There’s no denying the pandemic has changed the way we work and changed business models. But has it changed the mindset of our staff and made them less focused, or even lazy?
If you search the news pages for staff productivity, you’ll find headlines such as, ‘Zoom, Teams, Slack are Wreaking Havoc on Employee Productivity’ (Bloomberg), Productivity vs Privacy, Walking the Employee Tracking Tightrope’ (Maddyness), and The Productivity Paranoia Managers Can’t Shake’ (BBC).
Are your employees less productive whilst working remotely, or is their time drained by switching from one app to another and moving equipment to and from multiple locations? Or is it all in your head?
Apps are designed to improve productivity
We’ve all heard the saying, ‘there goes another meeting that could’ve been an email’. Well, in this newly modelled flexible working world, more meetings are being conducted online. I believe this actually keeps the focus on the task at hand since you don’t have to shut down your laptop, leave the office and take time travelling or hosting.
However, it can be tempting to ping your boss or colleagues with quick questions throughout the day which may indeed take longer than calling across the desk or popping over to the boss’ office.
TIP: prevent multiple interruptions by encouraging your staff to make a list of queries and approach you at a single time. One longer catch-up is more productive than a series of multiple small ones. This might even encourage your staff to find their own solutions in the meantime.
Look at tracking your staff time from another perspective… Do you charge your customers by the hour, or by the outcome? If you are a writer and one article takes an hour to write, does it make it half as good as the one that took you two hours?
It’s important to know your staff are logged in when they should be, and being productive, but I would encourage you to put value to their outcomes rather than on their hours.
If you pay your staff by the hour, which many of us do, you may need to re-visit how you measure productivity.
The good news is, as we settle into hybrid working models, staff and business owners are getting more used to being time-tracked. There are some very good apps that can help you with time-tracking, but whatever method you choose, I advise being open and transparent about it, and involve employees where possible in choosing the one that works for your business on the whole.
TIP: When time tracking, we can get paralysis by analysis, so be clear on your purpose for such implementation.
Good behaviour leads to the right activity to generate your desired outcomes
As I’ve mentioned in previous blogs, including ‘Stop focusing on the wrong numbers’, revenue, margin and profit are all outcomes of other activities in your business. Are you focusing your activity or that of your team on high pay off activities rather than just the outcomes? If you want £x revenue or x new customers as ROI, then what activity is required whether that’s full time, in a 4 day week or part time?
Are you just being ‘paranoid’?
A survey conducted by Microsoft in September 2022 found that 85% of leaders say the shift to hybrid work has made it challenging to have confidence that employees are being productive. If they can’t see them at work, how do they know they are at work? Interestingly, when Microsoft surveyed them, 87% of employees say they are productive whilst working remotely…
TIP: Keep your staff connected and brought in on the same journey by encouraging physical and online meet ups, both for work and social reasons. Staff that feel part of a team, even when they’re not in the same office, are more likely to work toward the common goal. Have a look at, ‘6 ways to build a positive business culture for your employees’.
Don’t be afraid to manage and address concerns
Some business owners and managers fear communicating their productivity expectations or asking for profit due to the news around flexible working, employee preferences and mental health. Your communication may need to change but there is still nothing wrong with having drive and asking for a profit return!
I understand it can be a difficult shift for a leader to make but going from reading the physical cues of people at computers, or meeting room tables, to a conversation-led, outcome-based management style will foster more trusting relationships. If you’d like to discuss how you can make this step change in your management style, or if you need support in making difficult decisions about an unproductive team, please get in touch. I’m always interested to hear your story and listen to your challenges as a leader.