The Productivity Gap

Feb 20, 2020 • 4 min read
Tired entrepreneur
Table of Contents

      Wrike recently commissioned a study of more than 5000 adults in 5 countries to learn about the gap between engagement and productivity. The extensive survey asked adults working in companies of 500 or more employees to rate how engaged (or disengaged) they feel on the job, how much time they spend at work being productive, reasons why they feel that way, and what their employers could do to bridge the gap between engagement and productivity. 

      The answers varied by company size, gender, age, and job title, but what is most interesting about this survey is not the differences between respondents but the similarities. “Productivity” is the holy grail of businesses. All business owners, no matter if they have 1 employee or tens of thousands, want the people working in their businesses to be engaged and productive. 

      The smallest business that participated in Wrike’s survey had 500 employees, and the largest had over 10,000—not exactly small businesses. So what can you, as a small business owner, learn from this study?

      Undervalued, Underpaid, and Burnt-out

      While only 9% of those surveyed reported feeling disengaged at work, breaking this number down by job title changes the picture. While only 3% of executives and 5% of managers reported feeling disengaged, 13% of individual contributors (meaning they do not manage other employees) said they were disengaged at work. When asked why they felt this way, 45% said they felt undervalued or unrecognized, 32% felt underpaid, and 29% reported feeling burnt-out.

      It is easy to imagine individual workers going unrecognized in a crowd of thousands of employees. Take a lesson from these corporations’ mistakes. When was the last time you recognized a valuable employee? And not just saying thank you in an email or in passing—when was the last time you publicly recognized the hard work of one of your employees? Recognition can come in the form of kind words, gift cards, bonuses, raises, or some other creative means of acknowledgment. In a small business, it’s easier to see how and when individual employees are contributing, so make sure they know you see and acknowledge it.

      When it comes to wages, it can be a struggle to match the spending power of a larger competitor, but feeling underpaid is a surefire way to lose valuable employees. Consider alternative benefits you can offer your employees besides numbers next to a dollar sign. Can you provide more flexibility in hours or allow employees to work remotely? What you lack in spending power may be made up by letting your employees have a say in which creative benefits you offer. 

      As a small business, the individual contributions from your employees may be easier to track, but have you taken the time to really evaluate the workload of each of your employees to keep burnout at bay? Expecting employees to consistently take on extra work or responsibility is not a sustainable business plan, especially with a small pool of workers to share the workload.

      Mobile and Impactful

      While 91% of survey respondents said they felt engaged at work, almost half (48%) said they were only productive less than 75% of the time. Only 18% reported being productive over 90% of the time. What could help bridge this gap between employees who feel engaged at work but aren’t necessarily productive?

      When asked, 28% said that having the ability to work anytime and from anywhere would increase their productivity. 26% would be more productive if they could automate the more redundant or repetitive parts of their job, and another 26% wanted their managers to have a clearer picture of their workload to balance it better.

      Allowing your employees to telecommute may or may not be feasible, depending on your industry, but it might be time to consider offering this benefit to your employees. Finding ways to automate repetitive tasks allows your valuable employees to spend their time working on tasks that are more impactful to your business. With a limited workforce to draw from, make the most efficient use of your employees by automating the tasks you can. 

      By the Numbers

      Wrike’s report is overflowing with interesting numbers and data points on the topic, but here are some of the most fascinating:

      • 94% of managers and executives felt like their employees were engaged.
      • Disengaged managers and executives were more likely to feel that their direct reports were disengaged.
      • Women were 8% more likely to report they felt productive 75% or more of the time.
      • Men were 3.3% more likely to report feeling engaged at work.
      • American respondents felt the most productive.
      • German respondents felt the most engaged.
      • Gen X and millennial respondents were more likely to rank being underpaid as their reason for being disengaged.
      • 29% of respondents said not having the correct tools, resources, or support was a reason for disengagement.
      About the author
      Robynne Edwards

      A native of sunny Southern California, Robynne now lives in the Pacific Northwest. When not writing, you can find her exploring her new home, experimenting in the kitchen, or curled up with a good book. She has been writing and editing since her college days at Oklahoma City University’s The Campus newspaper and currently writes Young Adult fiction under the pen name Penelope Freed. You can find her complete bibliography at

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