by Kevin Eikenberry

Much has been written about the productivity of people working from home, and most of it posits that people have been more productive at home.  In talking with hundreds of leaders and team members in virtual learning experiences, I would say that conventional wisdom is correct… but for far less than half of those working from home.

The problem with this conventional wisdom is two-fold:

  • Thinking remote work/working from home is the same now as it was pre-pandemic
  • Misunderstanding/misrepresenting productivity

Perceptions change

Ask people who worked from home occasionally pre-pandemic if they were more productive at home, and nearly all say emphatically that they were.  They had more uninterrupted time, were better able to focus, and in many cases carried less stress in their bodies and minds.  Does any of this sound like your experience since lockdowns began?

And, if someone was a full-time remote worker pre-pandemic they were often left alone, almost to the point of feeling isolated and forgotten – this too is likely quite different now than before everyone on the team was working from home.

How are you measuring productivity?

According to a recent article in The Economist a study found that total hours worked during the pandemic were 30% higher than before COVID-19 hit.  If we are working 30% more hours, for productivity to be equal to pre-pandemic levels we would be creating 30% more results today.  To be more productive would require even greater productivity increases.

You tell me – how many people/teams/organizations are achieving that?

Even if the 30% number is too high or inaccurate for you, the point is the same.  Productivity isn’t a measure of raw hours worked, it is an output per unit time measurement. Rightly considered, are you and your team more or less productive in a remote workplace than you were before?

How to maximize productivity

While I am trying to give you a contrarian view to what is being written about productivity today, I am not saying that productivity can’t be excellent in a remote or hybrid situation.  In order to maximize productivity in a remote or hybrid situation, here are a few quick ideas:

  • Be careful of the number of meetings.  The Economist article cited above blames much of the extra work time being consumed by meetings.  I am not sure it is the number one culprit, but it is part of the problem.  Plan meetings better, provide agendas, and schedule fewer of them with fewer people.  Each of those tips will make your meetings more effective and more productive.
  • Block calendar time for important work.  Let the rest of the team know you are doing concentrated work to minimize distractions and turn off the notifications of all your digital devices during that time (if not all the time).
  • Move your phone.  Research shows that if your phone is in your line of sight it is distracting you. (Especially, but non only if it is dinging beeping and buzzing).
  • Set expectations and boundaries with those you live with. When everyone knows when you are working and when you aren’t, you can manage your distractions more effectively.
  • Turn off the technology. Close (or hide) your laptops. Determine the hours that you won’t look at email on your phone.  Setting some personal boundaries (shared with those you work and live with) will help you shut down and keep you more focused and productive when you are working.

The list could be much longer, and we teach much more in virtual sessions for leaders and teammates in remote and hybrid workplaces about meetings and productivity. Reach out if you want to learn more or check it out.


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