Paranoid about Productivity Paranoia
What on earth is Productivity Paranoia?Who is paranoid? Why?And who should be worried?Here's yet another alliterative workplace term crying out to be dissected and deciphered.Listen in to Tydy Tea Time to find out why- only 12% of leaders believe their employees are being productive- a whopping 87% employees believe they've never worked harder
Hello and welcome back. We are Back with Tydy Tea Time with our very own, mostly smart and, I think sometimes, uh, clueless team. Which is why we decided to do this. Team Tydy comes together every week, picks a topic about work or a workplace trend and we try to get to the bottom of it. And as always, joining me today are Kiran, Soumya and Pooja. I think this one is going to be fun mostly because I already know how some of you feel about this topic. But without revealing anything, let's dive right in to talking about why we are paranoid about productivity paranoia. I'm gonna throw to Soumya first. Soumya, let's get into what productivity paranoia really is.
Yes, absolutely. Since we are going to talk about it, it definitely is one of those new trending words on the web. But to give you a little idea, it refers to how employers and leaders currently feel about their people, whether they're working effectively or not in the context of the workplace. And what's really fuelling this conversation is a recent survey by Microsoft, which points out that while 87% of workers feel they're productive at work, only 12% of leaders seem to agree with this.
And that's a huge gap.
That is a scary gap actually.
Yeah. And I think that's the birthplace of the productivity paranoia that leaders are having in terms of 'Are my employees working as effectively as they should be. And I think one of the things that badly dates the existence of this paranoia for me is the fact that there have been a bunch of organizations that also went ahead and put in place few monitoring systems that tracks people's key strokes, that tracks mouse clicks to see if they're actually on their laptops or not. I don't know how much it actually measures productivity, but yes, this is what's happening and that.
Yeah, I think this should be fun because here you have the marketing team, you have our CEO who's also part of this conversation, so it'd be interesting to see, and I think we'll end this with each of us rating ourselves on how productive we think we are. And Kiran, you'll have to also weigh in when it's time.
We have to rate ourselves?
We're gonna have a live performance review.
Yeah. . Kiran: Oh man, I, I did Let's do this. But before we get into that, let's define what productivity means to each of us.
Micromanagement. No, I'm just kidding. I would think, I think output would be one word to use - how much time you put in versus how much work you put out. That would be one sentence.
Okay, Great. Soumya? What is productivity to you? Not the official definition.
Yeah. I think when I think about my own productivity, I'm thinking about the satisfaction that I get from the quality of work that I did, plus also ticking off some of those things on my to-do list in the background as that's going to give me a lot of anxiety. So I think it's a balance of both. And I also think I want to feel like I have more time after both of these. If I'm working like till 12, one in the night and I'm doing quality work plus quantity and I don't have time for myself, I would still not be productive. Yeah.
I think I echo Pooja. It's basically result. So what result are you able to produce? Because that's eventually what anyone cares about. Whether you spend two hours to get that result or you spend 17 hours at the end it's just about the result.
Yeah. If I was to chime in here, productivity the word itself is like an assembly line thing. That's the image that is evoked, when you say productivity about output input versus output. But I think I would, in my mind, productivity should be defined as, yes, output, but quality output. It's not about quantity, it's not about how much, but how good is it and how much does it contribute to the larger business goal? I think that is true productivity in my mind. Yeah. So who's if you were to quickly say whose definition was the best.
Mine, mine. It was short and sweet.
But Debbie, to what you said. When we talk about like the production line, an image that comes into my mind then is looking at machines over humans.
Yeah, exactly. That's what it is, right? Because I think the whole concept of productivity would start from, say, an industrial revolution where you had to have a certain amount of output. But in a modern workplace right now, it's about efficiency more than anything else. You equate it with efficiency. Yeah. Now as our boss on this call, on this chat can you comment on this, the survey findings, right? Because where you have 12% of CEOs saying that people are just not productive enough. But employees on the other hand are saying that they've never worked harder. They've never they're getting burnt out in fact, they're doing too much. The study also talks about how they're spending even more time than ever before on meetings and calls. But why is there a gap then? Is it a lack of trust or is it a lack of visibility?
I think and I think like the report mentions it, it all started with this whole hybrid work and evaluating hybrid work, right? And so you're sitting at home and you have hours and hours of calls, and I think we all kind of faced this during the first couple of months or first couple of quarters of the pandemic setting in. You did not know when work finished and when life or your personal life kind of started.
