“Quiet quitting” remains a headline-grabbing topic. But, a new alliterative term comes just in time for October’s Spooky Season: “productivity paranoia.”
But what exactly is “productivity paranoia?”
According to the 2022 Microsoft Work Trend Report, this is “The disconnect between how much people say they are working and how much leaders think they are working is stark.” In other words, productivity paranoia refers to bosses’ concern about employees’ performance.
Here’s what the Microsoft report on hybrid work found:
- A staggering 87% of workers say they are productive at work.
- However, only 12% of leaders believe their team is productive.
- Compared to in-person managers, hybrid supervisors are less trustworthy (36% to 49%)
The lack of trust has led to tracking software and other methods of controlling remote and hybrid employees. And, if you haven’t gotten the memo, these don’t work.
Further, employees not only dislike it but also rebel against it.
Even though both meetings and productivity metrics have increased, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella calls it “productivity paranoia.” Why is this important? Its effects could make hybrid work unsustainable.
“Leaders need to pivot from worrying about whether their people are working enough to helping them focus on the most important work,” the report concludes.
That sounds like sound advice to me. But let’s take this to the next level. Here are seven strategies for leading an effective and productive hybrid and remote team.
1. As a remote team manager, don’t be a micromanager – but upskill your leadership.
“No one has ever enjoyed working with a micromanager, and there are multiple ways you can identify if you or one of your team members have micromanager tendencies,” writes Carma Khatib in a previous Calendar article. “From a lack of leadership, boss-obsessed, and bottlenecking performance due to an increased amount of meetings and administration processes, micromanagers can easily hinder the productivity and overall happiness of their remote teams.”
Remote team managers need to provide feedback to their employees.
“A study by Gallup found that around 26% of employees strongly agree that the feedback they receive from their managers or any other executive team member will help them do their work better,” adds Carma.
So what is the manager’s next step? The first problem is that it’s easy to become too overly involved, which is rarely good. You must balance being involved with tracking projects with helping employees when they need assistance.
Are you empathic?
Managers are responsible for ensuring staff members follow current trends and do what they should. “But, more so, consider how you would feel if you were left to your own devices — having to resolve issues without guidance.”
Managers of remote teams should conduct proactive check-ins.
“Finally, be proactive in checking up and seeing if there are any pitfalls or shortcomings in the current pace of work – if so, what’s the best way to handle the situation?” asks Carma. “Micromanagement can quickly deteriorate a team, creating an almost toxic work environment for not just a few people but everyone involved.”
2. Visibility and openness should be encouraged.
An open and transparent work environment can boost morale, decrease job-related stress, and increase productivity within a team, notes Stanford’s Cardinal at Work. Openness can be fostered within your team through the following actions:
- Provide context. In a remote or hybrid work environment, informal interactions and information sharing do not occur as organically. Despite this potential disconnect, it is essential to help employees connect with the purpose of their work. Be sure to constantly explain to your hybrid team why something is being asked of them and how it will impact their work.
- Set communication expectations. Decide how and when to keep in touch. Maintaining contact throughout the business day is possible, regardless of an employee’s physical presence. It may be a good idea to use a tool like Slack, Jabber, or another similar messaging app. In addition to discussing preferences, it is crucial to decide what times of day all team members must be available or what tools are most effective for collaborating or sharing information.
- Establish team norms. Every team member should feel part of the team, regardless of location. When employees are hybrid or fully remote, visibility differs from when they are in the office. People often assume that if they can see someone, they are working. But this couldn’t be further from the truth. To ensure that both on-site and remote employees feel included, encourage openness, communication, and visibility, and create team norms such as video conferencing and in-person meetings.
3. Reinvent virtual meetings and collaboration.
With our new way of working, there is likely always someone who isn’t physically present at your meetings. As a result, meetings, a crucial component of any workplace, need to be reinvented as well if we are going to adapt our daily schedules and work routines to the times.
