15th Feb 2023
3 Min Read

Field notes. Let’s talk about productivity

Dr.Alex Gapud
Dr.Alex Gapud
Culture & Insights

There’s a looming crisis in the workplace around wellbeing, mental health, and burnout.

But I’m also noticing an underlying current that we're not looking at closely enough: the pressure we're feeling to constantly be ‘productive’

You’ve probably heard how hybrid ushered in a sense of ‘productivity paranoia’ among managers, some of whom feel the need to monitor and track their employees when they’re working from home and a wider debate on whether hybrid workers are ‘productive’

    But what does it even mean to be productive when you’re working a complex knowledge-work job in a hybrid environment? We’re all talking about productivity, but what does it look like? How do we define it?

    I’ve got a suspicion that when we talk about productivity, we’re using an outdated concept that doesn’t apply to the present moment in the same way it did when we mostly worked in factories or even offices.

    When we worked in factories, productivity was easy to measure: how many units rolled of the assembly line today? When we worked in offices, I think we made the mistake of measuring how many hours we spent in the office and how long we were at work. In a digital, hybrid age, that kind of presenteeism isn’t a good measure of our productivity.

      My concern is that we’re taking an old model that’s no longer fit for purpose and forcing it to fit instead of questioning if it’s right and how it might need to change.

      I’m not anti-productivity, but I am worried that failing to understand what productivity looks like in hybrid is making people sick, hurting our wellbeing and ultimately, making us less productive.

      If you’re reading this, I’d invite you to stop and think:

      • How are we defining productivity in our company?
      • Do people constantly feel the pressure to log on early or stay late?
      • Do people feel the pressure to schedule in back-to-back calls without any breaks?
      • If you are, where is that pressure in your organisation coming from?

      If this is a topic that resonates with you, please feel free to get in touch. I’d love to hear how this is playing out in your organisation.

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