• Managers think that lost productivity is due to employees not working — even though the hours worked, number of meetings, and other activity metrics have actually increased, according to Microsoft.  
  • This disconnect results in uncomfortable virtual tracking of employees, which Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella refers to as “productivity paranoia.” 
  • Allwork.Space spoke with a few workplace leaders to get their insight on how managers can mitigate this paranoia.  

A staggering number of employers are currently plagued by “Productivity Paranoia.” They are worried that productivity in teams is falling because employees who are working out of sight aren’t actually working.  

The good news? Studies show it’s completely unfounded.  

In a survey recently released by Microsoft, only 12% of business leaders said they’re fully confident that their hybrid employees are productive while working, compared to 87% of employees who say they think they are productive.  

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Leaders fear that lost productivity is due to employees not working — even though the hours worked, number of meetings, and other activity metrics have actually increased, according to Microsoft.  

Unfortunately, this disconnect results in uncomfortable virtual tracking of employees, which Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella refers to as “productivity paranoia.” 

“Half of all business leaders believe that when employees are working ‘out of sight,’ they don’t work as hard — and 48% of the business leaders installed monitoring software on the computers of their employees to check on their work. No wonder only 49% of employees say that they trust their employer,” according to Dr. Gleb Tsipursky 

Employee monitoring software, also known as bossware, tracks how much employees are working, which websites they visit, etc. With this type of monitoring software, data from keystrokes, communication with colleagues, logins and more are able to be accessed by managers.  

Why is there a disconnect around the idea of productivity, and what can be done about it?

“The reason engineers think they are more productive at home is that, given a task that takes 8 hours in the office, they can usually complete it in 6 hours at home,” Alex Fink, CEO of Otherweb told Allwork.Space.

“The reason managers think employees are less productive at home is that they tend to look at what the team does over time, and notice that a large percentage of all the tasks performed were unnecessary, dead ends, or the result of some miscommunication. So, if you measure productivity as efficiency (doing things faster), the engineer is right. If you measure it as effectiveness (doing the right things), the manager is right. When each of them understands what this looks like to the other — the gap will disappear.”

Seth Patton, a Microsoft 365 general manager, said that Microsoft believes that clear communication, goal-setting, and ongoing feedback loops are the best ways to address the apparent disconnect between employers and employees.  

Patrik Wilkens, VP of Operations at TheSoul Publishing, says that trust is the basis of a healthy and productive business environment, no matter the industry.  

“To establish this trust, clear goals need to be agreed upon and the proper tools and processes need to be in place to facilitate and measure productivity,” Wilkens explained.

“We use a variety of project management tools to both allow our team members the best opportunity for success, and to ensure and monitor productivity. It’s actually the opposite of ‘productivity paranoia,’ in that it allows us to find inefficiencies, and correct them. The process is transparent for everyone to facilitate support where needed and to understand how close we are to achieving our goals.” 

He says that if business leaders fail to set up effective processes, track progress, and are unclear in communicating goals, it’s the leadership that needs fixing, not the individual team member. 

Monitoring employees to excess can contribute to burnout, which leads to lessened productivity. It’s in a company’s best interest to find a system that works to ensure that their employees stay on track, while also giving them autonomy and privacy.  

It’s okay to want to track how successful an employee is during their workday, but there are ways in which to do this that are less invasive, such as simple metrics trackers. 

Allwork.Space asked Dasle Hong, Senior Manager, Employer Brand and Recruitment Marketing at DailyPay what workplace leaders should do to mitigate productivity paranoia.  

According to Hong, leaders should do these four things:  

  1. Hire the right people and trust them. While virtual tracking can be tempting, it can also be counterproductive and instill a culture of mistrust. Rather than relying on numbers from a tracking tool, focus on finding top talent that can excel in the role without supervision.
  2. Build in intrinsic and extrinsic motivation for your employees. What is your workforce motivated by? Whether it’s the job itself or other incentives, make sure there are a variety of ways to boost morale and keep your employees engaged in their work.
  3. Recognize your employees often. One-on-one recognition, team recognition, or even company-wide recognition can go a long way. 
  4. Have a robust performance management system. Track your employees via targets and metrics that matter to the business rather than how many hours they are logging in. A robust goal setting and measuring process can help you identify top performers from the rest.
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