Productivity theater: bosses believe workers are less productive at home, according to...

midian182

Posts: 8,328   +103
Staff member
In context: Does your boss think you spend all day 'working' from home in your dressing gown, taking regular breaks to stuff your face/get drunk/watch Pornhub? They aren't alone in believing that remote work makes employees less efficient. According to a new study from Microsoft, 85% of bosses are convinced that home comforts make staff less productive, and that's causing 'productivity theater.'

Many studies have been carried out on working from home and how it impacts productivity. Nearly all of them show that the increased happiness felt by employees translates into more efficient staff, but it seems managers don't agree.

A new study from Microsoft illustrates how the views of workers and their bosses differ significantly: 87% of staff say working from home increases productivity, but 85% of their supervisors disagree. Bosses believe the move to remote/hybrid work has made it challenging to have confidence that employees are being productive.

While working from home was once a privilege enjoyed by few, the pandemic saw most of the world wave goodbye to daily commutes. With the lockdowns gone, some companies are trying to bring their staff back to pre-2020 work arrangements. Several big firms, including Tesla and Apple, are facing massive pushback over their return-to-office mandates.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella told the BBC that higher-level staff need to overcome the fear that employees are unproductive at home. "We have to get past what we describe as 'productivity paranoia' because all of the data we have shows that 80% plus of the individual people feel they're very productive — except their management thinks that they're not productive. That means there is a real disconnect in terms of the expectations and what they feel," Nadella told the BBC.

Future Forum Pulse survey

Part of the problem is that managers say they no longer have the visual clues that show who is working hard, relying instead on software-based metrics. In some cases, fear of being fired has led to 'productivity theatre,' in which, for example, workers randomly move their mouse pointers to show they're online, or they join worthless Zoom meetings. Ironically, it's estimated that people waste almost an hour per day on this digital presenteeism, meaning employees are being less productive by trying to appear more productive.

As part of the study, Microsoft surveyed 20,000 staff from 11 countries and analyzed trillions of Microsoft 365 productivity signals, along with LinkedIn labor trends and Glint People Science findings.

It's not just bosses who think staff perform better in the office; a survey in May showed many people believe their colleagues are not being productive at home.

A lot of employees say they would rather quit their job than go back into the office and are willing to take pay cuts and lose benefits if it means staying at home.

One of the few studies to claim remote work threatened productivity and innovation came last year. Somewhat surprisingly, Microsoft was the company behind the findings.

Permalink to story.

 

bviktor

Posts: 1,065   +1,547
Part of the problem is that managers say they no longer have the visual clues that show who is working hard

Yeah, they're missing their MISCONCEPTIONS about their subordinates "working hard". Staring at a monitor with a troubled face isn't "working hard". Yet these clueless "managers" aren't just buying this performance, they flat out DEMAND it.

As someone said, these clowns miss the feeling of "being in control". Emphasis on "feeling". But that control has always been just an illusion. Oh how sorry I feel for them. That's what happens when you have absolutely no idea how to actually manage people and schedule tasks.
 

dangh

Posts: 789   +1,336
Many managers have difficulties with adoption to new standards. Most of them are usually older and because of that not very flexible, they have build a process where personal involvement were important part of evaluation and have issues in adjusting those processes, which leads them to believe productivity is worse.
Eventually this will lead to a better place - new procedures and kpi will come to place, more innovative ideas will surface as people will try to streamline and automatize repetitive tasks and focus on actual issues.
We took a first step and more will follow no matter what poor managers will think about that. And good managers will thrive.
 

Avet85

Posts: 12   +13
Another important factor is the office space. Microsoft has premium real-estate and it costs money to run and have. If they don't bring workers in so they can justify having all those shiny buildings they will need to get rid of them. And bosses really don't want to do that. So they will force workers back to those expensive offices even though productivity may actually be up it is not enough to compensate for office space costs.
 

Dimitriid

Posts: 2,249   +4,363
There's several things at play here imo so I'll start with the most obvious one which is that remote work has effectively made a healthy precentage of middle managers and perhaps even all managers, seem to be very redundant since they haven't been effective at what they do.

And we shouldn't hessitate to say it: what most of them fundamentally do, all of the ones complaining, is take credit for their subordinates' work for themselves.

The more indidious part however is that people often misjudge how much they can be manipulated into remaining on dead end career paths and jobs because of a carefully controlled enviroment most bosses create to basically take credit for their subordinates' results and yes, I do think there's no better way to put it than to call it psychological manipulation: docile employees that perform well get excessively rewarded and shown as an example and employees that start falling out of lines get singled out with the kind of intangible things we all know happen as we happily dismiss as 'office politics' which is getting stuck with the worst projects, the most unreasonable customers and inter-department co-workers to deal with and also amplifying, in an often transparently unjust way, minor faults like 'being late' or questioning work ethic, etc.

