Certain kinds of managers all over the world right now are freaking out… not because of COVID-19, but because they are absolutely certain that their people working from home, aren’t working at all.
HR Myth #4: If they’re not at work, they’re not working. Many managers were raised in the era of presenteeism, and evolution for these managers has been watching punch cards turn into ID cards and then evolve into fingerprint scanners on office doors that ensure the correct number of bums on seats for the correct number of hours each day.
They’ve missed the evolutions from measuring hours of work to measuring productivity, performance, and profitability. And they’ve missed the evolution from carrots and sticks to intrinsic motivation, meaningful management, and internal locus of control.
I sympathise with old-school presenteeists because they really haven’t learned more effective tools for performance assurance than the most basic of sticks … attendance.
So what are these managers to do in the times of forced working from home? Well, sometimes the best way to defeat a myth is to confront it with another myth:
HR MYTH #5: If they’re at work, they’re working.
In the management sciences we’ve known for years already that bums on seats are at best productive around 60-70% of the time. Humans being humans tend to get distracted every 40 seconds, they check their phones every 12 minutes, and it takes them 23 minutes to regain focus once it’s broken. These are all workplace research stats. So look, if you think your people are working just cuz they’re at work, that’s also a myth.
Take a deep breath and accept that there is nothing you can do with a fingerprint scanner that will ensure performance.
Here are the two truths that defeats both myths:
- Humans who are passively disengaged at work will do as little as possible to help their company, whether at work, or at home.
- Humans who are meaningfully engaged at work will do as much as they can to help their corporate community, both at work, and at home, and most of the time also on vacation.
And here’s the kicker, 70% of the difference between the first and second type of human comes down to their personal relationship with their manager.
So if you’re pretty sure that your remote workers aren’t working… it’s probably not because they’re bad workers, but because you’re a bad manager.
So here’s how you fix it:
- Stop being a presenteeist. It’s not working for you. The science is against you. Give up.
- Connect meaningfully, personally, empathetically with your staff. Daily if you can.
- Remind your staff of their personal reasons for working with their chosen corporate community.
- Remind your staff of the company’s vision and values, and that their community needs them at this time.
- Have them define their own goals for remote work, and follow up with them on their achievement of them.
- Offer to help them in any way you can to ensure that they have the tools and resources they need to get their work done from home.
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