14. November 2023

Why is everyone talking about… productivity paranoia?

Personio Pulse: This Week in HR - 2

Welcome to Personio Pulse: This Week in HR, where each week we take a look at the latest trends in the world of work, what you need to know about them and what they mean for you as an HR professional. 

This week we’re talking about the problem of productivity paranoia.

What you need to know

Ever get a creeping feeling at work you’re just not getting enough done? It’s what Microsoft’s latest study has dubbed ‘productivity paranoia’. The study found 85% of leaders find it hard to be confident that employees are being productive in the era of hybrid work. Yet 48% of employees and 53% of managers across the globe report that they’re burnt out. So, how are employers reacting to all of this?

Worryingly, employers are increasingly investing in technology to detect keystrokes, inactivity and even emotion detection from employees to measure productivity. But excessive workplace surveillance has been proven to stifle creativity and independent thinking while increasing stress and the likelihood of burnout, something we’re already seeing in the figures above.

What others are saying about it 

“Microsoft’s data verifies what the employees are saying: they’re working harder than ever — especially women juggling childcare[...] The number of meetings per week has increased by 153% globally since the start of the pandemic”, said Shelley Zalis, Founder and CEO of The Female Quotient, recently in Forbes.

She added: “According to The New York Times, leaders’ lack of confidence has resulted in eight out of ten of the largest private employers in the U.S. using tracking software to monitor their employees’ productivity — with unintended consequences ranging from resentment to resignations."

What that means for you

While productivity and accountability are important for all organisations, it needs to be a two-way street. Encourage managers to agree collaboratively with their teams on what this looks like. We recommend:

  • Don't rely on employee surveillance: Studies have shown it only results in less innovation, lower levels of employee trust and more stress and burnout.

  • Establish clear ways for teams to communicate progress: This could be via regular meetings, documentation, task management apps or weekly 1:1 meetings.

  • Discourage presenteeism: Ensure managers measure performance by actual results, not by overtime hours. Build clear policies around respecting sick leave.

  • Build a break-respecting culture: Encourage lunchtime blockers in calendars and don’t schedule company-wide meetings during these times. You can also consider implementing time tracking software that reminds employees of required breaks.

What else should I read? 

That's all for this week's edition of Personio Pulse: This Week in HR. Check back next week as we continue to dissect the latest trends impacting the ways we work. 

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Hannah Popham

Hannah Popham

Hannah is a Senior Content Marketing Manager at Personio. She loves writing about the ever-changing ways that we work and how they intersect with our lives outside work.

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