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What can’t be seen can’t be controlled?  “Productivity Paranoia” – Human Resources

What can’t be seen can’t be controlled? “Productivity Paranoia” – Human Resources

Typing “bonjour” into conversation conversations is, for many telecommuting professionals, the new “blow of the clock.” Many managers, who even before the pandemic controlled all of their staff’s movements, remain suspicious of those working from home, claiming that productivity and commitment have been affected by this new model, prompting Spanish newspaper El País to step forward.

According to the English weekly The Economist, 2023 will be dominated by “productivity paranoia”, although company results indicate the opposite. Paranoia on the part of management who thinks employees are not working from home, and paranoia on the part of employees who think they are being watched (and they often are).

A survey conducted by Microsoft revealed that nine out of ten US companies have installed monitoring software. Of the 20,000 employees from 11 countries interviewed, at the end of 2022, 87% considered themselves equally competent when working from home or in the office. However, only 12% of managers considered their teams to be remotely productive.

During the pandemic, the old habits of walking between tables, looking at screens, or suddenly asking to come to “the office” have been replaced by back-to-back emails with dozens of people in copy, constant video calls, and Zoom or team meetings for no charge. Another reason than not having proven that the team is online.

Already with a hybrid model here to stay, many considered it possible to have the best of both worlds, however, for 85% of the managers interviewed, the hybrid work – three days in the office and two at home – made it difficult to trust collaborators.

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From these two opposing poles arises the concept of productivity paranoia. The notion that even if people work harder—Microsoft data shows that weekly meetings have increased 153% since 2020 and multitasking and constant changes are the norm—employees will only be considered productive when they are “in sight.”

Our brains aren’t wired to trust what we can’t see or what’s far away, explains Ayelet Fischbach, a professor of behavioral sciences at the University of Chicago. Another survey on remote work, led by Nicholas Bloom, a professor of economics at Stanford University, found that the key to the contention is displacement. While employees factored travel time into their productivity, managers did not.

To alleviate the productivity paranoia, some companies have decided to monitor people’s up-to-the-minute activity with software that controls mouse movements, keyboard keys pressed, screen activity, and even monitors coffee breaks and trips to the toilet.

Ayelet Fischbach warns of the consequences of these measures. “It’s a clear sign that the team can no longer be trusted and that these feelings are mutual.” Another consequence of paranoia, The Economist warns, is the theater of productivity, that is, the exaggeration of actions associated with total availability and efficiency, which was visible in face-to-face work in servility and, now, in remote areas. Mode, translates into mass mailing.

Therefore, there are those who attribute the forced return to the office as a consequence of productivity paranoia.

Professor Nicholas Bloom has examined the hybrid model with a magnifying glass and guarantees it is the best of both worlds. According to the calculations of the WFH research team (Work from Home Research, made up of researchers from Stanford University, the University of Chicago, and MIT, among others), a hybrid business can benefit companies between 10% and 20% compared to the in-person model. In a two-day-a-week hybrid model at home, where an employee saves an average of 70 minutes per day while commuting, this equates to an extra hour of work for the company over those two days. Furthermore, studies show that employees work more from home, because trips to the office are now more of a function of socialization.

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The truth is, after two and a half years of remote or hybrid work, the lack of trust is alarming, which is why it is imperative that leaders review and adapt their productivity metrics for a world where trust prevails over “physical presence.”