For more than two-and-a-half years, large swaths of the workforce have worked remotely. In many instances, knowledge workers have been able to remain productive in remote and hybrid environments, with a wide-scale return to fully in-person, pre-pandemic working patterns largely abandoned.
Yet according to a September 2022 Microsoft survey of 20,006 global knowledge workers, many managers still have issues trusting employees who work remotely. In fact, 85% of leaders say the shift to hybrid work has made it hard to be confident that employees are being productive. And while 87% of workers report they’re performing just fine, only 12% of employers say they have full confidence their team is productive.
This disconnect has been dubbed ‘productivity paranoia’: the idea that even if workers are putting in the hours, bosses won’t believe it if they are out of sight.
This trust deficit is alarming. If managers are still not convinced that employees can work productively outside the office, even after years of doing so, it suggests this sentiment will be extremely hard to shift. And yet, say experts, bosses will need to figure it out – maybe by reframing how they assess productivity – because it’s clear that for many companies, hybrid and remote are the future.
‘Easier to track time than ideas’
Through pandemic-enforced lockdowns, millions of knowledge workers have been able to do their jobs well from home. As Covid-19 restrictions have eased, bosses have begun to introduce their post-pandemic working structures. While some industries, like finance, have seen full-time return-to-office mandates, many sectors have landed on a hybrid schedule.
This shift to hybrid working generally aligns with employee preferences. According to a June 2022 Gallup study of 8,090 remote-capable US employees, 60% want a long-term hybrid arrangement. “Employees no longer see flexibility as a perk but as a right,” explains Alexia Cambon, director of research at consultancy firm Gartner’s HR practice, based in London. “Not everyone works well in a rigid system in which how, when and where you work is decided for you every day.”