Three in five bosses (60%) say that the pandemic has unexpectedly impacted the productivity of their workforce in a positive way, according to new research from Hitachi Capital Business Finance, with one in five saying their staff are now more independent since working from home (20%). 

The survey of over 1,000 small businesses asked how their business productivity had been affected by the pandemic the day that the government announced the new tier system. Aside from their employees being more independent (20%), these bosses noted that there was less office ‘small talk’ that distracted staff from work since COVID-19 (20%). 

Other ways the productivity has been positively affected:

  • The working-day started more promptly (19%)
  • More streamlined - working on core outputs every week (13%)
  • Staff are more well-rested (15%)
  • Junior colleagues experienced a greater learning curve while working remotely (12%) 

Personality type

The survey also assessed whether workforce productivity during the pandemic was linked to the personality profile of the boss that managed it. Overall 67% of the small business community is led by introverts while the other portion describe themselves as extraverted (33%). These personality groups were as likely to perceive silver linings from the pandemic in terms of workforce productivity (60% and 60% retrospectively)

However, extraverted bosses were more likely to have noticed positive changes, saying their employees now started work more promptly (22%), the team had streamlined (17%) and that their staff seemed more well-rested since working from home (15%). 

By comparison, Introverted bosses said that there was less small talk in the office (21%) and that their staff members had grown in confidence (21%). However, they said that team collaboration on business projects had fallen because of remote-working (17% versus 14% of extraverted ones) and that their employees were struggling to establish a healthy work-life balance since working from home (17% versus 13% of extraverted ones). 

Sector highlights 

While the retail sector was the most likely to have seen positive changes to workforce productivity since the pandemic (64% versus 60% nationally), it was the small firms in the IT and Telecoms sector that noticed that their staff were more independent (26% versus 20% nationally) and that the working day was starting more promptly (22% versus 19% nationally). While, bosses in this sector also admitted that remote-working had impacted the development of more junior employees (24% versus 17% generally), they also noted that these very employees had learnt more in a shorter period of time (17% versus 13% nationally).

Growth outlook

The research also suggested that those bosses who saw an increase in workforce productivity - despite the outbreak - were now predicting growth in the months ahead. These bosses were far more likely to say the working day had started more promptly during the pandemic (22% versus 15% of those who are struggling) and that their staff were more independent (25% versus 12% of those who are struggling). They were also noticed that their staff were more well-rested (16% versus 11% of those who are struggling).

Joanna Morris, head of insight at Hitachi Capital Business Finance commented:

“We wanted to capture the sentiment across the small business community just as the government announced the new tier system - our research is a timely look at how the pandemic has impacted workforce productivity across the small business community. While a slow-down in production and technology challenges have been cited as real obstacles to productivity, interestingly, a number of small busines owners have also seen working dynamics change for the better. 

“With many employees working from home during the pandemic, one of the key takeaways has been a move towards flexible-working and improved work-life balance, which many bosses want to reinforce for the long-term and make it an inherent part of their business ethos. Behind every decision like this are a diverse group of small business leaders - who take very different approaches to managing staff and running a business. With the small business leaders having gone through such an unprecedented degree of change this year, it is only right that the financial community works to better understand these individuals so there is adequate support in place to help them get through this time.”

 
National average
Growing
Carrying on as normal
Struggling
increased productivity (Net)
60%
66%
59%
51%
Staff are more independent
20%
22%
19%
15%
Less small talk in the workplace
20%
20%
20%
17%
Start working-day more promptly
19%
22%
19%
15%
Tech-related problems has been a challenge
17%
17%
16%
18%
Development of junior colleagues has been impacted while remote
17%
19%
14%
20%
Staff generally have struggled to work remotely
16%
15% 
15%
19%
Staff struggle to establish healthy work-life balance
16%
15%
15%
19%
Team collaboration has slowed down 
16%
17%
15%
18%
Staff are more well-rested since working from home
15%
16% 
14%
11%
More staff have been off to look after their loved ones (e.g children, elderly)
14%
16%
13%
15%
More streamlined – working towards core outputs everyday
13%
18%
11%
11%
Junior colleagues learnt more in a shorter space of time 
12%
14%
12%
11%

Methodology: This research was conducted by Marublue on behalf of Hitachi Capital Business Finance among a nationally representative sample of 1,039 small business owners between the 27th November and the 3rd December. 

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