As more staff work remotely, keeping motivated and productive become bigger challenges in the workplace. But how much influence does the boss really have on productivity?
Traditional Ways of Work Are Changing
Even before the pandemic, the traditional 9-5 structure for the workday was changing. That working structure was developed in response to the industrial revolution. Everyone knew their job and what could be done in the time available.
As a manager, you could see the employees being productive or not. You have tangible outputs to measure their productivity against.
But our way of work has moved on. As have our lives. We work in a very different way now and productivity isn’t measured solely by hours put in or products put out. It’s more complex.
Technology means the work doesn’t necessarily need to be done in the workplace or at set times and days. Work can flex around family life, commitments and when we’re naturally more productive.
Fear of Faffing
Yet, there is still a fear that when staff are not in the office then they will not get as much done. This belief that people only work when they are seen to be working is quite unfounded. And often doesn’t get the best out of your staff.
It also carries consequences such as over-monitoring, micro-managing and presenteeism. All of these can raise your staff’s stress levels and result in sick days, a drop in productivity or even an employment dispute. These are costly consequences that all businesses want to avoid.
Productivity and Lockdown
The pandemic and lockdown have fast-tracked remote working for many businesses. Many of them were unprepared last spring to make the huge shift to working from home. And those feelings of ‘the staff won’t work if they’re not in the office’, still existed even though they’ve shown to be unfounded.
In fact, while there have been horror-stories of managers demanding webcams be left on to monitor staff remotely, evidence shows that productivity levels increased during this time for most businesses.
Some of this will be a lack of boundary between home and work time. Removing the commute means people can start earlier and work later. But some will also be that your staff enjoy their jobs and are happy to work even when the boss isn’t watching.
So how much influence does the boss have on productivity?
Influence of the Boss on Productivity
When we go to work, we assume our work persona. Even when we work from home. It’s the reason why close friends or family members can seem like a different person when you see them in a new setting, like talking on the phone to colleagues. We adopt behaviours of the people we’re with, whether we realise this or not.
Studies have found that when the boss works long hours, it encourages their team to do the same. Likewise, when the boss models productivity over being seen to be busy, then the team will follow.
Benefits of Working Smarter Not Harder
If you want your team to get the work done, then the office culture needs to change from one where you show up to do your hours, to one where you show up to do your job.
In fact, a study of 3.1 million people has found that on average, we are all working an extra 48.5 minutes a day. But working longer hours does not always equal getting more done.
When we change the culture to one of meeting deliverables, then there will be a shift in productivity. In the meantime, you can encourage staff to use productivity tools to help them make the most of their time.
The Pomodoro method is known to help increase productivity. You set a timer and take a five-minute break every 25 minutes. These short breaks can replicate the breaks you’d usually take in the office to get a drink or stop someone in the corridor for a chat.
If you’re concerned that staff aren’t making the most of their work day, you can ask them to track their activities in the day and see where they might be losing concentration. Tools like Toggl are helpful to understand where all that time goes in the day.
If phone calls and online meetings are taking up lots of time, then look at ways you can reduce your meetings using quick agenda or other ways of communication. Messenger tools are helpful for a quick catch up and most will allow you to leave a voice note.
Lead by example
If you want your staff to be productive, remember that the manager sets the model for what work looks like. The boss still leads the way in influencing the productivity of the team.