How bosses can overcome their remote work 'productivity paranoia'

Organisations globally have introduced policies that enforce a return-to-the-office working structure

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A recent study found that while 87 per cent of employees believe they are highly productive working from home, only 12 per cent of chief executives agree with this assessment.

As a result, many organisations are forcing employees to return to the office. This phenomenon, faced by major companies around the world, is known as “productivity paranoia”, where higher management or C-suite level executives doubt the productivity of employees at lower levels.

While the productivity perception versus reality debate continues, it has already driven companies around the globe to introduce policies that enforce a return to the rigid office-based working structure and 9-to-5 routine.

Given the disconnect between company policies and employee needs, here are some tips and tools that can be used to manage productivity paranoia and successfully introduce a hybrid and remote work model.

Upskilling the leadership

New ways of working require new ways of managing. Remote employees require trust, autonomy and the ability to work independently.

Micromanaging can create a culture of fear, reduce productivity and cause employees to feel undervalued and demotivated.

Through the adoption of project management and collaboration tools, employees and managers can communicate more effectively, monitor progress and stay on top of deadlines.

Additionally, productivity and time-tracking tools can provide insight into how employees are spending their time and help identify areas for improvement.

Encouraging visibility and openness

In a hybrid or remote work setting, the lack of informal interactions and information sharing can create a disconnect between employees and their work.

As a result, it is important to provide context and help employees to understand the purpose behind their tasks. This means regularly communicating why something is being asked of them and how it will affect the overall delivery of a project.

To build relationships and foster a sense of connection and belonging, managers should schedule regular check-ins with remote employees and address any concerns or issues.

By fostering a culture of trust and open communication, remote employees feel more engaged and valued.

Using KPIs to measure productivity

One of the main causes of productivity paranoia is a lack of clear expectations and goals for remote employees.

To address this, managers should establish clear guidelines for remote workers and set specific, measurable goals they can achieve.

This will help both managers and employees to have a shared understanding of what is expected and how success will be measured.

Being open to employee feedback

In a hybrid work environment, it is crucial to take employee feedback into account when making decisions.

By using automated surveys, managers can gather valuable insights into their team’s work preferences and identify opportunities for growth. This can help build a positive and long-lasting culture that promotes engagement and productivity.

The law firm where few people 'go to work'

The law firm where few people 'go to work'

Focusing on results, not time

Managers should shift their focus from monitoring the amount of time employees spend on a task to the results they produce.

By setting clear objectives and deadlines, employees will have the freedom to work at their own pace and in a way that suits their work style.

This will help to promote a culture of trust and collaboration and help to prevent burnout while increasing employee satisfaction.

The future of HR

The phenomenon of productivity paranoia poses a significant challenge for organisations, as there is often a disconnect between the perception of employee productivity and the expectations of higher management.

However, by embracing these approaches, organisations can bridge the gap between management and employees, foster a productive work environment and ensure the success of remote and hybrid work models in the UAE and beyond.

Casey Bailey is head of people at global HR platform Deel

Updated: June 26, 2023, 12:50 PM