In today’s rapidly evolving business world, hybrid work has become the modus operandi for many organizations. With this change comes new challenges, and the necessity of defining outcomes to measure productivity has never been more apparent. And here, we’ll dive into this crucial topic, drawing from my recent insightful interview with Jim Bartolomea, SVP, Global Head of People, at ClickUp.
Dispelling Productivity Paranoia in Hybrid Work
During our discussion, Bartolomea revealed the changing narrative of productivity in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. As companies moved into remote and hybrid work environments, the focus shifted from observing work being done in person to ensuring productivity in a less observable setting. This led to what Microsoft Research termed as “productivity paranoia” among managers, who worried about the effectiveness of their remote teams.
In a twist of irony, it’s like a Shakespearean play, where the managers play Othello, gripped by paranoia and doubt, while their diligent employees take on the role of innocent Desdemona, wrongfully accused of slacking off. However, unlike Othello, our managers have a solution at hand – measuring productivity by defined outcomes instead of face-time or inputs.
Shifting from Activity to Outcomes
Bartolomea stressed the crucial difference between activity and outcomes. He believes that too often, we place undue importance on activity without considering if these activities lead to the desired results – akin to confusing the razzle-dazzle of a magic show with actual sorcery.
In the context of ClickUp, a collaborative work management platform, productivity definitions vary across different teams. For instance, the People Team has established OKRs (Objectives and Key Results) for every quarter, reviewing them at the end of each period. It’s their litmus test for productivity. For the engineering team, concrete measures such as checked-in code and repaired bugs serve as productivity markers. It’s like defining the ingredients necessary for a successful cooking session, rather than merely counting the hours spent in the kitchen.
Boosting Productivity in Hybrid and Remote Teams
When it comes to improving productivity in hybrid and remote teams, it’s about more than just measuring it. It’s about setting goals, rewarding productivity, and creating a culture where job satisfaction aligns with being productive. This approach is like a friendly pat on the back for a job well done or a rousing cheer for a player who scores a goal in a football match.
Moreover, Bartolomea underlined the importance of creating a dialogue about productivity between managers and employees. This can lead to happier employees and a more efficient working environment. It’s akin to a choir hitting the right notes only when everyone is singing from the same songbook.
A discussion about productivity would be incomplete without acknowledging the difference between individual and team productivity. Bartolomea recommends that individual productivity measures should align with team goals, ensuring that individual contributions drive organizational outcomes. Think of it like baking a cake – each ingredient, no matter how small, contributes to the delicious end product.
Leveraging Tools for Collaboration in Remote Work
When it comes to remote teams, tools play a crucial role. Bartolomea mentioned the importance of having the right blend of synchronous and asynchronous tools for different tasks. Think of it like a well-conducted orchestra – the string instruments might take the lead at one point, followed by the woodwinds, but they all contribute to the same symphony.
Recording and sending voice notes or video messages can also convey context and tone, reducing misunderstandings. Picture it as a heartfelt handwritten note in an age of impersonal text messages.
Finally, Bartolomea emphasized the importance of using a project management platform to track tasks, responsibilities, and deadlines. This allows teams to have a bird’s eye view of who is working on what and when it is due. It’s like having a well-organized schedule for a multi-day music festival – without it, you’d have chaos instead of harmonious melody.
When managing hybrid teams, it’s important to move away from the traditional time and activity-based measures of productivity. Instead, managers need to focus on outcome-based productivity, setting clear expectations, and leveraging the right tools to facilitate collaboration and work. Indeed, this approach parallels the conversations I have with my clients who I help transition to a return to office and hybrid work.
Just as a skilled maestro guides the orchestra, so should leaders guide their teams in the age of hybrid work. The whole business landscape has changed, and so have the rules of the game. It’s time we adapted our strategies and definitions of productivity accordingly. After all, as our conversation with Jim Bartolomea revealed, a truly productive team is one that works towards shared outcomes and knows how to sing in harmony, even when physically apart.
Image credit: Yan Krukau/Pexels
Dr. Gleb Tsipursky was lauded as “Office Whisperer” and “Hybrid Expert” by The New York Times for helping leaders use hybrid work to improve retention and productivity while cutting costs. He serves as the CEO of the boutique future-of-work consultancy Disaster Avoidance Experts. Dr. Gleb wrote the first book on returning to the office and leading hybrid teams after the pandemic, his best-seller Returning to the Office and Leading Hybrid and Remote Teams: A Manual on Benchmarking to Best Practices for Competitive Advantage (Intentional Insights, 2021). He authored seven books in total, and is best know for his global bestseller, Never Go With Your Gut: How Pioneering Leaders Make the Best Decisions and Avoid Business Disasters (Career Press, 2019). His cutting-edge thought leadership was featured in over 650 articles and 550 interviews in Harvard Business Review, Forbes, Inc. Magazine, USA Today, CBS News, Fox News, Time, Business Insider, Fortune, and elsewhere. His writing was translated into Chinese, Korean, German, Russian, Polish, Spanish, French, and other languages. His expertise comes from over 20 years of consulting, coaching, and speaking and training for Fortune 500 companies from Aflac to Xerox. It also comes from over 15 years in academia as a behavioral scientist, with 8 years as a lecturer at UNC-Chapel Hill and 7 years as a professor at Ohio State. A proud Ukrainian American, Dr. Gleb lives in Columbus, Ohio. In his free time, he makes sure to spend abundant quality time with his wife to avoid his personal life turning into a disaster. Contact him at Gleb[at]DisasterAvoidanceExperts[dot]com, follow him on LinkedIn @dr-gleb-tsipursky, Twitter @gleb_tsipursky, Instagram @dr_gleb_tsipursky, Facebook @DrGlebTsipursky, Medium @dr_gleb_tsipursky, YouTube, and RSS, and get a free copy of the Assessment on Dangerous Judgment Errors in the Workplace by signing up for the free Wise Decision Maker Course at https://disasteravoidanceexperts.com/newsletter/.