Lockdown led to big increase in worker productivity

Home office: more or less efficient? © Keystone / Christian Beutler

Thanks to more focus and flexibility, productivity per worker rose by up to 16% during the Covid-19 lockdown in Switzerland, a study has calculated.

This content was published on June 7, 2020 - 14:00
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The study by the Swiss Trade Association (SGV), reported in the NZZ am Sonntag newspaper, found that while hours worked dropped by 10% in the first quarter of 2020, GDP sank by just 2.6%.

This translates to a productivity jump of up to 16%. And if such a figure is a crude picture of the overall situation, it is nevertheless striking, said SGV chief economist Henrique Schneider; the normal productivity gain for such a period is less than 1%.

According to Schneider, interviewed by the NZZ, the increase is down to a few factors.

Employees were able to focus on the most essential tasks, he said, and with many avoiding daily commutes, they were able to streamline work habits at home.

This is good news for the economy, said Schneider, which is “more flexible than we thought, and capable – for a short period, at least – of drastically upping its productivity”.

As a follow-up to the findings, the SGV has drafted a policy paper on the “vitalization” of the Swiss internal market, in which it asks politicians to consider deregulatory reforms to facilitate remote working and more flexible working rules.

One such idea would be to allow employees work up to 67 hours per week, as long as they were able to compensate for the time at a later stage.

The NZZ am Sonntag meanwhile reports that such demands will be met by resistance from trade unions, who view home office regimes with a less welcoming eye, and who demand more rather than less regulation to protect employees who are often forced into becoming more flexible, rather than wishing for it.

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