Employers worry about remote work productivity, but fail to invest in tech solutions

Research warns employers to continue valuing in-person collaboration and to balance between safeguarding culture and a sense of team experienced though office-based working, with the virtues of hybrid working that is now essential in the new normal

Despite the almost universal acknowledgement of the need to support hybrid working, employers are failing to invest in technology to maintain productivity across their remote workforce, despite concerns about their output, according to research released by Ricoh Europe.

The study was conducted by Opinion Matters on behalf of Ricoh Europe, polling 1,500 decision-makers across the continent. The findings suggest that employers are continuing to fail to understand the barriers to productivity among their workforce. 

These findings come off the back of research released by Ricoh Europe in August 2021, which found that two-thirds (65%) of employers don’t fully trust their employees to work remotely and that many UK organisations are considering their return-to-work policies, suggesting that the pandemic has eroded confidence in a remote workforce.

The research found that more than 18 months after the coronavirus pandemic took hold across Europe, forcing businesses to adopt remote working practices, just over a third (36%) of employers say their organisation has provided the tools and technology to maintain employee productivity while working from any location.

It added that despite the failure to implement new solutions, the majority of employers (53%) acknowledge that investing in artificial intelligence (AI) and automation boosts productivity across a hybrid workforce.

Employers were also found to be “vastly overestimating the amount of time employees spend on tasks that deliver real value to customers, while employees said they were bogged down in less meaningful work.

Most employers (69%) believed their staff spend up to 180 minutes each a day on high-value activity, compared with the 73 minutes that employees estimated when asked a similar question in March 2021.

Ricoh suggested that the lack of investment in technology to enable people to work productively from any location belies that employers are underprepared for the realities of hybrid work.

Over half (54%) of European business decision-makers believed that in-office collaboration was vital to the future success of their organisation. Despite this desire, only 27% predicted their company will return to a five-day office-based week in the next 12 months – further questioning their lack of investment in hybrid working tools.

“Employers clearly value in-person collaboration – but they must strike a delicate balance between safeguarding culture and a sense of team, often best experienced though office-based working, with the virtues of hybrid working,” said Ricoh Europe CEO David Mills commenting on the research.

“It is important to remember that technology that aids productivity for hybrid work will benefit people while they are in the office too. This is particularly true for automation and AI-based tools, which employees increasingly crave, because it frees them from repetitive, low-value work, to focus on more rewarding tasks.”

Ricoh Europe COO Nicola Downing added: “Businesses have weathered more than their fair share of disruption over the past 18 months. While they have shown incredible resilience, they risk losing the talent that has stayed with them for the duration of the pandemic if they fail to invest in the technology that will boost productivity for the hybrid work era and beyond.

“Employers should remember that establishing hybrid working practices, which put employee needs at the heart of decision making, demonstrates commitment and understanding of the challenges these workers have faced, increases productivity and fosters loyalty.”

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