Productivity and the new normal

As we started to come out of the last recession I wrote the article below.

In the current situation it’s relevant again I think, but for different reasons: the way teams and people are managed has to change when they’re not all together. So whether it’s the current extreme (everyone at home) or the likely set up for most tech teams in the future (flexible and lots of people in different places) – relationships, common goals and outcomes need to be at the heart of the conversation


The key to productivity


I’ve read a lot of articles this week about productivity. It’s been low throughout the recession, and that is a cause for concern in the UK economy.

I also read this excellent article on the amount of time people spend on personal stuff at work. It’s interesting for a number of reasons; it touches on the productivity issue, it gives a good insight into the immense opportunity for distraction provided by the internet and the HR challenges that that brings and it speaks to the need for professionals to take responsibility for themselves.

But, combined with the news last week that employers are going to have to pay overtime to people who are on holiday (and therefore not working overtime) it got me thinking.

Employees trying to get paid for something they are frankly not doing – employers monitoring people to make sure they’re not slacking off – doesn’t this seem a bit…..combatitive?

Surely the relationship between employer and employee is at its most productive when the two share a common goal and work to achieve it. Sometimes that will be time specific – if you’re providing technical support on a helpdesk, you’d better be there and available to answer the phone – but more often it won’t. It will have a deadline, and it will have a standard that must be achieved, but if someone wants to buy their mum a birthday present online at 3pm, who cares?

It seems to me that if both sides of the employment relationship could agree to treat the others like adults then an awful lot of stress could be saved. If people are delivering good work, on time and without fuss, then leave them alone to do it. And if your company gives you work to do that is interesting and achievable, get it done and don’t make yourself a problem.

After all we are at work, not school – if all the time spent suing each other for holiday pay and tracking internet usage was channelled into productive work time, just imagine what we could achieve!

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