Working from Home: Output Matters

The Covid-19 pandemic forced many people to work from home. Working habits that have developed for years suddenly were not applicable anymore.  You don’t commute to the office. You don’t sit next to your co-workers. Chats around the water-cooler is not an option. Your manager is not around to watch every move you make.

All you need is a computer and a good internet connection. If you want to work in your pyjamas or be nicely dressed is up to you. If you want to work from the kitchen table or have your own office space is up to you (depending on your negotiations with other members of your household of course unless you live on your own).

On the one hand this newly-found flexibility is very much appreciated. At the same time, many people are afraid that if they are not visible, they will be forgotten. They are obsessed to be by their computer all the time, answer emails immediately as they land into their inbox and set up unnecessary  TCs just to prove that they are working.

Managers are anxious too. They are uncertain how to manage their teams. Their challenge is not only to ensure that people are actually working and not spending their time watching Netflix but most importantly how to recreate the ‘virtual space’ for collaboration.

How can we ensure that this ‘new working norm’ is both productive and fulfilling in the long-run?

It will help to start focusing more on output. In other words, what matters is the value a person adds and not how busy he/she is. (By the way, this concept has been discussed for years in the corporate world but with mixed results.)

The big question is how to assess output.

We have been used to measure the hours that a person puts into a project (and frankly it is easier!) than the quality of the work he/she produced. Also, we usually work in teams. For example, one person might have a great idea that somebody else will built on. Both contributions are valuable although very different.

Companies will need to experiment with metrics they use to measure performance. A combination of both input/output measures will be a good start.

Also, those in senior positions  will have to lead the change. Since most of them though have spent their careers based on the model defined by the industrial revolution, they will have to overcome their own biases first. Time and trust will be key for the transition to take place.

The bottom line: A mindset shift is required in order to adjust to the new working norm. We need to focus more on output and less on input. Time and trust will be key.

Korina Karampela is the founder of b4iapply. She passionately believes in empowering people to  make informed decisions about their career and their finances. She is a senior executive in the pharmaceutical industry and has an MBA from MIT Sloan. In her limited spare time, she wants to join forces with others to help everybody to be a better version of themselves.

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