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UK businesses say lockdown improving innovation and productivity

By James Longley, Managing Director at Utility Bidder

A team of researchers from leading business comparison site Utility Bidder have surveyed 1,000 office workers who started working from home because of the lockdown.

The results show that despite all of the challenges the UK have faced on the back of the COVID-19 pandemic, more than 65 per cent of respondents said they’ve benefited from improved productivity levels since they started working from home. In this post, James Longley, Managing Director at Utility Bidder takes a closer look at innovation and productivity in lockdown.

Businesses and workers have had to adapt. This is a fact. From furloughing staff to moving to a completely remote working team, there has been a shift to find a new normal during lockdown. 

Management teams up and down the UK have had business discussions around the “P” word. Not necessarily “Pandemic”, but “Productivity”! Lockdown has forced organisations in most industries to reinvent and channel resource into collaboration and productivity. The need to adapt in one of the most challenging situations the world has faced has prompted businesses to think – and fail – fast. 

When it was announced that many businesses would have to make drastic changes to their work environments, millions of UK workers made the transition to work from their homes for the very first time. Here at Utility Bidder, we surveyed 1,000 office workers who had begun working from home because of the lockdown, and took a closer look at the organisational changes forced upon us. In the survey, more than 65 per cent of respondents said they benefited from improved productivity since changing to work from home. 

This is interesting, as businesses that have traditionally been slow to adopt new technologies have found themselves in at the deep end throughout 2020 so far. Not only do they have to roll out new technologies allowing staff to work from home effectively, but they have no choice but to do it at an accelerated pace.

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Specialist software, tools, equipment or new business models had to be rolled out. Often these tools, such as Slack, Zoom, Trello, and more are easy to download and start using, but playing catch up and working through trial and error in these conditions is not an ideal situation for any business. However, without these technologies, many businesses would have struggled to adapt so quickly.

Specifically, the survey revealed that 43% said that their personal productivity has improved. Why might this be? Office disruptions, time saved on commuting, fewer meetings, and more can all contribute to this perceived improvement. With efficiency so important for businesses, working from home has actually stripped out a lot of unnecessary lost time. Another 22% said that they felt the team’s productivity has increased, proving that collaboration and team projects still function whilst working from home. This gives us a 65% response rate that said they’d felt more productive either on a personal or team level, justifying the change that businesses made at the start of lockdown. 

Utility Bidder saw that one of the biggest challenges was communication, not just between teams but also between the companies and their customers. The lines of communication need to be open. Many businesses simply cannot operate as they have in the past.

Looking back at times of crisis to see how businesses changed strategies and innovated, there are some themes that we can apply to COVID-19. Research conducted by Utility Bidder, suggests that businesses who innovated and pivoted their corporate strategies during a crisis outperformed their peers. Apple’s stance has taught us not to shy away from innovation. Lose the ego and look to other industries for inspiration. Whereas FedEx embraced the changes and promoted a value of not being afraid of change. 

The COVID-19 crisis has prompted acts of innovation across all industries and sectors. How businesses innovate has not changed in this time of crisis, but the emphasis and urgency has! This has led many businesses to understand that innovation doesn’t require perfection. 

Sometimes you need to be willing to go to market with something that isn’t perfect but is good enough to do the job. Unless of course there are safety implications.

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