CEOs: 3 Ways You Can Prevent Productivity Paranoia at Work

by | Mar 1, 2023

As the world transitions to a hybrid model of working, it seems like there’s a new workplace phenomenon every week – ‘quiet quitting’, ‘quiet firing’, now there’s ‘productivity paranoia’.  

Essentially, it’s the belief some managers have that employees are slacking off when they’re not in the office. This is the latest standoff between employers and employees: just how productive are employees really when they’re working from home?  

The term comes from Microsoft’s findings last year. The tech giant carried out a global hybrid workplace trend study and discovered an alarming disconnect in the way leaders and employees perceive workplace productivity.  

Only 12% of leaders have full confidence that their team is productive, while 87% of employers report that they are productive at work. So why is there such a disconnect taking place?  

There are a number of reasons for this. The main reason is that some leadership circles are still catching up with modern ways of working which are a stark contrast to the world of work pre-COVID.  

For example, a classic example of this is when Twitter CEO Elon Musk unsuccessfully tried to make employees sign a loyalty pledge and put an end to remote work to enable long work hours. According to this logic, it’s easier to track employees’ time than their ideas.  

Yet, tracking employees’ activity isn’t always the best way of measuring productivity. The bottom line is employers need to move away from fixating on the hours employees put in to measuring output in terms of achievements. Here are three ways you can prevent productivity paranoia at work.  

  1. Try a more outcomes-focused approach to productivity metrics

Productivity metrics are used to track and measure how efficient your team is in getting their tasks done. These metrics are used to manage and improve performance, as well as highlight where employees need to improve.

The problem with productivity metrics is that they can often be an outdated way of measuring output. Measuring and collate data can be useful but it can also be easy to lose sight of the bigger picture: the impact and results of these metrics.

The advantage of shifting to an outcomes mindset is that it frees employees up to innovate in the pursuit of results. And unlike at Twitter, where employees are forced to work long hours which is known to drive people to burning out, focusing on outcomes can demonstrate to employees that you also care about their health and wellbeing.

  1. Enhance your communications with employees / managers

It’s crucial for managers who want to support their team in a remote or hybrid working world to understand the stresses posed on employees and how to alleviate them.

For example, if employees feel like they’re not trusted, remote working can lead to issues like ‘working from home guilt’, when employees increase their working hours to compensate for the benefit of home working.

Outlining remote working expectations clearly can ease these worries. Let individuals know they aren’t expected to work longer hours just because they’re not commuting.

Similarly, make sure to keep checking in with your team members. Ask them “how are you… really?”. These check-ins are essential in a remote working world, especially because many employees view their managers as the most important link they have with their company.

Regular meetings shouldn’t focus solely on results or exhaustive checklists. Ask them how they’re finding things and what needs to change in order for them to feel like they can be productive again if they have been finding it difficult to achieve their goals.

  1. Value employee wellbeing 

Consistently pushing employees to be more productive means pushing them to work longer hours and/or rush through their work, both of which increase stress levels.

This is why it’s so important to prioritise employee wellbeing as a business goal. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Does our organisation have a mental health strategy?
  • Do we signpost employees to employee assistance programmes (EAPs) or cognitive behavioural therapy sessions to support them through particularly stressful periods in their lives?
  • Are our line managers equipped with the tools they need to have sensitive conversations around mental health with their team members?
  • Do we have policies in place that establish, promote and protect mental health in the workplace?
  • Do we plan to, or are you already, actively investing in mental health?

The answers to these questions can help you gauge what you’re already doing, and what you need to do, to proactively look after the mental health of your staff.

With 49% of respondents to Champion Health’s Global Productivity survey rating their productivity as average or worse last year, there’s a huge opportunity for organisations to benefit from productivity gains by prioritising mental health.

Mental health investment isn’t just a “nice-to-have”. It’s crucial to creating a resilient workforce where employees can be open about their mental health needs before they reach the stage of burnout. – Obehi Alofoje

If you would like to find out more about how we can help you address any employee wellbeing concerns such as employee burnout, stress-related complaints and absences, or unexplained low productivity, book a consult call here and the Aurora team can support your company’s employee wellbeing plans.

Aurora Wellness is a mental health and wellbeing consultancy that helps organisations increase employee resilience and productivity; reduce chronic stress, burnout and absenteeism, through mental wellbeing and productivity training, coaching, & strategic frameworks. Previous clients include the London School of Economics (LSE), Imperial College London, Allianz, Michael Page, Page Executive, Matillion, Cochlear, North Sea Transition Authority, and North East London NHS Foundation Trust.

At Aurora Wellness, we are all about mental wellbeing & productivity. To discover holistic solutions to empower your people and maximise their full potential, contact us to find out more. – Ngozi Weller

How much is it costing your business to have disengaged employees?

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