So that nine to five got blurred. Unfortunately it somehow, and I don't know why, started becoming more about the number of hours you put rather than the efficiency of a result, right? So if, for example, if I have a certain goal or a certain target and I'm able to get or hit that target as an executive, as an entrepreneur, as a team lead, I don't really care about how many hours you're spending. Yeah. And I think that is unfortunately what is or where that disconnect is.
Where people are assuming that they need to spend 10 hours every day to show that they're doing a ton of work. But if that result is not happening because of maybe multiple other reasons, maybe the market is down and so the expectations are different and whatever it may be, but eventually the effort is not translating into the result. Or if it does, it probably takes too long. And so that's why I would assume a leader looks at it and says productivity is not really increasing that much.
The survey talks about it as well that because people are not in the office and you can't see them actually at work you can't see them being busy. Then automatically the assumption is, Oh, they're just sitting at home and chilling. I think that is also...
But again I completely contest that. I don't care if you're chilling for 23 hours and in one hour you are able to do what you're supposed to do. Cause again, productivity has been abused so much off late in the last five, seven years. You have a gazillion productivity apps that have come out and everything from Airtable to xyz, all of them talk about how they're improving productivity. The problem is, it's not about reducing the amount of time or reducing the amount of effort. It is fundamentally, if something can happen faster then that should basically aid productivity. And at the end of the day, if you are giving me the results, I don't care how many hours you're spending, in fact the corollary is opposite. If you're not giving me the results and you're spending tons and tons of hours, then that is a big... then there's something wrong. ...problem as well.
Yeah. True. But I think also the other thing is people are themselves redefining this what being productive means to them. To your point about, it's not about the number of hours, it's not about you sitting at your laptop the whole day and then not producing anything at the end of the day.
No, I was just thinking that's where that blind trust comes in, where you just believe that you have employees that are capable and are have the abilities to be productive and you just trust them to do it, and if there is no result, then that is a different conversation.
As team members over here, Pooja and Soumya, do you think that there's this huge focus and push on productivity today and that's causing a lot of maybe even mental health and wellness? Is it affecting that? Is it like you know, something that's very real that you are seeing maybe even with your peers, with your friends, whoever it may be.
I think the idea that get more done in less time, that's something that's happening around us, right? I think as not just as organizations, not just in the business world but in overall, when you look at it, we are all heading towards let's get more done in as less time as possible. And I think that is anxiety inducing. Despite doing that, despite having all these apps to improve productivity, we still are the busiest we've ever been. And and I don't think that's healthy for us.
So you are saying that the expectation has increased and that's probably where this productivity paranoia is.
That could be one thing. And Kiran, adding to the points that you were mentioning earlier. Say for a sales team, like you say, you have got clear targets and you know what you're working towards, what happens to teams and people who, whose work may not be quantified that way. How are we looking at productivity for those folks? For example, for myself if I'm writing articles, what does that look like for me? When am I being productive? When am I not being productive? And how does my personal productivity align with what the organization's expectation is from me in terms of my productivity?
Yeah, No that's a fair point. And Pooja for you also as a designer, I'm assuming? Yeah. That kind of becomes a point of contention.
It does. It does. Definitely. And also to your point, Kiran, about the wellbeing. It I think it's safe to say that the better your wellbeing in a workplace equals better productivity. And that would mean making sure your employees are feeling more supported and heard, and by way of improving and building healthier work environments. And say if an employee doesn't feel that way and feels demotivated in their workplace, then in turn that could also affect your company's retention where in today there's so much of opportunity that exists that people can easily just take their talent somewhere else. So yeah, that's the whole paradox, that one side of the paradox is that employees are feeling burnt out. And that's where it's the responsibility of the company or the higher ups to be more trusting and accepting of this new hybrid work culture whilst setting up clearer communication pathways and managerial systems of sorts.
I completely agree with you Pooja about how if you are, if you feel well taken care of and supported within the workplace. Yeah. And I think then you will feel like being more productive. Yeah. Because ultimately it is all linked to how you are, how you're feeling, right? Yeah. And I think, and which is connected to the point that I made earlier with Kiran, which is, is there a lack of trust within the workplace that CEOs or bosses are becoming more and more paranoid that their people are just not pulling their weight? Or is it because they are working so hard and they feel like everyone should be working harder? Is it a product of this hybrid world that we are living in like even Sundar Pichai came out and said that right. He said that he wants his employees to work more efficiently. I wanna draw attention to the fact that he said more efficiently, because at the end of the day, there is a difference between working hard versus working smart. I guess it's about proving again, that you are being efficient not just putting in the hours.