What most managers from a petty barely above grunt worker positions ones to outright bufoons cosplaying at being the CEO of Tesla miss, is that office employers are the kind of workers that required the aforementioned "office politics" to begin with because they actually have a lot more capacity to fend for themselves: Without having their will to fight slowly drained out of them by office politics they can now shop around and just find better places to work that rely on the actual results you produce more directly and not through misappropriation by incompetent boomer managers.

It might not seem so since office workers or what we usually understand as white collar workers are often not seen as fundamentally oppressed but as part of the bourgeois anyway but that doesn't means they're aren't also being exploited plus a lot of the leftist language around labor was born out of the horrific physical abuses of labor in the 19th century but the psychological violence of the modern office can also have severe and lasting effects nobody should be subjected to.

So I think office workers should continue to fight back against soft or hard attempts to get them back into the office just as they are doing so, but maybe they should organize a bit better to present more effective opposition than 'Well I can get more money by just hopping jobs' because while that's effective in the short term, in the long term however it will be accounted for specially during economical recessions and such so no matter how good it might be for you personally right now, organizing with your peers and establishing office workers/white collar unions to push back against management is always worth it a lot more in the end.
 

TheRealSCDC

Posts: 450   +768
Boy do these yahoo's have no clue. I agree that it's about control. Guess they can't bully people in front of others like they use to.

This is the new reality of the workplace. Adapt or retire. With inflation screaming out of control, it's a fantastic incentive to work from home and not have to keep buying work clothes, have long commutes, expenses.

We never got anything done in the office because people always wanted to have meetings, that along with destractions. I work from home and yes, I get up a lot, walk around, stretch, etc. But I can concentrate and get much more important work done in much less amount of time. So if I take a long lunch to go work out, I feel no guilt.
 

Theinsanegamer

Posts: 3,775   +6,609
There's several things at play here imo so I'll start with the most obvious one which is that remote work has effectively made a healthy precentage of middle managers and perhaps even all managers, seem to be very redundant since they haven't been effective at what they do.

And we shouldn't hessitate to say it: what most of them fundamentally do, all of the ones complaining, is take credit for their subordinates' work for themselves.

The more indidious part however is that people often misjudge how much they can be manipulated into remaining on dead end career paths and jobs because of a carefully controlled enviroment most bosses create to basically take credit for their subordinates' results and yes, I do think there's no better way to put it than to call it psychological manipulation: docile employees that perform well get excessively rewarded and shown as an example and employees that start falling out of lines get singled out with the kind of intangible things we all know happen as we happily dismiss as 'office politics' which is getting stuck with the worst projects, the most unreasonable customers and inter-department co-workers to deal with and also amplifying, in an often transparently unjust way, minor faults like 'being late' or questioning work ethic, etc.

What most managers from a petty barely above grunt worker positions ones to outright bufoons cosplaying at being the CEO of Tesla miss, is that office employers are the kind of workers that required the aforementioned "office politics" to begin with because they actually have a lot more capacity to fend for themselves: Without having their will to fight slowly drained out of them by office politics they can now shop around and just find better places to work that rely on the actual results you produce more directly and not through misappropriation by incompetent boomer managers.

It might not seem so since office workers or what we usually understand as white collar workers are often not seen as fundamentally oppressed but as part of the bourgeois anyway but that doesn't means they're aren't also being exploited plus a lot of the leftist language around labor was born out of the horrific physical abuses of labor in the 19th century but the psychological violence of the modern office can also have severe and lasting effects nobody should be subjected to.

So I think office workers should continue to fight back against soft or hard attempts to get them back into the office just as they are doing so, but maybe they should organize a bit better to present more effective opposition than 'Well I can get more money by just hopping jobs' because while that's effective in the short term, in the long term however it will be accounted for specially during economical recessions and such so no matter how good it might be for you personally right now, organizing with your peers and establishing office workers/white collar unions to push back against management is always worth it a lot more in the end.
LOL imagine thinking being required to leave your nest and come into work like a functional adult is "psychological violence " and oppression from the "bourgeois". There's a reason the working class laughs at people like you, and that is why.

This whole "work from home" movement is the NAFTA of office work, when all those who dont want to come in realize they are competing against literal billions of people who will do the work for peanuts, they'll shut up and come into the office like functional adults.
 

Uncle Al

Posts: 9,338   +8,536
Don't know where they got "their" data but the overwhelming evidence indicates that at home workers are FAR more productive and frequently give more than 8 hours a day to work. Sounds like the insecurity of Microsludge managers just can't stand not being surrounded by heads that bob up and down at their every word .....
 

bviktor

Posts: 1,065   +1,547
LOL imagine thinking being required to leave your nest and come into work like a functional adult is "psychological violence " and oppression from the "bourgeois".
Reading comprehension isn't one of your strengths. For the latter, he even explicitly said quite the opposite, that white collar workers are considered PART of the bourgeois...
 

whateversa

Posts: 91   +120
Personally I am WAY more productive at home than at work... There is just too much activity in the office, too many work conversations in the area... and its just a less comfortable environment. Some of the coding I am doing now, I would not be able to do at work - too much distractions there. Open plan offices are terrible. Now I don't deal with it being too cold or too warm, too noisy...everything is just what I need it to be because its in my control now.
 

mbrowne5061

Posts: 2,060   +1,280
This whole "work from home" movement is the NAFTA of office work, when all those who dont want to come in realize they are competing against literal billions of people who will do the work for peanuts, they'll shut up and come into the office like functional adults.

