Hybrid and remote work have been the talk of the town the last few years. This highly successful alternative work style is a fantastic demonstration of corporate perseverance, resilience, and adaptability.
And yet, while many businesses have been operating like this since 2020, a recent study from Microsoft found 85% of leaders said the shift to hybrid work has made it hard to be confident that employees are being productive. Even though 87% of workers report performing better at home, only 12% of employers have full confidence their team is being productive.
Subsequently dubbed ‘productivity paranoia’, it’s clear a large proportion of leaders may be struggling (even though employee satisfaction for hybrid work is extremely high, and from an economic perspective businesses have become arguably more profitable).
Why are some employers plagued by this paranoia, and how can they begin to mitigate their concerns?
It's not uncommon for managers to encounter paranoia in one form or another during their career. Important to note is that while hybrid and remote work has proven effective, the way it came to be was not traditional. Companies felt pressured to adopt this way of life due to COVID-19. When change feels forced it can be much more difficult to work through any accompanying negative feelings. For example, a person’s supervisory routine might be intensely disrupted, and suddenly they must learn what it means to supervise a group of people who are no longer physically around them.
It can be challenging to modify engrained work habits, especially when the need to address them comes as an urgent surprise. In addition, the concept of presenteeism has been rooted in corporate culture for decades, which makes it a hard habit to change even though we now know it is inherently flawed: being able to physically see someone does not guarantee they are more productive than when they can’t be seen.
For leaders who are experiencing productivity concerns related to hybrid or remote work options, it may be time to step back, dig deep, and honestly explore what truly disturbs them about this situation. The answer could reveal a lack of trust in the team, reluctance to embrace change, or singular focus on the performance of one team member.
To help identify the root cause of why a leader or manager might push back on hybrid or remote work solutions, HR professionals can suggest they complete a Johari Window, or an Immunity Map Worksheet. These steps can help managers focus their thoughts and address specific concerns.
It is also key for HR to determine whether this is a potential coaching or organizational culture matter. For example, managers may develop productivity paranoia based on the inequitable nature of remote work within a company. Companies frequently have a variety of positions, some of which are able to work remotely and others that cannot. This may lead to divisiveness in the workplace and a manager may be resistant not because of the remote work itself, but rather the rising contention and its echoing effects on the harmony of the company.
HR plays a key role in helping employers manage productivity paranoia. Whether it be from a leader optimization or a culture cohesion perspective, we are integral to helping leaders unlock the people power in their organizations.
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