According to a recent McKinsey report, almost 60% of Americans have the option to work from home at least once a week. Moreover, 87% of those who are allowed to flex their work location do, in fact, choose to. But while it’s clear that hybrid work is taking over, recent research suggests leaders and employees aren’t on the same page with how things are going.
In their 2022 Work Trends Index survey, Microsoft reveals the stark contrast between how employees and managers rate productivity levels on a hybrid team. While most employees think of themselves as productive, both in the office and at home, many leaders aren’t so sure. That disconnect raises an important question for the future of business: How do you measure employee productivity in the workplace?
To answer this, let’s dive into those recent Microsoft findings. We’ll examine the productivity disconnect, its overall impact on the state of hybrid work, and how to measure the productivity of your hybrid employees to help drive your team’s success. After all, hybrid work is the new norm — here’s how to optimize it.
What Microsoft’s Survey Reveals About Employee Disconnect
Microsoft polled 20,000 employees and managers across 11 countries to determine just how sustainable and effective a hybrid structure will be long-term. The survey found that, while workers are busier than ever, leaders fear this “busyness” won't produce actual, measurable outcomes. Microsoft calls this “productivity paranoia,” and it’s a common trend in the hybrid workplace. Case in point: 87% of employees feel productive on the job, but only 12% of managers are confident in their team’s productivity.
As the data goes on to point out, productivity signals across Microsoft 365 continue to climb this year, with the average Microsoft Teams user reporting a 153% increase in the number of weekly meetings since 2020. However, 85% of leaders believe the shift to hybrid makes it hard to feel confident that their team members are actually being productive. And that’s where the disconnect lies. Without direct on-site interaction and supervision, leaders face a unique challenge of how to measure the productivity of remote workers.
The Impacts of Productivity Disconnect in the Hybrid Workplace
Given the scattered nature of a hybrid workplace, it’s now more difficult for managers to use the visual cues they once relied on to monitor productivity. With some employees choosing to work from home, leaders can’t just rely on walking around the office or past the conference room to see who is being productive (or at least looking productive). As a result, Microsoft found that 49% of hybrid managers do not trust employees to put forth their best efforts.
Productivity Disconnect and “Productivity Theater”
This breakdown in trust can have serious consequences in that it exerts pressure on hybrid workers to prove their work ethic, resulting in “productivity theater.” This is when employees fill up their time with non-essential activities in order to seem productive or meet the required number of hours worked. While many managers will point to productivity theater as evidence that remote work is unproductive, Microsoft argues the real issue is how organizations tend to measure productivity in remote or hybrid environments.
All too often, leaders monitor activity metrics (number of working hours, meeting attendance, etc.) instead of the performance outcome and impact of the tasks completed. If this pattern continues, it could make the hybrid structure unsustainable, Microsoft warns. That’s because when leaders are hyper-focused on activity, team members feel like they need to put on a show of productivity, which not only wastes valuable time and talent, but can also lead to employee burnout from digital overwhelm. So what’s the solution? This brings us to the next section …
How to Measure Productivity of Employees in the Hybrid Workplace
The goal with measuring productivity should be twofold: Managers need more visibility into what their team members actually do on the job, while employees need more clarity on which tasks to prioritize and how their productivity levels are being evaluated.
Not only would such metrics boost organizational performance and success — they would also increase retention. Microsoft indicates that when teams have clarity around work priorities and expectations, they’re 4.5X more satisfied in their roles and 3.95X more likely to remain with their current company for at least two years.
According to the Microsoft survey, here are a few simple, effective ways that leaders can take an accurate pulse on team productivity — no matter where they’re working from — and help empower workers to reach their goals and performance benchmarks:
1. Establish clear OKRs and confirm that employees know how they ladder up. As a team, create a definitive set of OKRs (objectives and key results) to help clarify what’s expected from each team member. This will also ensure that all tasks align with the company mission. When everyone knows performance metrics they must hit to achieve their goals, they’ll work smarter and prioritize critical assignments over non-essential time wasters.
2. Reward the outcomes and impacts of productivity — not just the action itself. Build a culture that recognizes the valuable impact of each contribution, instead of just fixating on the amount of activity being done. This will help motivate team members to continue producing quality deliverables and looking for ways to be an asset. This also cuts down on the urge to lapse into “productivity theater.”
3. Over-communicate with feedback so employees understand what is working. Form a consistent feedback loop with your team members to make sure everyone is on the same page. It’s best to err on the side of communicating too much than not enough about expectations and results. Discuss which systems and processes are working, and which still need improvement. Actively listen to input from your team too, and use their feedback to inform decisions or test out new strategies.
Knowing How to Measure Productivity is Critical for Hybrid Success
With more than 80% of senior leaders agreeing that hybrid will be the default business structure by 2024, with 56 percent of work being performed offsite, it’s vital that managers to know how to measure the productivity of their employees based on real outcomes that make a difference, not activities that feel like “busyness” but fail to move the needle. When your team members understand what is expected of them and how to demonstrate their results, true productivity will result and your whole team will flourish.