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Are hybrid teams productive?

Understanding hybrid work collection (Part 3 of 5)


Many managers believe employees in the office are productive by default, while employees at home are not. That’s called “proximity bias.
But several studies have shown that remote work can be good for productivity. It’s not true across all industries and personality types, but it is true for many.

📊 A study by Mercer found that 94% of surveyed companies said that their productivity was either unchanged (67%) or improved (27%) thanks to remote work.

🔍 The productivity tracking trap

The fact is that you can’t measure productivity based on how many hours a person spends in front of their computer, how many keystrokes they type, or how much time they spend in meetings.
There is a growing industry that focuses on employee monitoring software, also referred to as productivity tracking software. The sales pages for a lot of these programs will tell you that it isn’t spying, but it can sure feel that way to employees.
Imagine if you were in the office and your boss hung around your desk to make sure you periodically moved your mouse or typed a keystroke. Imagine if they stood behind you and watched your screen, or if they periodically snapped a photo of your workspace to track how often you were sitting at your desk.
That sounds absurd, but it’s precisely what this software does.
It’s not good practice to hover over our employees’ desks while they’re in the office, and we shouldn’t while they’re working remotely either. points out some major drawbacks of using productivity-tracking software, backed by research. They:
❌ Increase the risk of rule-breaking
❌ Damage company culture
❌ Harm trust, and cause people stress and anxiety
❌ Misrepresent actual productivity levels

Doing a quick online search for “how to trick employee monitoring software” reveals a telling story. There are loads of employee-centric articles with advice on cheating the system and loads of employer-centric articles on how to detect common cheating methods.
There’s an employee monitoring arms race. The good news is, we don’t have to be part of it.

☝️ The solution to input tracking

Measure productivity based on outputs, not inputs.
In most cases, the amount of time a person spends looking like they’re productive is meaningless.
• Are they meeting their goals?
• Are their deliverables on time?
• Are they making meaningful contributions to the team?
If they’re doing the job they’re being paid for, then they’re being productive.
There may be some cases where productivity and time are closely matched, such as in a call center environment. Employees must spend their time on the phone because that’s what they’re paid to do. As long as they’re meeting their metrics, they’re being productive.
In other cases, we can measure productivity based on the product of an employee’s output. If you expect a certain deliverable by a certain deadline and the employee hands it in on time, does it truly matter how or when they did their work?

👌 Trust your employees to get their job done. Track whether their work was done on-time and how well it meets expectations.
In short, measure their output, not their input. This will lead to better trust — a critical element of every successful team. It’ll also reduce stress and allow people to do their actual work instead of busy work.

GIF of a cursor moving around a laptop screen

GIF by @houndstoothmg

🚨 Room for debate surveyed 1,250 US employers about productivity monitoring software. 88% admitted to firing workers after using it.
Does that mean its use is justified after all?
Remember that this software collects data about how or when people are working. And data is only as good as the way we interpret it.
We may not all have a say over whether we have to use this software. But we can do our best to make sure our biases don’t taint the way we interpret the data we collect.


Where do you believe you do your best work?

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🗝️ Your key takeaway

Productivity isn’t measured by how often a person nudges the mouse on their computer. It’s a measure of how much work an employee gets done.
If you wouldn’t monitor their every move in the office, don’t monitor their every move at home. Focus on the facts and the outputs, and you’ll be just fine.

💬 Over to you

What’s your experience with productivity tracking software? How do you feel about it? Has your opinion changed at all recently?

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