The COVID-19 pandemic has created a trend of remote and hybrid work that many organizations have adopted and incorporated into their workplace culture. .
As employees become invisible to their peers and bosses, there is growing debate about whether distributed work models will improve productivity as much as was once hoped. Through nearly three years of experimenting with distributed work, by eliminating two-way commuting and blending home and personal lives, employees are essentially freeing up more time for work, making collaboration more purposeful. I’m sure it will be something.
Distributed work and productivity
The demand for hybrid work, or at least some flexibility, is evidenced by countless surveys of big tech companies and analysts. However, it is debatable whether it has increased productivity.
Nonfarm labor productivity (calculated by dividing the index of real output by the index of hours worked by all people) will decline 1.3% in the third quarter of 2022, according to raw data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. did.
Meanwhile, labor productivity in the manufacturing sector fell by 2.9% in the same quarter, and productivity in the non-financial corporate sector also fell by 1.8%.
There are so many factors involved here, including a looming economic recession, geopolitical considerations, and massive tech layoffs, that distributed work cannot be blamed for everything.
In contrast, Microsoft said in its recent Work Trends Index report that 87% of its employees are productive at work, and data from the IT giant in Redmond, Wash. shows that those employees are honest. suggests. Since the pandemic began, the average Microsoft Teams user’s number of meetings per week worldwide has increased by 153%, according to the company.
Duplicate-booked meetings also increased by 46% per person over the past year, while declines in meetings and tentative RSVPs increased by 84% and 216%, respectively. In his average week, 42% of his participants multitask by emailing or pinging colleagues during meetings.
However, as 85% of leaders told Microsoft, what employees want in a workplace structure isn’t necessarily what company leaders want.
Is employee tracking software the answer?
Some organizations are turning to employee tracking software, but it could do more harm than good, said Kimberly Harris, director of people operations at Poll Everywhere.
Regarding employee tracking software, Harris said:
Data on employee hours doesn’t give you an accurate picture of how productive they are or whether they’re meeting expectations.
“You can take as much time as you want, but what if it’s still not what your manager wants?” says Harris.
Instead, trust is the key to healthy relationships between executives, managers and distributed employees. With her IT and HR personnel at the company monitoring employee endpoints and behavior and reporting data on how long users spend logging in, that trust is effectively destroyed.
Essentially, employee tracking software is at odds with a workplace culture that emphasizes communication and collaboration. When employees are tracked, they tell them what they are working on and their progress is underestimated.
“It establishes a different culture in the organization,” says Harris. “What does that mean to you when you have to track your employees with this tool without being able to clearly communicate that they are doing their work or even trust them effectively? Huh?」
Establishing this culture makes corporate leaders seem overly concerned about employees becoming inherently lazy if they have to work outside the home. This is what Microsoft calls productivity paranoia. Despite increased hours, meetings, and other metrics, some leaders still don’t trust their remote workforce.
Microsoft reports that leaders and managers are more productive because they can’t physically see people with work-related apps and windows open on their computers, or people scrolling through social media while walking. Losing old visual cues about what it means. Down the corridor.
Compared to in-person managers, hybrid managers are more likely to say they have trouble trusting employees to do their best work (49% vs. 36%). Additionally, managers report less visibility into their employees’ work (54% vs. 38%), Microsoft reports.
“Productivity paranoia risks making hybrid work unsustainable,” says a Microsoft report. “Leaders need to move away from worrying about whether their employees are working enough so that they can concentrate on their work the most important”
Ensuring productivity in a hybrid work model
Essentially providing a solution that helps managers track employee productivity, Microsoft believes employees and managers should instead develop relationships that help employees prioritize their workload. It says.
Over 80% of employees say they want their manager to help them prioritize their work, but only a third say their manager has given clear guidance in one-on-one meetings less than 1. This is an organization-wide issue, with managers themselves saying they would benefit from more guidance (74%) and clearer input from their senior leadership (80%) on prioritizing their work. increase.
Elsewhere in the report, Microsoft establishes that the answer to productivity paranoia is communication feedback, employee insight, and goal setting in line with company mandates.
Similarly, Harris says leaders and managers should rely on results-oriented frameworks and clear expectations and deadlines.
“It doesn’t matter how much time a person spends on something, because people have different skills and can get things done faster than others,” says Harris. “I don’t think the time spent on something necessarily correlates with the outcome.”
Additionally, leadership and managers must be at the forefront of establishing trust, and they must do so efficiently and effectively.
“It’s very important that our managers can be trusted to create an environment where they can be honest about where they are,” says Harris.
Instead of tracking employee productivity, Harris suggests tracking engagement. However, this doesn’t mean how often employees come to Zoom happy hours or participate in pandemic-era culture-building initiatives that lip service the organization’s wellness policies.
Harris suggests companies ask themselves: Do people tell their friends about your company? Do people believe in your mission? ”
Virtual happy hours and regular meetings designed to build culture can produce results, but organizations must also work to make the most of face-to-face time spent together. When employees are in the office, or if your organization regularly hosts retreats and events, the time is not only structured and engaging, but generally fun too.