Every year there’s some new phrase in the press that does the rounds. One of the after-effects of teams working remotely, is the notion of ‘productivity paranoia’.
A new report from Microsoft, ‘Hybrid work is just work, are we doing it wrong?’, shows many managers still have issues trusting employees who work remotely, with this disconnect being coined as ‘productivity paranoia’. It’s the concept that even if employees are working effectively, managers won’t believe it if they are out of sight.
This is worrying because trust is one of the most important components of every work environment. Without it, staff may feel uncomfortable communicating their thoughts and ideas and struggle to support each other.
Negative work environments can exacerbate behaviours like overworking and presenteeism and it’s well reported these, in turn, can lead to heightened stress states, which impact physical and mental wellbeing.
For productivity paranoia to end, managers need to recognise their experiences as leaders, are not the same as their teams. Employees want their managers to be empathetic, supportive and show an interest in their work, without feeling like they are trying to interfere.
While checking in with staff was common at the start of lockdown, it seems to have become less of a business priority, with managers feeling depleted and emotionally drained from it. However, check-ins are vital in a remote working world, especially because many employees view their managers as the most important link they have with their company.
There is a difference between checking in and micromanaging though. Good managers are enablers, not enforcers. Regular meetings shouldn’t focus solely on results or exhaustive checklists. This is what undermines trust and makes employees feel patronised and disempowered.
Discussing goals, praising accomplishments, and analysing any gaps in work schedules are more effective measurements. Open conversations about these will ensure teams feel supported but also accountable for their work.
Effective remote work requires a suite of communication and collaboration tools to empower hybrid teams too. Selecting the right tools that work for everyone is essential to enable effective communication between colleagues and teams.
What can leaders do?
As a Startup Giants founder we know we’re expecting a lot from you. Not only do you have to go against the grain and convince people to invest in your new concept, you also have to manage production, time frames, you also have to learn about how to lead in a business to inspire your team to help bring your vision to life. And yes at the early stage of business it’s highly likely that your team will be working remotely.
To support your team in a remote or hybrid working setting, you must first understand the stresses posed and help to alleviate them. We spoke to Marc Holl, Head of Primary Care, Nuffield Health . Since 2020 his therapists have delivered 3.7 million minutes of therapy remotely with outcomes comparative to therapy delivered face to face, one of which being work based confidence issues. He said:
‘If employees feel they are not trusted, remote working can lead to issues like ‘working from home guilt’, when employees increase their working hours to compensate for the benefit of home working.
‘It is important for businesses to outline remote working expectations clearly to ease these worries. Let individuals know they aren’t expected to work longer hours just because they’re not commuting.
‘Employers should also signpost individuals towards the emotional wellbeing support available to them. This may include Employee Assistance Programmes (EAPs) or cognitive behaviour therapy sessions, which give individuals direct access to a specialist who can help them understand and break unhelpful thinking patterns and behaviours and enhance their ability to cope in new and uncertain situations.
‘Digital or virtual therapy solutions can be effective too. Remember, for many people, the notion of sharing a vulnerability or admitting a problem, is a barrier in itself. However, some research suggests counselling conducted online is as effective as face-to-face sessions.’
Just because they’re not in-front of you, you need to ensure that they’re being cared for mentally. Wehn you see a list of deliverables remember there’s a human at the end of it to carry them out. Lead with consistency and caring and you’ll inspire your workforce.