The UK is home to an apathetic workforce that doesn’t feel like they are contributing to their place of work in a meaningful way, according to a Microsoft research report.
It reveals that organisations are finding that employees are becoming demotivated due to a process-driven culture that focuses too much on managing email traffic and attending internal meetings.
This has resulted in office workers struggling to produce anything really meaningful – with only 8% of workers surveyed feeling like they have made a major contribution to their business in the last 12 months.
The solution, says Microsoft, is for business leaders to institute a cultural and behavioural change.
But is that easier said than done? According to Microsoft’s chief envisioning officer (UK) Dave Coplin, the legwork has already been done thanks to prosperous organisations having already built “cultures that inspire and motive employees to deliver their best.”
He points to a series of survey results in the report as evidence of this, including 70% of respondents who said that ‘creating something new’ and 67% that said ‘having a great idea’ would make them feel more productive.
“Businesses should see this as an untapped resource and an opportunity to reimagine how they operate,” said Coplin.
“Those that don’t change risk digging their own grave, cultivating a culture that traps staff in process and red-tape, instead of giving them the opportunity to innovate.”
A lack of empowerment?
The research suggests that the root of the problem largely stems from an insufficient management approach - four in ten employees feel they are not empowered by their organisation to think differently, despite those willing for the opportunity to be more productive and creative.
The report also found that workers felt obliged to work during weekends – many workers will often use their personal time to help them achieve ‘inbox zero’ (a term coined by US writer and podcaster Merlin Mann so they don’t drown in a mountain of emails on a Monday morning.
Microsoft calculates that by working approximately four hours at the weekend equates to two billion hours of unpaid overtime every year.
This could potentially be the catalyst for a further finding that shows only 16% are inspired by their job.
Tethered by ‘outdated technology’
Commenters on office efficiency and practices have been keen to jump on the findings of the report and detail the associated issues involved.
Richard Donkin, author of ‘The Future of Work’ commented “it’s surprising anyone gets anything done at all these days,” and that outdated technology has plenty to answer for.
This includes the office stalwart of email – of which 61% of those surveyed admitted to regularly emailing the person they sat next to instead of talking to them directly increasing office distractions and the falsified notion that standard processes like internal meetings and emails are akin to productivity.
This point was highlighted by Philip Ross, CEO of UnWork.com; a website that surveys current working practices. He noted that people needed to “escape from the tyranny of being tethered to the desk by outdated technology.”
This concept is a key proponent to the report – that technology is hindering our productivity is controvertible and particularly interesting coming from a technology business like Microsoft.
Microsoft Office Division Director at Microsoft UK, Abigail Rappoport acknowledged this and said “organisations that want to instigate change or innovate usually throw technology at the problem. That, however, is only half the solution.”
Rappoport businesses need to build a culture of adoption, agility and responsiveness if they wish “to really feel the full force of technology and empower employees.”
By supporting life-style as well as life-style, Donkin also recognised that changes might appear “counter intuitive” as businesses would have to start trusting employees to deliver on expectations and freeing teams to explore their own paths to task-completion.
“Rigid drills and process parameters will need to be relaxed as management is filtered through to the individual,” he said, before concluding: “none of this is easy, but management never was.”
The survey results come from a YouGov poll which surveyed 2,000 UK office workers. Microsoft commissioned YouGov to conduct the survey that would become the basis of their research report – ‘The Daily Grind: Break the Mould’.
It forms part of the organisation’s global “Get It Done Day” initiative, which encourages employers and employees to think different about work and productivity.
However, the UK workforce may have lost out if they were hoping for the technology company to encourage businesses to follow their lead and adopt a similar approach to that of Microsoft Australia – look at what they did for Get it Done Day.
About Andy Price
Technology editor across HR Zone and the wider Sift Media portfolio.