Lorraine Lee, Head of Editorial at Prezi, has the following recommendations to make this possible:
- Include an agenda. Establish a clear agenda at the start of the meeting, and describe the outcome or goal you wish to achieve by the meeting’s end. Also, meetings will be more productive if you have an agenda.
- Embrace async communications. “ASYNC means: Asynchronous communication is the communication you send out when you’re not expecting an immediate response (e.g., email),” Lorraine explains. When no two-way communication is involved in a meeting, async should be used. An example of an async video would be a status update, an announcement, or a product demonstration.
- To make everyone feel included and equal, you should make virtual meetings the default for all your employees. The same applies if more than one employee wants to participate from the same location.
- Go beyond screen sharing. The status quo must be challenged. The presentation should include moving graphics or video, specific and time-bound calls-to-action, and a clear message, regardless of whether you use PowerPoint or Prezi.
4. Trust your people more than feels comfortable.
“Encourage managers to offer direction, not directions,” suggests Laszlo Bock, CEO, and co-founder of Humu. “To help hybrid teams succeed, managers should clearly outline the milestones they’d like their reports to hit — and then let them figure out how to get there.”
At Humu, for instance, they decided to offer a product for mid-sized companies during the pandemic. Having set clear timelines and success criteria, the leadership team stepped back and let product managers and people scientists do the work.
“It felt uncomfortable at first,” Bock adds. Ultimately, we ended up with a better product by giving our team the freedom to decide their process and work product, he explains. Several innovative approaches emerged that impressed the leadership as well.
“Indeed, research from when I was at Google shows that teams that index the highest on trust and psychological safety are 40% more productive than those who are low on these areas,” Bock states.
5. Develop equitable performance reviews.
“Your employees might be concerned that those who work in the office are more likely to receive career advancements and promotions than those who prefer the hybrid approach,” Michael Brenner, founder and CEO of Marketing Insider Group, writes in another Calendar article. “While you can have more impromptu conversations on-site that lead to more face time, organizations need to create a feedback process to ensure your entire staff feels appreciated and awarded.”
To get started, categorize reviews in three ways:
- The performance of an individual at work
- A person’s ability to work in a team
- The way they demonstrate the company’s values
“This process allows managers to reward employees creatively instead of only focusing on the output,” Michael clarifies.
“Since productivity doesn’t always equal high performance and vice versa, the proper review process enables your employees to focus on developing innovative solutions to your customer’s problems that make a more significant business impact.”
6. Create a unique hybrid plan for each team member.
Every team member brings a unique set of skills to the table. As such, it’s impossible to find a single approach that is right for everyone. So, in your role as a leader, you must identify each person’s strengths and challenges.
With that said, make sure every team member succeeds. And, to avoid challenging situations, ask these questions.
- Does the task lend itself to remote work, or would an in-person employee be better suited to it?
- In order to start and complete the task, what support might the employee need?
- Who can they contact if they have questions?
As long as obstacles exist, you must equip everyone with the tools to overcome them.
7. Promote informal and social learning and upskilling.
There has been a decrease in informal and social learning between colleagues due to a lack of face-to-face contact. However, even though informal learning and social learning are declining, studies have shown that people are eager to learn and gain skills and knowledge essential to their careers. For example, the 2021 LinkedIn Learning Workplace Learning Report found that generation Z and millennials spend 50% more time learning by themselves and the opportunity to upskill is vital for retaining and attracting talent.
Leaders must continue to devote time to their hybrid teams to help them learn and grow and empower them to leverage their new skills.
This can be accomplished by proactively enabling learning opportunities in day-to-day tasks and protecting focused learning time. It is possible to do this by integrating learning into the workflow. Don’t just get people involved when you need input. Instead, involve them in decisions regarding the projects they’re working on.
Also, discuss each employee’s goals with them. And, more importantly, help them craft their role and tasks to be beneficial to their development and the mission of the organization.
Image Credit: Yan Krukov; Pexels; Thank you!
John Hall is the co-founder of Calendar a scheduling and time management app. He’s also a keynote speaker that you can book at http://www.johnhallspeaking.com.