As organizations re-adjusts to having people vaccinated and back in the office, I have been thinking about office culture and how it will also shift and re-adjust. For example, prior to the pandemic, there was a reluctance to allow remote working. I heard more than one manager ask, ‘How will I know that my folks are doing their work when I can’t see them?’ Whether or not this is a legitimate concern or how to build trust in your employees is a topic for a future newsletter. However, the question, and the attitude behind it, should be examined – and now is the time. For many people, working remotely has benefitted their productivity and results. If you are someone who needs quiet think time to come up with your best work, the break from being in cubicles may have been very positive. My concern is that organizations will return to the office believing that working remotely was a blip and that ‘butt time’ or busy time spent in the office equaled results.
We have all had times where we have been incredibly busy – and then at the end of the day, sat back, and asked – ‘what did I really accomplish?’ I get caught in this when organizing my office. There are times when I am clearing space and getting rid of clutter so that I can be more productive. However, there are also times when I am just moving things around. My husband calls this ‘Lorrie re-arranging deck chairs on a cruise ship’. It is me, keeping busy, but not producing a result. Typically, this is because I am procrastinating. It is amazing how I can think of things to keep myself busy when I am avoiding doing something that needs to be done. But my colleague Kate always says to me, ‘Don’t mistake activity for production.’ She is dead-on. Being busy isn’t bad – but mistaking it for production is a problem.
Think about your pre-pandemic time in the office. When did something like this happen to you? How often were you busy but not delivering a result? And think about the converse – did you ever have times when you delivered the results by 1pm? But then you stayed in your office for the rest of the day – because that was what was expected? Do we want to return to the outdated view that busy office time equals productivity?
Now is the time to think about what type of culture we want. Now is the time to decide what we will focus on. Now is the time to decide how we will reward people post-pandemic. What are the results we want to get? How is work going to be done? What behavior norms are going to be set? As we shift into the next business culture – let’s ensure that we aren’t viewing rearranging the deck chairs as productivity. Now is the time to get clear on what results and be flexible about how those results can be delivered. Thinking broadly and focusing on the results will keep open the options that were discovered during the pandemic, and open new options for delivering the work. The options also support inclusion by making it possible and sustainable for a larger group of people to deliver their best work. Paul J. Meyer said, ‘Productivity is never an accident. It is always the result of a commitment to excellence, intelligent planning, and focused effort.’ Isn’t it time to properly focus, recognize, and reward productivity and leave busy activity in the past?