Today, businesses face significant changes as hybrid work environments become increasingly prevalent. Amidst this transition, a crucial challenge lies in identifying and measuring productivity in a setting that is not easily observable, leading to what Microsoft Research terms “productivity paranoia” among managers. This fear concerns the efficacy of their remote teams, often compared to a Shakespearean plot where managers, much like Othello, doubt the commitment of their employees. However, unlike the tragic hero, today’s managers possess an effective solution – shifting focus from activity to defined outcomes. This shift can dispel productivity paranoia, as it allows management to assess productivity in a less observable setting, removing the pressure to observe work being performed in person.
Activity vs. Outcomes: A Critical Distinction
During a recent interview, Jim Bartolomea, SVP, Global Head of People at ClickUp, emphasized the critical difference between activity and outcomes. He suggests that organizations often conflate activity with productivity without considering if these activities lead to the desired results. Bartolomea uses the analogy of a magic show, comparing the illusion of productivity (the razzle-dazzle) to actual results (the sorcery). Within ClickUp, a collaborative work management platform, the People Team uses quarterly OKRs (Objectives and Key Results) as productivity indicators. The Engineering team tracks productivity through measures like checked-in code and bug repairs.
Optimizing Productivity in Remote and Hybrid Teams
Improving productivity extends beyond measurement. It involves goal setting, rewarding productivity, and cultivating a work culture that equates job satisfaction with productivity. In essence, rewarding an employee’s output or progress aligns with the sense of accomplishment from scoring a goal or receiving a pat on the back for a job well done. Moreover, fostering dialogue about productivity between managers and employees leads to happier employees and more efficient working environments. Like a choir hitting the right notes, everyone needs to be singing from the same songbook for harmony. Bartolomea also highlights the importance of aligning individual productivity measures with team goals, which ultimately contribute to organizational outcomes.
Employing Tools for Collaboration
For remote and hybrid teams, tools play a significant role. Bartolomea suggests using synchronous and asynchronous tools for various tasks, much like different instruments in an orchestra contributing to the same symphony. Voice notes and video messages can convey context and tone, reducing miscommunications. Furthermore, a project management platform is crucial for tracking tasks, responsibilities, and deadlines. A comprehensive overview of tasks and due dates prevents chaos and promotes harmony within the team.
Boosting Productivity: The Brain Break
In a recent study by the University of Sydney, the results demonstrate that people can enhance their productivity by over 50% when they take a five-minute “brain break” during tasks. The study consisted of 72 students who were allowed a short break between tasks, and they scored 57% higher on average than their peers who proceeded without a pause. This “brain break” proves beneficial in an office environment, just as it does in a classroom, suggesting that rest is not merely about cognitive function but also about recharging emotional batteries. Associate Professor in Educational Psychology Paul Ginns posits that this simple technique can be a valuable productivity hack for people across different age groups.
In the era of hybrid work, businesses need to reconsider traditional productivity measures and place greater emphasis on defined outcomes. Employing the right tools and promoting a culture that recognizes and rewards productivity can go a long way in enhancing efficiency. Furthermore, simple strategies like regular “brain breaks” can significantly boost productivity. This balanced approach to productivity in the modern workplace is accessible to everyone and easy to implement. To learn more about productivity in a hybrid work environment, visit Microsoft Research.