Are remote workers lazy? Experts weigh in on Elon Musk and Marc Benioff’s productivity problem

It is well known that Elon Musk is not a fan of remote working. The billionaire made it his first order of business to end Twitter’s “work from anywhere” policy when he took over.

He also took the same approach to SpaceX and Tesla where he wants office workers at least 40 hours per week. Why? Because he believes that his office workers are more productive, or rather, more lazy when working from home.

“All the stay-at-home-Covid stuff fools people into thinking you don’t really need to work hard,” he wrote in Twitterlast year.

His point of view is bold but unusual.

Salesforce cofounder and CEO Marc Benioff recently complained in a company-wide Slack memo that remote new hires were having productivity problems. He added: “Aren’t we building tribal awareness with new employees who don’t have an office culture?”

Meanwhile, Disney CEO Bob Iger and Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz both welcomed their employees back from the Christmas holiday by sounding the back-to-work klaxon.

Are remote workers really lazy?

There is a possibility that the lack of a morning commute and water cooler moments, such as walking to a colleague’s desk or going out to get a sandwich, may result in remote workers being less active. physically.

But that’s not the kind of “laziness” that CEOs worry about.

Unfortunately, research doesn’t point to a one-size-fits-all answer, and workers and their employers don’t see it that way either.

Despite research from Microsoft finding most workers believe they are the same productive when they work from home, only 12% of managers have full confidence that their remote team members are productive. Meanwhile, Glassdoor found that 1 in 2 full-time remote workers said they were more productive because of their work arrangements.

The difference may be because, as Fortune reportedworkers add their commute into their mental calculation of how productive they are, while managers do not.

However, studies have consistently shown that some remote working is good for productivity, so many companies are opting for a hybrid solution.

“The location of a person’s workplace is not automatically related to their work ethic,” insists Cheryl Naumann, Chief Human Resources Officer at the University of Phoenix.

Before the pandemic and “remote working”, there was always someone who could find any excuse not to work – the lazy one who took too many boring coffee breaks and hovered around desks that weren’t theirs. At least one isolated time waster isn’t simultaneously wasting everyone’s time in the process.

But the point is that, in the office or at home, there are always “lazy” workers.

How to make your team more productive

As Benioff said, “new team members are often less productive”, echoed Jill Cotton, career advice expert at Glassdoor.

“Therefore an efficient onboarding process is essential to see employees through their first six months and beyond with a company,” he added.

He also said that the “knowledge sharing” that usually takes place in the office should be considered for remote workers. This is especially important for new hires straight out of education or changing industries, who may not know what best practice looks like.

“Productivity relies on feedback, mentorship, and strong personal relationships between team members,” said Cotton, while adding that “companies must implement structures that allow remote workforce to access each of these things to do the best.”

Naumann agrees that “maintaining regular communication with team members as a manager of remote staff is extremely critical.”

Regardless of whether an employee works remotely or in the office, the same basic principle applies: To be successful in their role, employees must hit the targets set by their manager.

Thus, it is up to managers to ensure that workers meet their productivity expectations.

“Managers, including managers of remote workers, must train, guide, motivate, supervise and measure work. Set clear expectations for remote workers around log-in and log-out times, schedule flexibility, and daily deliverables, to be successful the relationship with remote work,” added Naumann.

But managers should not fall into the productivity trap of painting with too broad a brush.

“Every individual, team or organization is different and the requirements for productivity are different so it’s important to outline what everyone looks like so it’s easier​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​in or leaks,” said James Berry, director of the UCL MBA.

For example, an employee who comes into the office, may not achieve the same amount as an employee who hunkers down at home. Likewise, someone in the office who bounces around with peers, may come into meetings with more ideas than remote workers.

“To solve this issue, leadership teams need to create outcome-based goals for employees and hold them to outcome-based results as opposed to a universal idea of ​​what productivity looks like,” he added. said Berry.

Only by getting to know the individuals behind the screens of your remote team can you take a tailored approach to measuring their productivity, rather than a one-size-fits-all solution that is doomed to fail. .

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