Report: Dispersed workforce stalls collaboration and creativity

With many working remotely, an emphasis has been placed on productivity, stifling group-produced projects and all around inventiveness, according to a survey by Lucid.

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Image: iStock/jacoblund

Studies have shown that working from home (WFH) employees are either just as productive as they were in-office, or even more so. However, a recent survey from the software company Lucid, showed that during the COVID-19 crisis creativity has suffered; 43% of the C-suite reported their company had to delay campaigns, launches, or initiatives due to WFH and collaborations now done virtually. 

SEE: COVID-19 workplace policy (TechRepublic Premium)

The attitudes and concerns of knowledge workers are the focus of Lucid's survey, "Report: How collaboration and creativity are suffering in the wake of COVID-19."

Poor collaboration between managers and employees: More than one-third of managers ranked productivity as their biggest concern with staff WFH, but employees cite team collaboration as the most affected by WFH.

Employers' vs. employees' concerns

The survey revealed a disparity between managers and employees in the perceptions of what is of the most concern, productivity vs. collaboration.

Productivity vs. collaboration

Manager views:

  • 90% of C-suite managers rated employee productivity as one of their top three concerns with employees WFH.
  • However, only 78% of lower-level management expressed the same concern.
  • 43% of meetings in person--and breaking pandemic protocols--were actually from the  C-suite. 
  • 42% of managers cited the office environment as promoting creativity with whiteboards and casual gathering areas.
  • 28% of managers said visual brainstorming as a team promotes "creative ideation."
  • 22% of managers cite the decline of creativity because of the lack of visual brainstorming.

SEE: Don't let remote work be an innovation killer (TechRepublic)

Employees' concerns deviated:

  • 83% of remote workers said they've come up with great ideas in a team brainstorm that never had follow-up.
  • 75% of employees said collaboration took the hardest hit, not productivity.
  • 70% said their great ideas didn't even make it into notes and were lost.
  • 52% WFH saying productivity had suffered. 
  • 44% said it was harder to collaborate with their team during virtual meetings.
  • 40% said WFH actually made them more productive.
  • 37% employees ranked in-person team collaboration as "most exciting" about returning to the office.
  • 33% of remote workers said there are fewer casual moments of spontaneity for brainstorming or strategizing.
  • Employees have risked their health (23%) by meeting colleagues in person to brainstorm because they felt they needed a "virtual collaboration space."

Productivity vs. creativity

Managerial viewpoint:

  • 59% of managers cited "a combination of words and visuals" as one of their top three preferred methods for expressing ideas.
  • Managers acknowledge the slow flow of creativity overall, as cited by 26% of remote managers.
  • 24% of C-suite respondents expressed frustration because they do not have a centralized place to record ideas.
  • Creativity suffers due to distracted knowledge-workers using available collaboration solutions.

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Employee perceptions:

  • 93% who had access to a virtual whiteboard were enthusiastic about it helping a team collaborate.
  • 74% selected the next option, a "dedicated workspace without at-home distractions."
  • 62% of those who WFH admit to "questionable behavior" during virtual brainstorm meetings (one in 10 admit using the bathroom while on a call).
  • 52% of employees chose "a combination of words and visuals" as one of their top three preferred methods for expressing ideas.
  • 46% of that group identified less face time with their team as the top creativity stifle.
  • 25% of those WFH confess they're distracted during at least half of a typical brainstorm meeting.
  • 22% of those who WFH said it hurts their creativity.

Methodology

Conducted in September 2020, the survey had 1,000 respondents, 300 in management and 700 non-management, and came from enterprise and mid-sized businesses nationwide, in major segments of the industry. It was evenly divided between genders, and included Boomers, millennials and Gen X participants.

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