Microsoft recently conducted a study regarding productivity in the workspace. They surveyed 20,000 people working across 11 different countries about productivity and working from home.
85% of employers think their employees do LESS work when they work from home than when they work in the office.
Are they right?
The same study shows that 87% of employees think they do MORE work when they work from home.
Asked another way, only 12% of leaders have confidence that their team is productive. That’s essentially the inverse of what employees are reporting.
How can there be such a vast difference?
Microsoft is calling this Productivity Paranoia. It’s the fear from management that productivity is down due to employees not working. Unlike in-office work, there are no visual cues giving feedback on who is working hard or who is being unproductive.
This fear is baseless, as all indicators track that productivity is on the rise. The number of weekly Teams meetings is up 153% when compared to before the pandemic.
Regardless, because of the challenge of tracking productivity with work-from-home or hybrid situations, some companies use technology to track the activity of their employees. This tends to be less than helpful though, as they track activity rather than impact.
Employees tend to respond with “busy work” as a show that they are working. In fact, a study shows that employees waste over an hour a day orchestrating to show their managers that they are working. Things like joining meetings they know aren’t meaningful, sending emails at specific times, or other strategic appearances online just to look busy. This lack of quality work is reminiscent of old-school cubicle life. Do we need to watch Office Space (1999) again?
What’s the solution to a productive remote workforce?
A few major things are at play here. While technology can help, it isn’t the answer. A shift in management is.
Microsoft concludes that clarity is the primary solution. Work priorities need to be clear. What is important? What isn’t? If everything is important, then nothing is. Clarity of priorities creates purpose for employees. It also aligns that purpose to the team, project, and company goals. They get to understand – and see – the importance and impact of their work. The results of clarity are; employees who are happy at their company, plan to stay for at least 2 years, and are less likely to think about looking for a new job.
Async refers to the fact that not everybody needs to work at the same time. For the most part, workplaces have all been synchronous, with everyone gathering in the same place and working the same hours. There are times when this is required as well. Brainstorming, for instance, must be synchronous. If work is reliant on somebody else, that must be synchronous.
However asynchronous work has always existed. Work that involves developing and using knowledge rather than producing a good or service, is asynchronous. These workers communicate, then go do their work independently, and eventually return to communicate again. This is the cycle of async work, and the pandemic gave everybody a taste of it.
What many people found was that they liked async work. It offered them flexibility. It gave them control. It improved work/life balance. It also made them more productive.
That’s a hard thing to walk away from, and has become a major defining point in employment choices they make.
Managers establish the culture of their team and organization. Are you approving work from home, but then mandating schedules? Are you tracking every action that employees take instead of measuring their results? At the end of the day, you need to trust your employees. If you don’t, they won’t trust you. More importantly, they won’t thrive. They won’t do high-quality work that makes them (and you) succeed. They will do only enough to hit the measurement standard you set.
If you are hybrid working, use in-person time to build team bonds. If you are 100% remote work, schedule a team meeting with the only purpose to bond. Build that into your digital culture so employees stay connected with each other.
Set your employees up for success. Make sure they have all the technology they need to be effective when working remotely. Of course, our stance is to do so in a secure environment – be it remote connections, file sharing, or device management.
There’s a big challenge that comes with remote management. The world has changed, the workforce has changed, and things are not going back. To effectively navigate this and ensure your business proves successful, embrace the change, and push forward. If you need help with technology and policies to do so, let us know – it’s our specialty.