We always want things bigger and better. More efficiency, more productivity, higher quality for less money. Each employee giving their best and every minute of office time used effectively. Workers tirelessly working, spewing completed projects one after another, money flowing in.
But we rarely stop to think if maybe we’re sometimes asking for too much. And we should.
Pursuing high employee productivity is a noble endeavor without which there would be no progress. However, we’re now here to discuss something else - what happens when you take this idea a bit too far and start to have unreasonable expectations.
The Downsides of Being a Perfect Employee
When you think about what constitutes a perfect employee, you probably don’t have in mind someone who occasionally checks their social media or gets up to make tea three times a day. You’re much more likely to think of someone who works, has a half-hour lunch break and then continues to work… the entire time. Finishing everything ahead of schedule while maintaining the high quality of work is a given, of course.
You’re probably aware that this employee doesn’t exist, but what’s dangerous is getting excited at the possibility of having found someone who’s close enough and deciding that all they need is a little push to get their productivity to an even higher level. They won’t mind, right?
Well, actually, they very likely will, for several reasons. Here are a few:
Keeping your employees chained to their desks for as long as possible is at best really uncomfortable and at worst borderline inhumane. If you’re using a work time track like Insightful, it can feel really good to see green stats and productivity reports close to 100% which means that employees are spending time on productive tasks, but you have to understand that breaks are necessary and in many countries mandatory.
Some people need additional snacks apart from the regular lunch and everyone needs to stay hydrated. Not to mention the benefits of getting up and stretching from time to time as well as socializing with colleagues.
So, aiming for that 100% in your productivity tracking tool should be given up on if employees’ health is the price to pay.
Apart from getting tired physically, working non-stop can exhaust your employees mentally as well. And it’s a much more serious problem than simply becoming bored and wanting to go home.
One thing that’s bound to happen is the decrease in their attention span. Your work time track is showing that an employee is being productive while in fact they’re just sitting and staring blankly at the screen for 10 minutes at a time.
Another issue is that their ability to make effective decisions goes down as their mental capacity gets wasted on hustling. This is bad for them as much as it’s bad for your business.
Quality of Work
As a logical consequence of the mental toll that too much productivity takes on employees, the quality of the work they put out also suffers. The basic idea is this: the more energy employees spend on trying to stay on task, the less of it they’ll have left for doing the task well.
So, faster isn’t always better! When using an employee productivity tool, it’s important to take the quality of work into consideration and not just time spent on tasks. If you notice that the quality drops as productivity peaks, maybe slowing down wouldn’t be the worst idea ever.
At the end, even if you manage to find employees who are strong enough to take the physical and mental demands of reaching maximum productivity in your work time track app while still producing good-quality output, there’s still a lingering question of how sustainable this state is. Hint - not at all.
Even the most willing of employees can only push themselves so far. After a while, they’ll lose all interest, enthusiasm and will to work. Quickly enough, they’ll just pick up and leave. And this will happen sooner rather than later if all you care about are super high productivity tool statistics.
Tips to Keep in Mind
Not getting carried away in trying to improve productivity can be difficult, especially if it seems like you might just have a shot with someone. The line between encouraging employees to strive to be more efficient and pushing them beyond their limits can be a fine one. But tipping the balance one way or another can either stop the progress or turn your employees away.
You should know where exactly the middle ground is. Hey, nobody said being a manger is going to be easy! But don’t worry, just two simple principles should be enough to set you up for success.
Don’t Punish Productive Employees
Yes, we know, it sounds ridiculous, but you’re probably guilty of doing it.
Imagine this scenario. You expect your workers to do a certain amount of work daily but you notice that one employee manages to fulfill this quota in 5 hours instead of allocated 8. What do you do? Do you pat them on the back, give them a raise and let them play video games for the rest of the day? Of course not! You give them extra work to do. Just because they can.
This might sound like a good idea to you but it’s almost definitely a punishment for the employee. Regardless of how much they love their job, getting more assignments without the proper salary bump to go with it isn’t good news for them. In the end, they’ll end up believing that being productive doesn’t quite pay off and they’ll decide to become less efficient. On purpose.
So if your productivity monitoring tool happens to show that someone who’s finished with their daily tasks is taking a break to scroll through some online news website, let them be. They deserved it.
Adjust Your Expectations
When it comes to keeping your expectations in check, there are two things you should remember.
Firstly, you can’t expect any improvement in efficiency to happen overnight. Here, maybe more than in any other aspect of work, steady progress is the only way to go. Don’t immediately fill every tiny gap in employees’ time caused by efficiency. Wait it out a little bit and do it gradually so that you don’t overwhelm them.
And secondly, don’t get too excited when you wake up one day and see 94% productivity for one of your employees. Everyone has those days when everything just goes smoothly, inspiration flows and they’re capable of being super productive. This doesn’t mean that they can keep this up every day.
So what should you do? Keep tracking everyone’s productivity progress in your work time track software and take the average results as employees’ true capacity, not their peak days. Then maintain slow and steady improvement.
It’s OK to want your workforce to be more productive and it’s OK to try and lead them there. But you should be aware of the limitations. Disappointing as it may seem, there really is such a thing as being too productive - and it creates more problems than it solves.