Gordon Wilson
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Pingdemic: Are Businesses Really Prepared For Post-Pandemic Productivity?

The COVID-19 pandemic hasn’t just been a challenge for businesses, it’s been a year and a half of near-constant uncertainty that’s upended working processes and unravelled short term strategies. In something McKinsey has dubbed The Quickening, businesses had to cram around a decade’s worth of digital transformation into the space of three months as the pandemic unfolded. Even now, with vaccine rollouts well underway and most businesses having adapted as best they can to hybrid or remote working, productivity is still very much under threat.

Nothing underscores the uncertainty businesses have had to deal with better than the so-called ‘pingdemic’. July 19th, dubbed ‘Freedom Day, was the day when the last of the COVID-19 restrictions were lifted in the UK and things were supposed to get back to some semblance of normality. According to the Financial Times, more than 600,000 people were told to self-isolate by the NHS Test and Trace app in the first week, presenting employers who’d planned a return to the office with yet another difficult obstacle to overcome. With hybrid working billed as the ‘The Next Great Disruption’, businesses might be actually facing another kind of ‘pingdemic’ within their ranks.

Is notification overload the new pingdemic? According to a 2021 Workforce Trends Survey carried out by Advanced, nearly 70% of employees say that too many distractions and notifications are holding them back from being more productive, while 54% claim they are expected to work outside of their usual working hours. Shockingly, more than 1 in 5 employees (22%) say they receive so many ‘pings’ and notifications that their working days are never fully spent on doing actual work. For decades technology has been a great facilitator of productivity. Could we now be approaching a point of ‘technology saturation’ which is having the reverse effect and actually slowing employees down? It’s a question that all business leaders should be asking themselves as we move into the autumn and continue to emerge from the pandemic.

Notification overload is a pressing concern for a number of reasons, not least because remote working in some form is likely to stay permanently for a great number of businesses. Figures released in April 2021, when our roadmap out of the pandemic had been drawn, revealed that 73% of employees wanted flexible working to stay permanently, and more than a third (66%) of business leaders were planning on downgrading or redesigning their office space to accommodate hybrid working. That’s because, despite the challenges, there are a lot of gains to be had from hybrid working, not least the ability for businesses to reduce their overheads or streamline businesses processes using cloud-based technology. But the fruit from these gains can only be enjoyed if businesses address the problem of productivity and how to better support and manage their staff in the ‘always on’ culture we currently inhabit.

Too much of a good thing Technology is there to make life easier for businesses, but you can have too much of a good thing. According to the research published by Advanced, 69% of employees say the number of apps they have been expected to use throughout the pandemic has increased significantly. Not surprising given our sudden reliance on tools like Zoom, Slack and Microsoft Teams to stay connected. But while these additional apps may have been a lifeline for some in terms of their productivity and ability to work remotely, they’ve been a hindrance to others who already feel overwhelmed by the number of log-ins, apps and websites they have to bookmark to get through a working day. Almost one in five (17%) reported that the increase in the number of apps they’re expected to use is adversely impacting their productivity.

Perhaps most telling from Advanced’s survey was the fact that 70% of people are actually keen to return to the office at least part-time, but 60% feel that their employees are in desperate need of a clear hybrid working policy. This is where the next challenge lies for businesses. If employee productivity is to be maintained, or even improved, leaders must start setting rules and boundaries for homeworking, as well as investing in new cloud-based platforms and solutions, such as virtual desktops or single-sign-on portals, to save employees the headache of juggling countless passwords and notifications. Instead of bending in-house solutions to work remotely, businesses ought to invest in hybrid solutions for a new hybrid world.

This was posted in Bdaily's Members' News section by Advanced .

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