As the Covid-19 virus sweeps across the planet, businesses are pivoting to virtual meetings at the cost of productivity. Video-calling gives the illusion of collaboration, but Wundamail research reveals overindulging in pointless chit-chat is costing businesses more than £1000 per employee each month in wasted time.
Leaders must rethink their remote strategy fast, or we are heading for a global productivity dive and total economic ruin.
Wundamail Work from Home 2020 Report investigates the economic and social challenges facing businesses in the current global pandemic. It examines productivity levels, workflow, and communication, and aims to give managers and employees an insight into remote team management during the spread of Covid-19.
The 20,000 remote workers surveyed were representative by ethnic background, socio-economic status, gender, and region (across the UK and US). The respondents worked for teams of three or more, across a range of blue-chip enterprises, large companies and SMEs. All were using videoconferencing software to work from home as a result of the ongoing global pandemic. Wundamail collected all data between 06/04/20 and 07/04/20.
Most Popular Medium for Productivity
Wundamail’s survey asked which medium was found to be most productive for teams to use while working from home. Out of 20,000 respondents, 45% said that video-conferencing was their preferred method of communication for maintaining productivity in the virtual transition. 32% of respondents claimed to prefer using written updates, such as daily check-ins and structured team briefs, to manage their remote teams, while 13% preferred to use texting or messaging. Only 9% of respondents used phone calls.
Teams Need Uninterrupted Time
According to the Work From Home Report 2020, remote workers reported an immediate need to reduce virtual distraction in their remote set-ups. Wundamail research* showed that 42% of remote workers surveyed felt they were “more productive” after working for a long period of uninterrupted time, as having a continuous stream of virtual distractions on various apps was reported to be deeply distracting. This was further highlighted by the number of people (42%) who frequently dialled in on a virtual meeting yet contributed nothing, demonstrating how virtual meetings are sometimes insignificant or trivial for the majority of team members.
Despite how video-conferencing was reported to be the most productive medium for remote working, more than half of the remote workers surveyed (56%) wished they spent less time on video-calls altogether, suggesting many teams are excessively using video apps, not achieving their work tasks and calling for virtual meetings to be reduced. And yet, 73% of respondents regarded video-conferencing as getting “work-done”, which suggests that video calls, for some, give a dangerous illusion of productivity - when in reality, very little work is completed or produced.
Based on this evidence, teams seem to benefit from limited virtual meetings and time away from their colleagues by taking advantage of the long stretches of uninterrupted time which the remote environment offers. While video-conferencing is commonly used for productivity, Wundamail research* suggests it’s usage needs to be monitored and reduced.
Verbal communication vs Write-ups
The most worrying attribute of video-conferencing for teams is reportedly the “lack of follow-up” after the virtual meeting, to the extent that 27% of employees found this to be the biggest communication barrier for their virtual team. People were three times more likely to deliver on actions agreed in writing than video, as they failed to remember key information after hanging up on a video-call. After video-conferencing ended, 42% of remote workers “followed-up” with their updates via written updates and documents, while 30% admitted they required further phone calls and email correspondence to communicate essential information.
The statistics confirm that remote workers continue to use video-conferencing as the main medium of communication, but using it solely for conveying information was ineffective. Individuals reported to further rely on written communication after ending a video-conference, by using automatic check-ins, emails or daily updates, to solidate and communicate their thoughts to their team.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, 1 in 3 people suffered a lack of focus in video meetings and 11% found it challenging to command attention and illustrate important points. The communication barriers led 30% of people to use alternative platforms to communicate essential updates.
Video-Conferencing Needs Reducing
While video-conferencing remains a popular channel for maintaining communication in the remote set-up, the Work from Home 2020 Report highlights that more than half of respondents wished to limit their time on virtual meetings as they preferred long stretches of uninterrupted time to achieve their tasks. Video-conferencing will continue to be used for replicating face-to-face interaction, but teams are relying on written communication, as opposed to verbal, to chase important updates.
