Toolbox: Can Workplace Analytics Fulfill the Promise of Building an Engaged Workforce?

By Ben Waber, originally for Toolbox

In an increasingly remote world, workplace communications tend to suffer, especially for newer employees looking to build deeper relationships with colleagues. Though virtual workspaces lead to increased engagement, they’re not a perfect replacement for in-person collaborative brainstorming between cross-functional team members or casual water cooler chats that help create new connections. As organizations mull a hybrid future, Ben Waber, president and co-founder of Humanyze says workplace analytics can help IT leaders measure the engagement of the workforces and enact data-based changes and strategies. Working remotely has always required a little extra effort to be effective. Adjustments like finding the right space inside our homes or at the local coffee shop, scheduling personal time throughout the day, and finding ways to reduce distractions are part of the process that takes place when we don’t have a physical office space. We’ve now layered a pandemic on top of that, limiting our ability to work outside our home which has further blended personal and professional lives. As we manage the strain that this is having on us while juggling the health of our family and friends, we can’t lose sight of how all these factors come together to impact engagement at our organizations. While not everyone is affected in the same way, company leaders need to understand which teams are being highly impacted and whether the organization as a whole is suffering because of it. Many negative scenarios are playing out across organizations, from software developers being cut off from their collaborators to new employees having a hard time forging new work relationships. These patterns are understood by looking at the way that work is currently happening. This is essential in order to support parts of the organization that might be struggling and, later on, to evaluate whether strategies to improve engagement are working. One of the ways leadership can understand these impacts is through behavioral data. Data from collaboration platforms like email, chat, and calendar provides an ideal way to assess multiple aspects of engagement. As these tools continue to evolve they capture more and more of the workday, especially when most of the work is taking place through digital means. Observing changes in collaboration patterns directly relates to the engagement and health of the workforce. Learn More: Streamline Remote Work With a Full-Text Search Engine
Mitigating Negative Trends With Workplace Analytics
Understanding this data is more important than ever before. As companies continue to embrace remote work practices they need to quickly mitigate negative trends. This is where workplace analytics comes in. In its simplest form, workplace analytics gives insights into the way that collaboration takes place at a company. The workplace analytics tool not only provides leaders with an overall score, but they also get to see scores on actionable metrics like workday length, exploration, and nesting which are directly linked to engagement. This is all done through an anonymous measurement process that protects employee privacy and delivers insights at the team level, helping HR and corporate real estate, as well as managers, make company-wide decisions that are well informed. Learn More: Warning: Employees Are Stressed Out (Here’s What You Can Do About It)
Workdays Have Increased By 20%
One particularly important area of engagement is the impact of remote work on workday length. As Humanyze analyzed the effect of 2020 on organizations, we noticed that the workday has lengthened by 20%. However, the number of hours people are engaged in work remains relatively consistent with pre-pandemic levels. This shows that while our workday has lengthened the amount of time that we actually spend accomplishing tasks at work remains consistent. In many ways, this should be expected, seeing as we now have more demands on our time we can more flexibly deal with personal issues. In the past, however, longer workdays were indicative of higher stress and increased turnover. The coming months will tell us more if one, or perhaps both, of these predictions, hold in general.
Exploration and Nesting
Another critical component of engagement is connecting with socially distinct groups, which we refer to as exploration and nesting. This is harder than ever as people who work from home are less likely to create new connections due to decreased serendipity. Data over the last six months have shown that our exploration has gone down by over 14%. Exploration happens when we connect with colleagues who are not generally essential to our everyday work. This is particularly concerning for new employees, as their internal networks are by definition more limited. Initiatives such as random lunch pairings or virtual happy hours can help but these events will require constant tuning. Learn More: Extroverts: Here’s How to Survive Remote Work Current remote work data shows that nesting (connections with your manager and colleagues who are essential to your everyday work) has been relatively unaffected. During our current transition to remote work, employees have managed to connect well with their close connections. Communication is in fact up with these collaborators, and people are spending as much or more time with their direct managers. These behaviors are essential for trust and communicating complex information. It appears that for known work necessities, people continue to schedule formal meetings and proactively schedule more time with close teammates to ensure they’re on the same page. With the right information in hand, organizations are not only empowered to make decisions that are validated by objective data, but they can also continue to measure collaboration patterns in order to ensure that those decisions have the intended effect.

Last Updated 01 February 2022