Workplace Insight: Friction Frustrates Your Employees

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This is the second of a four-part series based on insights we’ve uncovered while researching and writing our recent data-driven whitepaper “A Study of Credit Union Workplaces and the Future of Work.” We delivered a free webinar on our findings on how credit union workplaces support – or fail to support – their employees. To view the webinar and receive a copy of the whitepaper today, register via the form at the bottom of this page.

Workplace Insight: Friction Frustrates Your Employees

CBC Federal Credit UnionRecruiting, engagement, and retention are major challenges with or without a pandemic, but efforts to provide positive employee experiences to fulfill these goals are often hampered by workplace friction. Although it is a major obstacle, there is also a surprisingly straightforward solution to eliminating this friction.

Your employees want to be productive, but throughout the day they often encounter frustrations that interrupt their workflow and peace of mind. Through our recent workplace research surveying over 1,200 credit union employees, we’ve uncovered several specific areas of friction, from disruptions and technology issues to working from home obstacles, that represent opportunities to create a more supportive and productive working environment.

The biggest source of friction? Interruptions. Throughout their day, the majority of workers spend at least some on their time on individual focused tasks, such as writing or compiling reports. A study by UC Irvine found that, on average, it takes workers 23 minutes to regain their focus on these types of tasks after being distracted. It takes a while to get in the “zone,” and once out of it, it’s difficult to recover. Yet our data shows that only 26% of credit union employees are satisfied with their access to spaces where they can focus on work in private. This represents a major source of frustration and not only reduces productivity; it can lead to overall job dissatisfaction and lower retention rates.

The pandemic-driven shift to remote work has not alleviated this problem. Of employees that were already working remotely at least part-time before COVID-19 hit, only 46% had a dedicated home office with privacy from interruptions and only 66% had any dedicated workspace such as a kitchen table. Not only do these employees have to deal with distractions, they are unlikely to have an ergonomic workstation.

Many organizations are approaching this problem by investing in their employee’s home offices. Shopify, Twitter, and many others are giving workers $1,000 stipends to upgrade their home offices. This gives employees the freedom to configure their spaces in a way that best supports themselves and their work.

We’ve also found that technology can be frustrating. The majority of tasks that employees perform today involve technology. Yet instead of providing support, that technology is often a source of friction. Less than half of employees in the physical workplace feel supported by the technology provided, and, of those already working from home before COVID-19, only 56% were satisfied with remote access. With an entire workforce going remote this problem is only exacerbated.

Every organization, workforce, and employee is unique, and the key to successfully mitigating workplace friction is ensuring that everyone’s voice is heard. This is the basis of Universal Design. Whether your designing an operations center or creating a plan to accommodate workers remotely, breaking away from top-down thinking to include your employee’s voices in the process brings their perspectives and experiences to the forefront and guides your organization towards an optimal solution.

Consider the case of an employee break room that is built to code in an architect’s vision, with an area for socializing built on a slightly raised platform. It’s a place for community and inclusion. Yet wheelchair users will find themselves excluded. This is a real story brought up at a Filene event that illustrates the impact that including more voices in the design process can have. Many sources of friction, particularly those related to remote working, are also rooted in the culture of your organization. Universal Design brings more voices to the table so these issues can be headed off before they can become problems.

Most of the problems we’ve identified in our workplace research trace their source back to a disconnect between what employees expect out of their workplace and the reality of how it supports them. The key is in understanding where these gaps between expectations and reality lie, and then developing strategies to close them.

To learn more about friction in the workplace and how to eliminate it through Universal Design, as well as three other major impact areas we’ve uncovered in our research, read our workplace whitepaper and watch our recent webinar by filling out the form below.


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