The trends shaping work in 2022: productivity metrics

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Instead of focusing on presenteeism as a measure of employee commitment, companies are now more likely to evaluate effectiveness based on an individual’s output.

Have you been ‘shirking from home’? From an employee’s perspective, it would be nice if employers simply trusted them to do their job but, from the point of view of a business, measuring productivity is the logical next step in the hybrid revolution, which sees people working from a combination of home, a local workspace and a central office. Pre-pandemic, being able to see people sitting at desks meant they were more likely to be working than if they were at home, where they might be having an afternoon nap (or so the boss thought).

However, with the global adoption of video-conferencing, new online collaboration tools and workflow protocols, employers no longer need to be so suspicious of what employees are actually up to when they are based from a remote location. As long as people are doing their job and their output is measurable, the only thing holding businesses back is an outdated mindset that sees employees as being a resource that is ‘owned’ instead of respected. That said, it’s also helpful for teams (not just managers) to be able understand what colleagues are working on in real-time.

To cater to increased demand, a slew of new digital tools are becoming available to monitor the activities of hybrid workers. Project management tools such as Asana, Trello and Monday make it easier for coworkers to collaborate virtually on projects and can also play a role in monitoring productivity. The moment that a task is completed, a message sent, or a file uploaded, it is usually logged and project timelines can be visualised.

However, the line between monitoring productivity and invading privacy can be a fine one. More controversial are tools which enable automatic screenshots of workers’ screens, while some companies have even been criticised for considering the use of facial recognition tools that can tell whether an employee is at their desk when they are supposed to be.

Seeing productivity simply in terms of time spent working at a screen may be missing the point in the hybrid world. “While it may be tempting to equate high levels of employee activity with success, doing so misses the factors that drive long-term sustainable innovation,” Microsoft Chief Scientist Jaime Teevan wrote in Harvard Business Review. “We must expand the way we think about productivity to focus on wellbeing, social connections and collaboration, and the innovation they bring to drive business success.”

Many experts agree that, in the new hybrid world, the focus for employers should increasingly be on outcomes rather than output. “Without the predictable 9-to-5, office-focused working cadence, successful companies will stop trying to measure hours worked and units produced and instead focus on customer satisfaction, revenue and time to market,” says Sheela Subramanian, Senior Director at Slack’s Future Forum.

Productivity metrics is one of ten trends identified in IWG’s white paper, The Future of Work: a trends forecast for 2022.

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