Is ‘productivity paranoia’ from remote working solvable?
In its latest “Work Trend Index Pulse” report, Microsoft revealed that 85 percent of managers “have a hard time knowing for sure that their people are being productive” away from the office, but 87 percent of surveyed workers say they are productive. Microsoft titles this consequence “productivity paranoia,” and says the effect it has on leaders risks making hybrid work unsustainable.
For workers, burnout can come from “productivity theater” or trying to look busy while working from home.
A report, “Killing Time at Work,” from Qatalog and GitLab released in August found the average employee working an additional 67 minutes online each day to avoid suspicion from their peers that they are not working hard enough, like attending Zoom meetings they know will be “worthless” or responding to emails and messages at strategic times.
Of the 2,000 U.S. and U.K. workers surveyed for the report, 81 percent believe they are more productive and create higher quality output when they have more flexibility over when they work. The report states, “We had a golden chance to say goodbye to the rigid 9-5, but it appears we’re still stuck in old habits of presenteeism, and technology is making things worse.”
INC wrote of the phenomenon, “Many leaders are sending mixed messages, officially encouraging flexible, remote work while informally signaling that those who stick closest to the old 9-to-5 will get ahead. The result is the worst of both worlds — the work-life blur and ‘quick’ midnight email checks of remote work without the benefits of autonomy and control over your time. That’s a recipe for burnout and annoyed talent.”
According to Microsoft, leaders should strive to “create clarity and alignment around company goals, eliminate busywork and listen to their people” to resolve productivity paranoia.
Microsoft also spoke out against the increasing practice of using tracking technologies for workplace surveillance.
Jared Spataro, Microsoft’s corporate VP of modern work, wrote in a commentary for Fortune, “Measuring productivity with mouse movements is like using a sundial as a stopwatch. And surveillance doesn’t just lead to bad data — it undermines trust, a critical factor in organizational success that, once lost, is incredibly difficult to regain.”
- Microsoft unveils new research and technology to bridge the disconnect between leaders and employees so companies can thrive amid economic uncertainty – Microsoft
- Hybrid Work Is Just Work. Are We Doing It Wrong? – Microsoft
- Bridging the employer-employee disconnect – Microsoft
- Microsoft and LinkedIn CEOs on New Era of Hybrid Work – Bloomberg
- Remote workers are wasting their time proving they’re actually working – Vox
- Killing Time at Work – Qatalog/GitLab
- The Rise Of Workplace Surveillance – The New York Times
- Microsoft: ‘Using technology to spy on people at work is not the answer’ – Fortune
- ‘Productivity paranoia’: Microsoft study of corporate workplaces finds big disconnect in hybrid work – Geekwire
- Remote Workers Are Wasting More Than an Hour a Day on Productivity Theater, New Report Finds – INC
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: What solutions do you see for overcoming “productivity paranoia” developing out of remote and hybrid work environments? Should employers consider using workplace surveillance?