According to a study, bosses and their subordinates are at odds over what constitutes productivity, how to maintain autonomy while ensuring accountability, the benefits of flexibility and the role of the office.
Microsoft’s ‘work trend index’ for India said 91% of leaders believe the shift to hybrid work has made it challenging to have confidence that employees are being productive. On the other hand, 93% of employees in India report they are productive at work.
At a roundtable, Microsoft India country head (modern work) Bhaskar Basu said while employees have embraced flexible work and its benefits, many leaders still yearn for the office life of 2019. This has clearly led to a gap in expectations. “Leaders continue to be very worried that employees are not being productive, whereas workers are clearly clocking more hours and working harder, really driving a tremendous amount of energy in their work. This is leading to a divide between how employers and employees are looking at productivity and that’s why we’re referring to it as a productivity paranoia. The need clearly is a new approach to productivity and to create clarity, both for the employer and the employee,” he said.
Freshworks CHRO Suman Gopalan said productivity isn’t just about the number of hours one spends on work or being physically present at the office. “Productivity is truly defined as outcomes or impact — it doesn’t matter when work happens or where it happens. It really is about what you deliver and the impact you create. We believe in an agile way of working and we do not track when people come or where people work. We look at measures of what they are able to deliver and how people work together. We have aligned it on a common purpose and then let people do their work versus insisting on a singular way of working,” said Gopalan.
Shiprocket senior VP & head (HR) Saumya Khati said the company has a well-articulated vision: “We see a lot of discretionary efforts even in the remote workforce. We have not seen any kind of dip in efforts. We also have smart OKRs (objectives & key results) for our leadership. While productivity is an output, what we need to control is the input metric. Once you are taking the right input metric and you have the right review mechanisms, you can cross-connect very easily wherever you see a slack,” said Khasi.
The study said 80% of employees in India feel they need a better reason to go into the office besides company expectations. However, that does not take away certain merits of social connects at the workplace. The study said 91% of Indian employees are willing to work from the office if they can socialise with co-workers.
“When we opened up, we saw employees coming in because of the joy of the workplace. There are some aspects technology cannot replace and one is the context you can derive by being in an office environment. There is so much motivation when they see what other work is happening in the company,” said Gopalan.
Basu said the changes that have swept the work world over the last few years are not temporary. “The whole concept about flexibility is almost a mandate. It’s a feature and not just a fad. The employee engagement approaches of the past do not work for a digitally connected and interestingly more distributed workforce that we see today,” said Basu.
Gopalan said for leadership in a hybrid world, employee listening would be the key.
The report, based on an external study of 20,000 people in 11 countries (2,000 in India), points to three urgent pivots every leader should make. It said the hyper focus on productivity is impacting health and wellbeing, with 47% of employees and 58% of leaders in India report that they’re already burnt out at work. It’s imperative that leaders need to create clarity and alignment around company goals, eliminate busywork that doesn’t support those goals and listen to their people. However, the data shows that only 44% of companies rarely, if ever, collect employee feedback.