I think it's again going back to just the results, right? I think Soumya had a good point, which is that the expectations on people have increased exponentially. Yeah. If you ask me what did I want from the team maybe one year ago versus what I need today it's exponentially more. The kind of rat race, the the kind of expectations that companies, customers, investors, even team members have on the company as a whole is increasing by the minute. And I think that also results in a kind of push into the organization as well. So yeah, so I think that's also a very big reason why expectations have increased and if expectations have increased, then you know, are people trying to find ways to be more productive in less time, but that is what is causing the stress.
Yeah. Yeah. And expectations have increased, but I think communication has decreased. Yeah. As a matter fact. You are communicating less, you have less opportunities. You have to make an extra effort to actually reach out to each other and discuss, Okay, am I what I'm doing? Is that enough? Is that enough? Is it working towards larger business goals? Like we were saying earlier, is it enough towards my team goals? Am I pulling my weight? That kind of back and forth is not visible anymore, so it's become that much harder to kind of see it, so adding to the stress.
I'm also wondering If I have a team sitting right in front of me, I can visibly see who is putting in effort and maybe who is not. And that kind of gives me an idea, right? If someone is putting in effort but not able to drive the kind of result, maybe he or she is not actually slacking off or chilling. Maybe they need training. Maybe they need better tools. Maybe they need a little more autonomy to make decisions, whatever that may be. I'm able to assess those needs much better in that situation than when people are working hybrid and then I naturally think that, Oh, maybe they're not doing enough. Maybe they're slacking off.
True. That's a very good point. I That's a huge struggle, right? As there are so many benefits to remote work, I think this is one of the, one of the cons of all of us working far away from each other, where that assessment is hard to make based on visual cues. You have to expect that the other person is either gonna reach out or you reach out and expect that the person will be honest with you.
There's a self ownership that needs to come in and a. Kind of on, on one self to tell your manager if you are struggling. Which, which kind of changes the conversation a little bit then, right?
Yeah, that's true. And I think the other thing is lots of companies are trying to address this, right? Like you said, Kiran, there are so many tools out there. You're talking about There's Notion and there's Todoist and Airtable. Then there's obviously Slack is trying to add a lot of features. So you're constantly in touch. And then again, there's a lot of conversation about automating things in the workplace so that people can get more efficient. But what's also happening, and especially, and maybe not so much for smaller companies, but in larger companies and larger organizations and enterprises, there are so many of these tools that are being added to help people be more productive and do more, and show more results. It's like Josh Bersin says, "You know workplaces today have a kitchen drawer problem. Which is you have a whole drawer full of things and you don't know what each one does, or each one serves only one purpose and then at the end of the day, it's a mess. And the answer to that seems to be according to him, is to brutally simplify work. So has work then now... is it too complex? Do we need to simplify? Then how do you do that?
Again, I think these are nice things to espouse and talk about, but on a day to day basis it's extremely challenging. For example, I think Soumya was talking about sales. Sales is very simple. It's black and white, right? You either hit the targets or you don't. Now, the reason why you don't, maybe aplenty. For a leader, the question is whether you've hit the target or not, and that's about it. If you then have certain constraints or things that are not maybe not sufficient for you to hit those targets, then the leader's never gonna know until you kind of, speak up. Only because it's such a quantifiable space.
Let me play devil's advocate here a little bit. Okay. Because of course, Yeah. The onus is on you that, okay, say I'm struggling to meet my numbers. But as a leader, then it falls to the leader to also say, Okay, my employee is struggling to meet her numbers. How can I help this person? Is it a problem of this person not having the training? You know, as Soumya was saying? So then, you know that gap is always going to be there, right? So then the owners then goes back to, again, transparency and communication from leadership itself. Because at the end of the day, according to the survey, it's the leaders who are the ones who think that people are not working right.
No, I think there's a fundamental difference. I don't think it says people, leaders think people are not working, people are not being productive, which is very different.
And I think that is the biggest problem, right? No one is questioning whether you are working or not, you're working. But if you're not able to deliver the results, that is a problem and that's productivity, at least in my head as a leader, that is very simple, black and white for me. If you are not delivering results, then you're not being productive. As I said, if you're doing it in one hour or 10 hours or 20 hours, that's up to you. But the point is, are you able to deliver the result? Whatever field you're in, whether you're an engineer, a sales guy, and marketing, and the leadership position as a CEO as well. If you're not able to deliver, then you're not being productive a hundred percent. So I think it's very different from whether you're working or. And I think that's the maturity that a lot of that is required from a lot of companies, right? Stop tracking how much time you're spending on a certain screen or tracking your mouse movements and clicks and things like that. Or how many meetings you've done in a day and start looking at absolute and pure output. I think that's the thing. Yeah. So I think we are coming to an end right now. Should we run that exercise? Are you guys game?
