Productivity paranoia creates new tensions in the workplace

Productivity paranoia creates new tensions in the workplace

In a challenging business environment where employees would rather quit than return to office, leaders must balance employee interests with organisational success

From firing employees for moonlighting, to announcing 100% variable payment to majority of its employees, or creating a platform for gig working, the Indian IT industry is continuing to roll-out and roll-back new strategies to stem the attrition rate that ranges from 22% to as high as 28%. Nevertheless, the disconnect between IT employees and employers continue to widen. CIEL HR Services, a staffing company, in its recent survey concluded that around 88% employees of top IT companies are ready to quit their current IT jobs instead of returning to the offices. Microsoft’s latest WorkTrend Index Pulse Report illuminates a gap between how business leaders and employees see hybrid work and the urgent steps needed to bridge that gap.

While many employees have grown attached to the flexibility and freedom hybrid work brings, many business leaders would like to see a return to the office routines of 2019. In a challenging business environment, one thing is clear: It’s the job of every leader to balance employee interests with the success of the organisation.

Productivity paranoia must end

The 2022 Work Trend Index Pulse Report is a survey of 20,000 employees across 11 countries. It points to three urgent strategic shifts: ending paranoia about productivity about hybrid work; embracing the fact that people go into the office for each other, not because of an employer policy; and reinvesting in learning.

Globally, 87% of employees report that they are productive at work, while 85% of business leaders say that the shift to hybrid work has made it challenging to have confidence that people are being productive. The percentages for France, the UK and Germany are within two percentage points on this question and most others in the survey. There is some variance, however, on three key questions.

Half the companies don’t solicit employee feedback

Among all those surveyed, 43% of employees can confidently say that their company solicits employee feedback at least once a year – meaning that over half of companies rarely hear about their employees’ experiences at work (57%). In the European countries surveyed, on the other hand, only 40% of the employees reported at least annual feedback. Both employees and leaders appear hungry for more opportunities to learn and grow, and to explore new career opportunities.

Employees want internal mobility

If they could benefit more from learning and development support, 76% of all employees surveyed say they’d stay at their company longer, and 83% of business leaders said the same. In Europe, those numbers were 71% for employees and 77% for business leaders. More than two in three of all employees surveyed also said they would stay longer at their company if it was easier to change jobs internally (68% overall and 73% of Gen Z and Millennials). That rises to three in four for people managers (75%) and business decision makers (77%). In Europe, those percentages were slightly lower among employees, (64% overall, 68% for Gen Z and Millennials), though similar for business decision makers and people managers.

Managers missing visible ‘productivity cues’

Many leaders and managers are missing the old visual cues of what it means to be productive because they can’t “see” who is hard at work by walking down the hall or past the conference room. Indeed, compared to in-person managers, hybrid managers are more likely to say they struggle to trust their employees to do their best work (49% vs. 36%) and report that they have less visibility into the work their employees do (54% vs. 38%). And as employees feel the pressure to “prove” they’re working, digital overwhelm is soaring.

Productivity paranoia risks making hybrid work unsustainable. Leaders need to pivot from worrying about whether their people are working enough to helping them focus on the work that’s most important. 81% of employees say it’s important that their managers help them prioritise their workload, but less than a third (31%) say their managers have ever given clear guidance during one-on-ones. Solving this issue needs to start at the top: 74% of people managers say more guidance on prioritizing their own work would help their performance, and 80% say they’d personally benefit from more clarity from senior leadership on impactful priorities.

Employee insights provide competitive advantage

Nearly half, about 48% of employees and 53% of managers’ report that they’re already burned out at work, so prioritization must go beyond simply reordering an overflowing to-do list. Leaders need to create clarity and purpose for their people, aligning work with the company mission and team goals. And defining what work doesn’t matter is just as important as defining what does–in a world where everything is important, nothing is.

Showing employees that you care requires creating a continuous feedback loop– listening and taking action consistently. Only 43% of employees can confidently say their company solicits employee feedback at least once a year–meaning over half of companies (57%) may rarely, if ever, ask and hear about their employees’ experience at work. And even if their company is collecting feedback, 75% of employees (and 80% of managers) think it’s not often enough, and 75% of business decision makers say it’s not actionable enough. In an era of ongoing volatility, timely, actionable employee insights are critical to gaining and maintaining a competitive edge.

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