Market Insight

Being Social, Back Strain and Britney Spears: Key considerations for your return to workplace strategy

April 14, 2021

With the relaxation of COVID-19 restrictions underway, the effects of lockdown on people are starting to come into focus. From what the latest research suggests, it all boils down to the three things, or the three Bs:  Being Social, Back Strain and Britney Spears. Let us explain.

Connection: Being social matters

According to research from Microsoft, 65% of employees reported that what they missed most when working remotely, was socialising[i] with 60% of those surveyed, reporting feeling less connected to teams and colleagues.

Similarly, a study by Herman Miller[ii] of 18,000 people, sound that 60% reported issues with productivity and focus, with 25% citing issues with connection and collaboration which, without measures put in place, could become a downward spiral.

And that’s not to mention the issue of loneliness.

A recently published ONS Survey[iii] revealed that one in 14 people in the UK aged 16 and over has reported feeling lonely throughout this pandemic, a figure which is some 40% higher than this time last year, and a feeling predominantly experienced by young people.

Vivian Hall, chair of the British Psychological Society COVID-19 group, said: ‘The pandemic has brought [loneliness] into sharp focus…human beings need to be connected…and once going to our jobs or places of learning is stripped away, a hollowness is revealed”.

The long-term impact of working from home must, therefore, not be underestimated.

Indeed, as businesses plan their future office environments and workplace strategies, it brings into question, what the workplace is actually for.

To answer this, we need look no further than the analysis of the Leesman[iv] study of 160,000 responses to the home and work experience.

The results help to inform workplace design, taking what is known to not work well, working from home, and translating this into future workplace design – to enable better sharing of knowledge and collaboration, a feeling of being connected, whilst allowing informal, unplanned meetings and enabling better social interaction.

Culture: Back strain costs

Productivity improved with working from home, right? Actually, whilst it did initially, that soon wore off and, according to Microsoft, high productivity has masked an exhausted workforce, with some 54% risk of respondents feeling overworked and 39% feeling exhausted. This is simply not sustainable!

The pandemic has led many (30%) to feel that they have to be twice as productive, or as productive as when they work from home, and find it difficult to switch off. This highlights the importance of that commute time. It’s not just about getting to and from work, it is as much a mental gear shift – and a vital one, at that.

Without it, and entrapped in our homes with (if you are lucky) an uncomfortable chair for your derrière, it is no wonder that over 50%[v]
of people are feeling discomfort, with the same number reporting issues with back, shoulder and wrist pain.

Over a year into this work from home experiment, only 29% of organisations have introduced additional resource to support employees’ physical and mental welfare[vi].

With 30%[vii] still without a dedicated work chair at home, it is no wonder that people, and the businesses they work for, are beginning to feel the strain.

Collaboration: Britney Spears’ success

Core to the success of Britney Spears’ début album was the collaboration of Max Martin.

Martin, whilst not a name many people know, had the most number one hits in the world after Lennon and McCartney – or rather, the artists he has collaborated with have.

When his songs stopped charting, he realised that collaborating with other writers resulted in more success for him, and that is how Britney Spears’ debut album came to pass.

Collaboration is key, and a study by Professor Brian Uzzi of the Kellogg School of Management[viii] proves it.

Having measured the citations of every single research paper ever written, and analysing over 7,000,000 US patents, it became clear to Professor Uzzi, that papers written by teams had the biggest impact, and that teams are three to four times more likely to write a hit paper or produce a hit patent than individuals.

The benefit of working with others is backed up by Microsoft, where analysis of collaboration tools has shown that, in the shift to remote working, our networks reduced team interaction, with wider networks falling by the wayside.

This resulted in companies becoming more siloed, losing touch with clients, with even closer networks diminishing over time. “When you lose connections you stop innovating – it’s harder for new ideas to get in and ‘groupthink’ becomes a serious problem.” Dr Nancy Baym, Senior Researcher Microsoft[ix].

Workplace strategy: Think about the three Cs

Workplaces are not just somewhere you go to work. 

Yes, the pandemic has proved we can work from home. However, it has not come without its downsides – as we must all know by now.

As restrictions reduce, it is important for businesses to understand that there is no one-size-fits all approach to workplace strategy. Some businesses may continue to work entirely from home, others will attempt a full return to the office, and there will be those for whom a hybrid will work best.

The reality is that all businesses, to one extent or another, are built on their culture, connections and ability to collaborate.

It is vital that these are considered as part of the future workplace strategy.

Those who choose to invest in their office environments to address some of the problems of the last 12 months will, in all likelihood, win out when it comes to attracting and retaining talent.

Meanwhile, those who fail to do so, risk slipping back into old ways, and a culture of presenteeism that was already so damaging, when the pandemic was nought but a twinkle in our eyes.

If you would like to discuss your workplace strategy with experts who know what your people want, and can help you deliver on it with your business objectives in mind, get in touch.