Yes. Let's do it. Let's do it.
Okay. So we're gonna do this survey between the four of us and I think between, on a scale of one to 10, each of us will talk about how productive we feel as individuals and Kiran, you too. And then Kiran, you as our manager, will vote on how productive our your team is.
I don't believe we're doing this.
Are we just are we just giving out a number or are we giving out a reason also.
Only number. No need to justify or say anything else.
This is really hard, but yeah, let's do it. Yeah.
Self evaluation in public.
That is private so it's still okay?
You can always change the number later, it's fine. You can say, this was my public figure.
This is true.
True figure is something else. Pooja you go first.
Because I said yes first. I would say between so it varies actually. Like on some days I'm more productive than others, but on average I would say an eight.
Yeah. Yeah. I think that's low, but, okay. Oops.
Eight is on the higher side. 10 is highest. One is lowest.
Yeah okay. Okay. Seven or eight.
Yes. I think I'm, I think it's a lot about feeling productive for me. And this week, not being one of those days...
I thought there were supposed to be no caveat and no excuses.
Ok. I'll go with, Okay. I go with a 6.
For this week though. Exactly. It differs.
What, what, There's no caveat.
It differs. It differs.
Yeah. Yeah. Cool. Okay. I'll go next. And this is not this week, this day, but on, on an average in total, I will give myself a six.
Oh my God. Yeah. How did I give myself... Can I change my number?
Wow! We're all being like brutal to ourselves, eh?
So now you be kind to us . Kiran: So I'll first give my own rating. Yeah. So I would say my own rating on an average is about seven and a half to eight. Okay. I would say from a team perspective, now do I have to qualify it like Soumya did and like Pooja did - last week, and then last quarter and then last year. We leave that open.
Presently it's set about seven and a half and eight.
Yay. Okay. That's, Oh, thank God , no hard feelings.
I honestly believe 9 and 10 is really hard to pull off in my 20 years of work experience. Anyone saying that they're 90% or a hundred percent productive from a results perspective is very tough to pull off.
Yeah, that's true.
There, there will be certain things that you will get right, and you might put your targets on, but there will be certain other things that'll drop because of that. So being a holistic nine or 10 is very tough. At least I have not seen it in my kind of experience.
Fair enough. Good point.
Yeah true. So any closing thoughts?
I think those were my closing thoughts.
Yeah. From the others.
I could totally take this conversation on a different tangent by saying that women tend to rate themselves lower on these kind of exercises.
Oh man we've got our next topic.
But no. We're not going down that path.
Agree completely. We're always harder on ourselves. We'll address that on a separate uh, Tea Time.
Ladies and gentlemen. That is the next Tea Time conversation.
With three of us against you, . But yeah, I think what I take away, I have grown up in an environment where working hard has always been put above working smart. It felt like 'smart' is taking shortcuts and shortcuts to success has always been a no-no. And I've carried that, my mindset on, into my professional life for the longest time. But what I know today is the entire efficiency part, right? There's always a way that you can be more productive by finding ways to do something in a more, faster or simpler way. And and that came with experience. That came with exposure. And I think that also came with a lot of curiosity to want to learn. Yeah, I think that's saying what productivity feels like for me.
I totally agree with that, actually. Exactly what Soumya said. I will repeat coz I, I resonate with what she said a lot. Working hard and constantly was the way to go for the longest time, and I didn't know any other way. I was just, I had to sit at my system whether I was doing work or not. But then through experience is when I learned, and maybe just age, I don't know, , I started to realize that I don't need to spend eight hours. I can just spend three hours or four hours provided I'm, I feel content and my, the output is also the company is also feeling good about it
And that's ultimately the goal, right? That, whatever you do, you have to keep your eye on that goal, right? What can we do, or what can I do as an individual? Yeah. And then as team, what can we do to get there? Get that, get to that goal in the best possible way. Yeah. Not necessarily the fastest, but the smartest possible way. That will increase our chances of making that shot.
That will only happen if we stop worrying about the hours or the number of key strokes, and instead we start rewarding impact over activity. That kind of is the only way to solve this productivity paranoia.
Yep. And to make work a better place. Hashtag .
Nice. Great. Thank you so much. That was fun. And short and sweet until next time! Keep watching this space. Thank you. Bye. Thank you. Bye bye.
See our latest blogs
Better, faster, stronger.