Remote work has rapidly grown and evolved over the past couple years. Only 6% of American workers were fully remote pre-pandemic. Now, 66% of employees work remotely at least part-time. And by the year 2025, it’s expected that over 36 million American employees will be working remotely.1
Thanks to technology, today’s workers are able to perform many jobs offsite—and enjoy the numerous benefits of working from home. Improved work-life balance, diminished commute stress, location independence and money savings are just a few reasons why employees value remote work. In fact, as many as 94% of employees say that they prefer to work fully remote or a hybrid (working both remotely and in office) schedule, and just 6% of workers prefer to work fully onsite.1
While there are many advantages of remote work, it brings challenges, too. Recently, the buzzword “productivity paranoia” has emerged on the workplace culture scene.
What is productivity paranoia?
A study by Microsoft defined productivity paranoia as fear from company leaders that “lost productivity is due to employees not working, even though hours worked, number of meetings, and other activity metrics have increased.” That may seem contradictory, but some leaders feel it’s a result of “productivity theater;” this is where workers use tactics to look busy—such as moving their mouse regularly or making sure they appear logged on—when they’re actually checked out or “cyberloafing.”2
Is productivity paranoia affecting your workplace?
Productivity paranoia boils down to leaders being uncertain that their teams are working effectively because they can’t physically see them. Is productivity paranoia affecting your workplace? As you ponder, consider these seven statistics:3
- Only 24% of workers trust remote colleagues to do their work. Meanwhile, 75% trust in-office workers to handle tasks.
- 44% of workers have experienced increased micromanaging since returning to the workplace, with 38% saying the micromanaging is the same whether in-office or remote.
- 94% of workers believe their managers trust them to do their work from anywhere, whether from home or at the office.
- 57% of Gen Z feel strongly that they have their manager’s trust, compared to 71% of Millennials and 77% of Boomers.
- More than 65% of North American employers use employee monitoring software.
- 96% of leaders notice employees’ contributions more when they come into the office versus when they work from home.
- 92% of employees say being seen at the office improves their job security.
Productivity paranoia: final thoughts
Even before the pandemic forced remote work, presenteeism was widespread at many workplaces. Presenteeism refers to lost productivity that happens when employees show up for work, but they aren’t fully functioning due to illness, injury or other conditions. And employers have been trying to prevent time theft among onsite employees since the term was first coined back in the 1980s. Is productivity paranoia simply the digital age version of these time-old challenges?
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1Zippia, 25 Trending Remote Work Statistics: Facts, Trends, and Projections, https://www.zippia.com/advice/remote-work-statistics/, October 16, 2022.
2Microsoft, Hybrid Work Is Just Work. Are We Doing It Wrong?, https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/worklab/work-trend-index/hybrid-work-is-just-work, September 2022.
3Business Wire, Is Productivity Spreading? Only 24% of Employees Trust Coworkers to Get Work Done from Home, Envoy Survey Reveals, https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20230222005332/en/Is-Productivity-Paranoia-Spreading-Only-24-of-Employees-Trust-Coworkers-to-Get-Work-Done-from-Home-Envoy-Survey-Reveals, February 2023.