I don’t need to remind you that the last 18 months has transformed the way we work.

With so many people now working from home, how can you be sure that people are being productive?

The office environment is full of visual cues we use to help build our own productivity benchmark. We see when people arrive and when they leave. We’re reminded to stop for lunch when the desks around us clear or people walk back in with their takeaway. We give ourselves permission to break for the morning coffee run and we feel more comfortable extending the water-cooler conversation when others around us do likewise.

What do you do when you lose those cues?

In a recent training session I asked people to reflect on their experience working from home. One participant told me that she struggled to know if she was working too hard or not working hard enough.

She had lost all of these visual clues. Is 6pm working too late? Or is everybody else working then too? Is anybody else taking lunch? Am I the only one?

Visibility is an unhelpful measure for productivity.

A person at a desk does not necessarily equate to value for the business.

So how do you feel more in control when the people you lead are becoming less visible?

1. Lead with positive intent.

Are people really working hard when working from home?

Yes. It’s more than likely they are working harder.

Research from Airtasker found “on average, remote employees worked 1.4 more days every month, or 16.8 more days every year, than those who worked in an office”. Prodoscore’s study into employee productivity found that the “average worker starts work at 8:32 a.m. and ends work at 5:38 p.m”.

The morning & evening commute is replaced with work. The watercooler conversation has been replaced by another online meeting. Add to this the many roles parents are also expected to play including teacher, entertainer and chef.

Are some people working less when working from home? Probably. Likely many less than you think.

Be careful not to build your approach to the majority to match your experience with the minority. Trust that the clever people you have employed are capable of managing their personal productivity with responsibility.

Netflix have this culture of freedom and responsibility deeply embedded.

“Our goal is to inspire people more than manage them. We trust our teams to do what they think is best for Netflix — giving them lots of freedom, power, and information in support of their decisions. In turn, this generates a sense of responsibility and self-discipline that drives us to do great work that benefits the company.”

2. Redefine your measures.

How do measure what you cannot see?

Visibility seeks to measure output. And output is an unhelpful measure of productivity. Just because you are doing a lot of work doesn’t mean you are doing good work or even the right work.

If you want to feel in control without becoming controlling, focus less on output quantity and more on outcome quality.

Spend less time worrying ‘if enough work is getting done‘.
Spend more time asking ‘if the right work is getting done‘.

When you’re clear on outcomes you’ll feel more empowered to be across everything without the need to be in everything.

When it comes to the people – lead with trust.
When it comes to the work – focus on outcomes.

A question to reflect on:
“What are the daily, weekly or quarterly outcomes I expect from my team?”