How To Avoid ‘Productivity Paranoia’ In Hybrid Teams


In-office team meeting with virtual team


Workplace changes ushered in by the pandemic have been accompanied by a host of new terminology. “Quiet quitting,” “boomerang employees,” “career cushioning,” and “return to office” (or just “RTO”) are just a few phrases that express the new realities. But among remote and hybrid workforces, “productivity paranoia” might be the term most feared.

In a global survey of 20,000 people, Microsoft identified productivity paranoia as a phenomenon in which “leaders fear that lost productivity is due to employees not working, even though hours worked, number of meetings and other activity metrics have increased.” In other words, leaders’ unjustified belief that their hybrid teams aren’t productive is totally disconnected from evidence that they are.

Any turn of phrase that includes the word “paranoia” can’t be healthy for leaders, their teams or the company they work for. Trust, which is integral to the leader-employee relationship, is annihilated by paranoia, so you should avoid it at all costs. Here’s how you can.

Bring Down the Curtain on Productivity Theater

Productivity theater is the employee’s response to management’s productivity paranoia. Team members want to appear busy, regardless of whether they’re accomplishing actual work at any given moment. In fact, they spend more time focused on performing acts of business than on doing their jobs.

If this is how your team is responding to your micromanagement and overt surveillance, that sound you hear is the sucking of true productivity down the proverbial drain. You want your team to focus on what’s strategically valuable to the company, not on pretense.

The point of productivity is to make progress toward meeting deadlines and achieving goals. So keep your focus on project deliverables and milestones, not on how fast a WFH employee responds to your latest Slack. Reach out periodically, not to keep tabs on team members, but to ask if they’re encountering any obstacles you can help them remove.

You can’t end productivity theater’s run by just telling hybrid team members to stop putting on a show. Instead, clearly outline your work-life expectations. If you tell them they’re not expected to respond to emails 24/7, they may not spend so much time trying to appear they’re working nonstop.

Restock Your Toolbox

First, you had to figure out what tools your team needed to do their jobs 100% remotely. Now that they’re doing them in a hybrid situation, the same tools may not be working. Talk to your team to find out what they think about the tech they’re using in and out of the office.

Stop with the multiple daily Zoom meetings. Those might have been necessary when videoconferencing was the only way for teams to gather. Now you can schedule periodic check-in meetings when they’re in the office and brief calls when they’re working remotely. This approach will keep you updated without looking over their shoulders.

Another way to prevent productivity paranoia is by using project management software that helps team members stay abreast of timelines and report status on project tasks. Shared calendar software lets everyone know when various team members are in the office, working from home or taking time off. This information helps the team stay in sync and enables everyone to schedule necessary meetings at mutually workable times.

The right tools provide both accountability and autonomy. Use them to keep your finger on the pulse of productivity without holding team members under your thumb.

Figure Out Best Practices and Processes Together

You have a problem with obsessing over whether your employees are being productive when they’re out of sight. They have a problem with your surveillance and micromanagement. No one likes being under the proverbial microscope.

To put productivity paranoia behind you, invite your team to help you resolve the problems that arise with hybrid work arrangements. Perhaps asynchronous work schedules have become too asynchronous, and you need to schedule some overlap time to facilitate faster task handoffs. Maybe remote workers feel they’re being overlooked for plum assignments in favor of their in-office colleagues.

Whatever issues you identify, sit down—physically or virtually—and discuss the underlying reasons for them. Then work together with your team to come up with solutions that make you a more effective leader and them more productive employees. Collaborating to solve the problems and establish practices that put team members at ease will give everyone ownership of those solutions.

Doing this right will require transparency and candor. But you really are all in this hybrid situation together. To make it work, everyone will need to commit to trusting everyone else.

So Long, Paranoid Android

Just because your team members are occasionally out of sight, it doesn’t mean they’re out of mind or that you can’t trust them to be productive. If you react to hybrid work arrangements with paranoia, they will return the favor with productivity theater—and resentment. It’s your job to lead with trust so your team can follow suit.

Fuente: PMideas (How To Avoid ‘Productivity Paranoia’ In Hybrid Teams).