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Employee productivity proves remarkably resilient in the face of COVID-19, Willis Towers Watson survey finds

May 5, 2020

A surge in remote working, supported by innovative technology, means many companies have maintained employee productivity, despite the pandemic’s profound impact on the workplace.

LONDON, 5th May, 2020 – Organisations have responded to the rapid disruption caused by the dramatic spread of COVID-19 by finding innovative ways to help their workers cope with the impact of the pandemic, while at the same time preparing for an eventual return to the workplace for many employees, according to Willis Towers Watson’s latest survey of employers’ responses to the pandemic.

Key findings from the survey:

  • Two-thirds of companies (67%) surveyed say over 75% of their organisation are working remotely – a dramatic increase from 56% that had less than 10% working remotely prior to COVID-19
  • Productivity for those working remotely does not seem to have been impacted with only 15% of companies saying it has had a material negative impact, 22% reporting a small negative impact, 22% claiming no impact or a positive impact and one third not sure of the impact.
  • 85% of employers surveyed say their employees working from home have the technology, tools and resources needed to work productively for an extended period of time.

“It has been an incredibly challenging time for many businesses as we navigate unchartered waters and take part in what has become the world’s largest work-from-home experiment,” said Hazel Rees, GB Leader, Rewards Line of Business at Willis Towers Watson. “Technology has been a saving grace during this crisis, helping to keep productivity levels up, while organisations with a greater online presence have been able to continue more effectively and in some cases even thrive.

COVID-19 has had a profound impact on how work gets done and the longer term implications for employers and employees are far reaching.”

Hazel Rees
GB Leader, Rewards Line of Business, Willis Towers Watson

“COVID-19 has had a profound impact on how work gets done and the longer term implications for employers and employees are far reaching. For employers who have found their employees can be just as productive away from the office, it seems increasingly likely that we will see an accelerated shift towards more agile working, with reverberating effects across the economy.”

Additional findings from the survey demonstrate how companies are focusing on communication and employee wellbeing to support engagement and productivity:

  • Almost nine out of ten employers (87 per cent) say they have put in place measures to ensure that people feel supported, from their manager or fellow team members, during the coronavirus outbreak.
  • Almost all (98 per cent) of employers are conducting regular communication to keep all employees updated and engaged and 85 per cent have implemented a virtual or social engagement initiative.
  • Three quarters (83 per cent) of companies said they have no end date planned for flexible working arrangements.

“It is not only companies that are trying to come to terms with this new way of life, but their workers too,” said Rees. “By being flexible in their approach to work arrangements, companies can help their employees adjust to their new situation. Businesses, in turn, will benefit from more productive and engaged workers where they allow individuals to juggle the challenges that Covid-19 brings to them, both inside and outside of work.

“This is a defining leadership moment for many organisations,” said Rees. “The employers that take strong action to put people first will be the best positioned to enhance employee wellbeing and engagement, restore stability and achieve future business success.”

About the Survey

A total of 996 employers based in Great Britain and Western Europe, 472 from the UK, took part in the 2020 COVID-19 Pulse Survey, which was conducted during April 2020. The full survey results can be found here.

About Willis Towers Watson

Willis Towers Watson (NASDAQ: WLTW) is a leading global advisory, broking and solutions company that helps clients around the world turn risk into a path for growth. With roots dating to 1828, Willis Towers Watson has 45,000 employees serving in more than 140 countries and markets. We design and deliver solutions that manage risk, optimise benefits, cultivate talent, and expand the power of capital to protect and strengthen institutions and individuals. Our unique perspective allows us to see the critical intersections between talent, assets and ideas — the dynamic formula that drives business performance. Together, we unlock potential.

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