How to Avoid Bringing a Hyper-Productivity Mindset Back to the Office
The volume level of the chatter about “the return to the office” has been rising steadily. It’s difficult to hear through the noise, but if you pay careful attention, there’s a key question going (mostly) unasked. I’ll get back to that question later. First, let’s talk about what we do hear loud and clear from business leaders.
What Everyone Is Asking
- “Do we require everyone to return?”
- “Do we allow people to stay remote?”
- “Should we create a flexible work environment?”
- “Do we still need the same amount of workspace, or should it be reconfigured?”
These questions and many others are good ones. Yet they’re not getting to the heart of a potentially dangerous situation that may have developed among your team members (a.k.a., your most valuable assets).
Remote Work and Its Effects on Productivity
During the last year, those who could work remotely did so. This blurred an already muddled line between home and work to an extent never before seen. Remote work also eliminated the majority of travel time. Suddenly, there was no inbound or outbound commute. There was no water cooler talk, heading across town to a meeting, or even walking from one floor to another. Lunch breaks were streamlined and, generally, extraneous time was curtailed.
All of the above enabled folks to pack even more into their already tight schedules. Many people found themselves working longer hours. Even if they didn’t, their productivity increased as their schedule was able to accommodate “more.”
This phenomenon was especially acute within the legal profession, but I’ve seen it firsthand in every single profession that deals in knowledge and professional services. To be completely candid, I found myself guilty of doing it as well.
For several decades, organizations have relentlessly marched toward optimization. We constantly strive to streamline workflows, automate processes, and implement systems that increase productivity.
On the human side, we have consistently sent the message that individual productivity improvements can be achieved through focus, specialization, clever “hacks,” and better time management. For many, last year’s experiment with remote work was the ultimate time management productivity hack.
The Pandemic and Peak Performance Expectations
The high-performing team members in your workforce place themselves under intense pressure to perform. And, as they return to the office (in some manner), many of them will feel intense pressure to maintain the same level of productivity they achieved during the past year. This is because they have changed their mindset and have adopted different habits. Left unchecked and brought into the office, these new habits will result in burnout, unfulfilled expectations, and disastrous personal consequences.
This leads us to the one question you need to be asking:
How can we transition from our current hyper-productivity mindset to one that’s firmly rooted in our current reality?
Get Real – Leaders Must Rein In Expectations to Avoid Team Burnout
It may seem counterintuitive, but, in many instances, your job as a leader will now be to reset your team’s expectations around personal productivity. Remote meetings via Zoom, Teams, or your platform of choice are wonderful tools that will forever remain part of your bag of tricks. As we gradually shift away from online collaboration and restore an element of in-person meetings, many folks will tend to simply work more. This is NOT the solution.
One leader I work with intends to tell their team that the organization is purposefully dialing back their “on hours” because of the potential that staff members will be tempted to expand their workday. Another leader I know has bluntly told their people that last year’s profit due to enhanced productivity was an anomaly that won’t be repeated—and shouldn’t be if the only way to achieve it is a hyper-work M.O.
Regardless of your organization’s business, it’s almost certain you have team members that became more productive last year due to remote work. Remain sensitive to this and continue to think about how to transition from the current hyper-productivity mindset to one that’s rooted in return-to-the-office reality. The best approaches will depend on the individuals, team dynamics, and your organization overall. Continuing to address the issue, however, will ensure that your best people don’t burn out and your organization’s best days remain ahead.
Got a question about your “return to the office”? Drop me a line. I’m always up for a good discussion via telephone, video chat, or (gasp) an in-person meetup.