Christian Logue, MD of Sagal Group, believes we need new metrics for measuring how well we’re doing at work.
“The thing is, I’m much more productive working from home.”
I’ll bet you’ve heard people say that time and again.
It’s one of those ‘truths’ that we all understand to be the case as part of our ‘new normal’. To be honest, it’s something I’d be likely to say myself. When it comes to focused work (the type where you get your head down and just get it done), I’m far more productive at home than in the office with its smorgasbord of potential distractions.
Give it a quick Google (other search engines are available) and you’ll see that there are stats to back up this widely held belief. For example, a Prodoscore study of 30,000 users saw a 5% increase in productivity during the pandemic work-from-home period.
In short, if we view productivity as getting as many tasks done as possible within as little time as possible, the working-from-home revolution triggered by the pandemic didn’t have a negative effect.
Quite the opposite, in fact.
It would be easy to take these productivity figures and put together quite a useful case for winding up offices as expensive and unnecessary relics of an earlier age.
Now, knowing who I am, and what I do. It won’t surprise you that I’m no advocate for mothballing offices. Far from it. I believe in progress as a constant evolution, occasionally shunted forward by seismic events like the Covid pandemic. What I don’t believe in is the wisdom of emptying out babies with their bathwater. My concern is that while we were congratulating ourselves that working from home didn’t affect our short-term productivity, we failed to notice longer-term issues that are now lurking in our future.
You see, I believe that there are many, many, vital aspects of life within a conventional office that have always been difficult to measure. Mentoring, role-modelling, onboarding and orientation all occurred by osmosis within well-functioning pre-pandemic offices. You put your teams together in one place and skills naturally passed from conscientious leaders to eager and engaged learners. It was all so easy that many in managerial roles overlooked how vital this dissemination of soft skills was for the long-term productivity of their organisations. Then, with lockdown and the advent of working from home this subtle process effectively stopped. Worse still, because we have no effective metrics to measure these processes (so vital to long term productivity), nobody seemed to notice.
Today, with offices fully reopened and we all trying to move past the pandemic, we have a hidden problem. Our workforce has a 2-year deficit of vital soft skills. Worst still, because there are no useful metrics to display this post-pandemic skills gap on easily digestible graphs and charts, the issue remains practically invisible.
So, what do I suggest?
We need to start a conversation. Collectively, we must identify and embrace new metrics for long-term productivity that look beyond the immediate month’s end. Our new approaches must examine ‘fluffier’, yet valuable, exchanges that occur organically when team members meet. These metrics, although harder to quantify, are essential when building resilience into an organisation. For example, a wise manager would view a junior team member shadowing someone in a senior role as being as much of a priority as hitting their weekly sales targets. If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s the value of passing on the types of knowledge that can only transmit when team members inhabit the same space.
In the meantime, it might be sensible for us all to brace ourselves. We should expect that, as a result of working from home, all companies are going to face some degree of turbulence when this hidden soft skills deficit rears its head. As we wait for the bump, I can only hope that whether you’re in the office or working from home you found reading this piece to be a productive use of your time.
Christian Logue, MD Sagal Group.