The research above calls a need for businesses to reduce video-chatting and introduce automatic, written updates and daily check-ins into their remote set-ups to keep productivity levels consistent.
How Can Businesses Beat The Productivity Dive?
Follow-up With Automatic Check-Ins
Wundamail are experts in the field of remote team management, a dip in global productivity could commence if the remote set-up fails to adapt. Teams now need to introduce daily updates via written communication means, and automatic check-ins are the proven methodology to kickstart productivity.
Generally, people have a lot to say, but they'll actually volunteer little. By using written communication, instead of video-conferencing, the medium encourages team members to think independently by asking questions on a regular schedule to help people share ideas, practise writing and communicate essential updates. With answers written down, workflow and collaboration is easier to track than on video-conferencing apps.
In addition, calendars have nothing to do with communication, therefore writing updates and clogging people’s diaries on this medium is ineffective for productivity. Written correspondence, rather than spoken or via virtual meetings, is independent of schedule and far more direct and efficient, and is proven to help teams in “following-up” with important information.
Write-ups benefit the writer as well as the reader. Filling in a daily update is a great way to exercise self-discipline, for example, by asking “Were you efficient today?” gives your team a chance to reflect on their day and analyse what needs to be improved, and what was successful. This is likely to keep your remote team consistent as individuals are conditioned to expect a daily update.
As the research indicates, communication is ineffectual, especially verbal communication. With the multitude of technical issues of video-conferencing, every video buffer adds static and chips at productivity. Listening to each team member in a video-chat is time-consuming, meaning essential updates need to be written down.
The Inside View
Phil Simmonds, Founder of Diskette Ideas (Creators of Wundamail)
“In my experience, the physical transition from an office set-up to a virtual workplace isn’t always as seamless as people might believe. People react differently to the change, and not everyone will perform as expected. As a leader, you need to actively manage the situation: have trust in your team, drive the same work ethic and eliminate any chances of inefficiency or distraction.
“Understandably, this period of lockdown has seen millions frantically scouring the net for the ‘best remote working tips’ to get ahead. We’ve seen a great deal of interest in productivity and workflow, which is a positive as it shows people are recognising what they need to address to make things work remotely.
“But the truth is, our research shows if we don’t act fast we’re heading for trouble. Employees who struggle with self-discipline lose productivity easier than you might think- and these same people tend to be skilled at finding excuses. If you fail to get it right, the cost to your business (and indeed the economy) is astronomical.
“Why am I so certain we are heading for economic meltdown? I’ve seen it happen before in my previous software businesses, which were built almost exclusively with remote teams. The fact is, when people aren’t being managed effectively, you’re losing money in productivity. We realised that the key to building remote teams isn’t constant communication- it’s creating accountability. For us, the daily stand-up meeting in the Agile Method worked beautifully (and we made our own team management software to make this easier). Now our software is used by 10 million people on a daily basis, for transactions all over the world.
“I don't want my children's grandchildren to be paying for this dip in productivity. We are heading for a meltdown unless we streamline this way of working very quickly. We know there is a problem in the way people are working from home, because we have seen it happen before in our previous businesses. This is why we developed daily check-in software to actually manage remote teams. It’s the only solution.
“It’s great to connect, but the truth is, video chat doesn’t get things done. Automatic check-ins do. To make progress, you and your team need to share your thoughts in a considered, complete way, in the form of an automatic check-in. You need to follow up with Wundamail, the team management solution to remote teams- which is why we’re offering it 100% free to any business who needs it right now. Click to read more about Automatic Check-ins...
How Wundamail Works
Each day, Wundamail sends a question of your choice to the whole team, then compiles the responses into a single group email. Team activity is collated, condensed and circulated for all to see- so you can keep your things accountable and efficient, wherever you are.
The best part? Everything works in your team’s regular email inbox - no need to install anything new. Simply type in your team’s email addresses to get started!