communication and collaboration tools boosted workers’ ability to be productive. In fact, productivity is known to grow by 20-to-25 percent in organizations that prioritize connectivity between employees. When all the employees are in different locations, technology is used to make this possible.

The Winter Swoon

The pandemic continued into the winter months, which predictably would shrink productivity, but it dropped off significantly. From June to October of 2020 productivity was at comparable levels to where it was in 2019, but this was not sustainable. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics, productivity dropped a total of 4.8 percent in the 4Q of 2020. So you have to ask, why did this drop in productivity, the most significant drop in 40 years, happen? Here are the most cited reasons:

  1. Stress - The pandemic has had a marked effect on public stress, that much is true. How quantifiable is it? Right now, the collective stress levels are comparable with the levels when the pandemic started a year ago. In the past year, America has dealt with the COVID-19 pandemic, racial protests, a contentious election, a riot in the Capitol, and a stumbling vaccine rollout (just to hit the big points) and mental health professionals are suggesting that the people of the U.S. are experiencing collective trauma. People simply don’t have the capacity to continue to be stressed at levels we are now seeing and it has a major impact on their ability to be productive, inside of an office or at home.
  2. Fatigue - When your job changes drastically and expectations don’t, things will be a grind. People that are working remotely are tired of being at home all the time. They are tired of their kids not being in school. They are tired of utility bills increasing. They are tired of being tired. Fatigue is one of the largest productivity killers inside any business, and with people largely stuck at home, it’s difficult to get the energy to sustain the focus that is expected.
  3. Lack of Incentive - Workers, whether they work at home or at a brick and mortar location, aren’t seeing the returns they’d like to see from their hard work. Many workers, especially front-line healthcare and retail workers have been going to work the whole pandemic with very little reward for the perceived risks. For remote workers, especially those who have children, their priority hierarchy is dictated by the situations they face. If they need to home-school their kids, or find solutions for pandemic-related issues, it won’t be a big surprise when their work suffers. Businesses are doing all they can to stay afloat, so wage growth or other incentives that they may have seen are all but removed from the equation, as well. 

Obviously, if businesses are going to continue to adhere to health and safety best practices, remote work will not go away anytime soon. As a result, it is important for businesses to confront the issues keeping their employees from being as productive as they need them to be while they continue to work from home.

SRS Networks can help you utilize technology to boost productivity. If you would like to learn how, give us a call today at (831) 758-3636.

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