Companies today have more data at their fingertips than ever before. Data is not only used to track sales, ROI’s, and as a tool for forecasting and budgeting, but often used as a means to track worker productivity. Companies are tracking hours, VPN time, emails sent, reach outs, quotas, etc. Yet this is a blanketed approach and can lead to distrust, unnecessary stress and burnout in the workplace.
I’m sure you have all been there — I know I have. It’s lunch time and I want to take my dog on a short walk to clear my head, but…. my Slack bubble will show as away. I surpassed my quota yesterday but am a little behind today and know this will be brought up in front of everyone in our stand up tomorrow if I don’t hit today’s goal. I had a doctor appointment but am too anxious to put my phone down in case an email or Slack message comes in because my productivity will show as slowed during this time, even if I make up the time at night. Instead of feeling like my company is setting me up to be productive and have the resources I need to do my job effectively, there is a constant feeling of being under pressure coupled with a feeling of dread and anxiety that Big Brother is always watching.
For so long I let these productivity numbers and tracking data drive me to the cusp of self-destruction; however, the pandemic has forced me, along with so many in the workforce, to reevaluate our lives. It’s forced us to reevaluate our values, priorities, non-negotiables and has put a spotlight on our health.
As we reenter the workforce and grow accustomed to hybrid work places, employees enter with a newfound zest for balance and harmony between their work and personal worlds. Many are returning with a whole new set of boundaries and expectations for their employers. The old school approach to productivity is no longer sustainable as employees now have concrete data and 2 years of proof of their own that we can be just as productive — and often even more so — in a hybrid, remote and fluid work environment. Since the pandemic has forced the convergence of our personal and professional lives, the butts in seats, big brother data-centric approach is not a work environment many are willing to go back to.
Now, I’m not suggesting that we ditch data, but instead that we reimagine how we use data. As employees we are not cogs in a wheel or merely part of an aggregate. We are people — people who work, who have careers and ambition — AND we are also people with families, hobbies, pets, external stressors, as well as our own ups and downs and way of functioning. As we steadily approach a world population of 8 billion people, we must realize that the population is derived of individual and unique humans, each with their own depth of thoughts, concerns, pressures, learning styles and work habits as powerful and real as the next. We would be remiss to assume that every single one of these almost 8 billion people work most effectively, efficiently and happily in the exact same way.
Maybe it is time to stop looking at ourselves and our employees as part of an aggregate with the sole purpose of churning out numbers and start seeing ourselves as humans who we can support and encourage to work smarter, not harder. Instead of HR data, we need to humanize the way we are seen and look at ourselves, our employees, coworkers and peers by drawing on the insights we are able to measure based on each individual's preferences, strengths and needs. Once we draw these insights we must action them — use the information to help support one another and to build a people-centric culture and company value set around. When we look at ourselves and our employees, not as workers, but holistically as unique and individual people who work, we can draw on insights to allow ourselves the space to create a work environment and habits that best serve our goals, our health, our stress levels, our life styles and allow us to live and work authentically.