Disconnect emerges between UK management and employees on hybrid work

Study from leading business software company finds that while overwhelming majority of IT leaders say they are investing in improving the hybrid experience for their organisation, only half of workers think it’s enough and feel their productivity has suffered

While the direction of travel for hybrid work in the UK is undoubtedly forward-facing, a survey from business productivity firm Slack has found that while the vast majority of IT leaders say they are investing to improve their business’s digital experience, UK employees perceive management failures in improving hybrid work.

In its How productivity platforms can power business impact, Slack surveyed 1,650 UK knowledge workers and 350 IT decision-makers to provide a snapshot of the state of hybrid work in the UK, identifying the barriers and opportunities to increase performance – from tackling inefficiencies caused by too many meetings to addressing a lack of meaningful connection between colleagues. 

The survey found that as a result of the disconnect, UK workers feel their productivity has suffered, with less than nine hours a week spent on deep work by the average employee – just one working day out of five. Instead, time was being spent trying to navigate silos and sitting in unnecessary meetings.

Moreover, while the majority (87%) of leaders said they were investing in improving the hybrid experience for their organisation, only half of workers (50%) think it is enough. A third of workers were concerned that their firms’ current approach to hybrid work has created greater silos and fragmentation of knowledge.

Many businesses said they were still struggling to create meaningful connections among employees and with the company itself. Almost one in four employees (24%) reported fewer ad hoc conversations taking place underlining the challenge businesses face in creating spontaneous opportunities for insights and knowledge to be shared across teams and the upskilling of more junior colleagues that used to take place as desk side conversations pre-pandemic.

Slack found that this was particularly an important issue for workers aged 18-34, who most value flexibility, but also had the highest proportion (34%) saying they were concerned about a lack of connection and opportunity to learn from senior co-workers. 

A proliferation of meetings was also seen as a threat to business productivity. Three in five workers said that too many or unnecessary meetings were a significant time drain. In the UK, employees typically spent on average a whole working day each week (7 hours and 42 minutes) on meetings – either on video calls, face-to-face or coordinating them. In contrast, just over nine hours each week were spent on focused, deep work.

The survey showed this situation has become worse for many since firms started to head back to the office, with 36% of employees reporting they spend more time on video calls now than 12 months ago. Slack suggested this may explain why just more than a third of workers believe cutting down on meetings would boost productivity by giving them more time to focus on completing the work they were hired to do.

Not surprisingly, IT decision-makers identified technology as playing an important part in helping foster connectivity and overcoming these productivity killers. More than a quarter (27%) said moving away from what was described as “the blunt instrument” of 30-minute video meetings and replacing them with shorter quick audio-only meetings would make them more productive.

Almost half of IT decision-makers saw automating mundane and repetitive tasks as likely to help boost productivity. Yet more needs to be done to help employees understand where this can be achieved, as just 27% of employees say the same. Slack noted that with the average large company now using more than 1,000 different pieces of software, using technology to help streamline and automate simple processes such as automatically populating a monthly report offers significant time savings when done at scale. It added that more education is needed to help employees understand how and where simple automation can be deployed.

“This is the first time businesses have faced tough economic headwinds since the majority adopted hybrid work. It’s clear from our research that many are still navigating the transition and have significant opportunities to improve alignment, efficiency and productivity across their teams no matter where or when they work,” explained Slack head of UK Stuart Templeton.

“Providing a good digital experience is critical to success in today’s digital-first world and it’s clear there’s a disconnect between IT leaders and employees on that front. Productivity platforms which connect and empower everyone with no-code automation and make it easier for people to find and share knowledge, are emerging as a source of major competitive advantage.” 

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