If they could have exported an office job, they would have - and did - already. Office jobs were already far more 'exportable' than manufacturing, and yet... they don't get exported, except for call centers & and some IT (with IT usually getting brought back within 5-10 years, anyways)
 

Endymio

Posts: 1,838   +1,909
... the psychological violence of the modern office can also have severe and lasting effects nobody should be subjected to."
"Oh, the horror! Sally in the adjoining cube makes fun of my shirts, and Roger keeps stealing my red stapler. I'll need counseling for years to recover from this!"

I do think there's no better way to put it than to call it psychological manipulation: docile employees that perform well get excessively rewarded and shown as an example and employees that start falling out of lines get singled out
By Jove, I think you're on to something here. You should found a company in which well-performing employees are punished, while those who do poorly are rewarded. I'm sure such a firm would dominate the industry.
 

waclark

Posts: 707   +451
Another important factor is the office space. Microsoft has premium real-estate and it costs money to run and have. If they don't bring workers in so they can justify having all those shiny buildings they will need to get rid of them. And bosses really don't want to do that. So they will force workers back to those expensive offices even though productivity may actually be up it is not enough to compensate for office space costs.
This is actually a good point. I worked for HP back in the 80s, they divested themselves of much of their remote real estate (ie sales offices). They leased space and when there was a downturn and employees were laid off, they could reduce their real estate footprint and reduce costs.

Microsoft and other companies of that type built these campuses to make employees feel good about working there. Nice cafeterias, gyms on-site, laundry services and more. I've worked at one of those companies and it was nice.

For several years, even before Covid, I have worked from home. It's nice not having to deal with traffic every day and I have since moved to an area where getting back into the city where most companies are located is painful as I would need to ride a ferry to do that.
 

waclark

Posts: 707   +451
...80% plus of the individual people feel they're very productive...

The key word here is "feel". If managers think that employees are not productive then I would ask, what is that based on? It doesn't matter if you feel like you're doing good work, what matters is that you are doing good work and it can be objectively measured.

That is up to the manager to measure that and communicate the info back to the employee. From this article it seems like MS managers are not doing a good job of providing feedback. If you think your people are not doing a good job and you never tell them that, then what do you expect them to say when asked if they do a good job. I must be, because my boss never has any complaints about my work.

That said, I do think there is some benefit to working in an office, though that would depend on what type of work you do. I know in my early days we worked in offices and I learned a lot from the more senior people. Things I may never have learned at home, alone. Video conferencing can help, but there's nothing like leaning over and asking the guy in the cube next to you for help with a problem.
 

Puiu

Posts: 5,881   +4,891
TechSpot Elite
Don't know where they got "their" data but the overwhelming evidence indicates that at home workers are FAR more productive and frequently give more than 8 hours a day to work. Sounds like the insecurity of Microsludge managers just can't stand not being surrounded by heads that bob up and down at their every word .....
Personal experience... working from home dropped productivity by as much as 30-40%. Everybody was not only slower but zoom meetings took half of our day.
 

Soulburn74

Posts: 125   +67
I'm so glad I have a 'project based' job. Its easy to track my productivity: My projects are being handed in on time, or they aren't. There is no "feel" about it. I know my work hasn't suffered because of working from home. Its cut and dry and easily verifiable.
 

Avro Arrow

Posts: 3,096   +3,990
TechSpot Elite
These bosses can go suck it because their employees' productivity has already skyrocketed far more than their pay. In order for an employee in Canada to be earning the same number of absolute dollars for their work that people did in 1981, they'd have to be paid a median wage of $62/hr.

Meanwhile, they're far more productive than employees were in 1981 but their wages haven't really moved. They're being paid about the same number of 2022 dollars as 1981 employees were paid in 1981 dollars. That anyone would complain about the situation when they're getting the (extremely) long end of the stick is offensive to me.
 

Endymio

Posts: 1,838   +1,909
These bosses can go suck it because their employees' productivity has already skyrocketed far more than their pay.
Oops!

"US labor productivity tumbled by 7.5% in the first quarter of 2022 – the largest decline in worker output per hour since 1947, according to Labor Department data released Thursday.

Unit labor costs, or how much workers are paid per unit of output, surged by 11.6% during the quarter. That reflects a 3.2% increase in hourly compensation and a 7.5% decrease in productivity...."
 

gamerk2

Posts: 758   +732
Managers just upset they can't be control freaks with people not being in-house; no different then local managers who want "their guys" to do a project even when another site has personnel low on work that can support. Nothing to see here.