Productivity Paranoia: What is it and how to avoid it?


Productivity Paranoia: What is it and how to avoid it?

March 21 / 2023

Declining productivity seems to be a recurring bad dream among many businesspeople. A concern that turns into a nightmare when the focus of the dream experience shines on staff working remotely or who has opted for the hybrid model. 

Their obsession is that the lack of direct supervision, as is the case in the office, inevitably leads to reduced performance. To prevent their worst omens from coming true, some employers subject remote workers to exhaustive virtual monitoring. They are victims of what is called productivity paranoia

Such an attitude in turn provokes a curious paradox. Business leaders fear a decline in productivity due to remote work despite the increase in the number of virtual meetings and hours worked, and metrics show an irrefutable increase in activity. 

Origin of the term Productivity Paranoia

The latest study carried out by Microsoft’s Work Trend Index, surveying 20,000 employees in 11 countries, reveals some very interesting data. Among them we find the different current appreciation of business people and workers on productivity once the pandemic was over.

While it lasted, the workers’ performance was above normal. It should be noted that many professionals traded commuting time to the office for working hours from home. 

The provisional work models established to deal with the pandemic have been maintained after tit ended. Fully remote and hybrid work is an increasingly established reality. 

In the aforementioned Microsoft study, 87% of the professionals answered yes to the question of whether they were productive in the activity they carried out. More work hours, meetings and multi-tasking could prove it. On the other side of the coin, 85% of employers expressed their distrust in the productivity of workers in the hybrid model.

This is where Microsoft establishes in its report the term productivity paranoia. Employers’ fear of decreased performance despite the increased workload of their professionals when they are remote.

Control of remote workers

The belief of many business leaders that their remote workers significantly lower their performance causes them to establish measures to control their activity. Typically, tracking software is installed on workers’ computers. 

Known as bossware, it tracks their work time, the sites they visit, etc. This software allows access to data on keystrokes, logins, communication with colleagues…

However, this absolute control of the remote activity of workers also generates misgivings from them regarding their bosses. And let’s not forget that trust is the foundation of a healthy and productive work environment, regardless of the industry. 

For such trust to be mutual between employer and employee, it will be necessary to establish clear objectives and have appropriate processes and tools to measure productivity. The key is that the worker does not feel under constant surveillance during their workday. Because a dissatisfied worker will always look for opportunities in other companies that show more confidence in their productivity. 

Recommendations to avoid productivity paranoia

Recruitment of suitable personnel

Rather than focusing on the numbers in a tracking tool, good talent acquisition is more effective. Recruiting people who excel in their position without supervision.

Virtual monitoring is certainly quite tempting for employers, but it can lead to a culture of mistrust. Identifying the right professionals will prevent problems related to performance control.

Extrinsic and intrinsic employee motivation

In order for employees to have high morale and be committed to their work, it is essential to motivate them in various ways. 

Extrinsic motivation

The most traditional are salary increases, commissions and bonuses. Other more modern include freshly prepared meals in restaurants in the same office building, gym membership and health insurance. 

Intrinsic motivation

Those in which a person performs an activity for their own interest and that activity itself is the reward. The feeling of accomplishment, the pleasure of the challenge, the interest in the work being carried out are intrinsic motivations.

Remote workers can be intrinsically motivated by making them feel that they can achieve a valuable goal; granting them autonomy and choice; acknowledging mastery of their work….

Use of a robust performance management system

The important thing about this system is that it focuses on objectives and metrics that are meaningful to the company, not based on hours of work carried out. 

An adequate process of setting and measuring objectives allows an effective distinction to be made between the most effective workers and the rest. 

Sometimes it is company managers who fail to establish effective processes, track progress or communicate objectives clearly. In these situations, the solution lies in correcting the leadership, not in real-time monitoring of the remote worker.

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