President at Prodoscore, Inc.


The future of employee productivity is already here. The transition toward allowing workers to do their jobs remotely just fast-forwarded several years with the current novel coronavirus health crisis. April 2020 Gallup data revealed that 62% of employed Americans surveyed have worked from home during the crisis, twice as many as in mid-March.

Shelter-in-place orders accelerated the widespread adoption of a remote workforce, so what will the new future look like? Here are five changes I’m seeing on the horizon for employee productivity.

1. Remote work is here to stay.

This is a pretty obvious one by now. According to a recent survey by Robert Half, 60% of professionals who transitioned to a remote environment have better work-life balance without a commute, and 74% want to work from home more often when shelter restrictions lift. At our company, an employee visibility software platform, we saw a 47% productivity increase in March and April of 2020 from the same time last year, despite the coronavirus lockdown and subsequent rise in working from home. 

One of the most important benefits that companies may now realize as they get an up-close look at remote working is that they are able to access a much wider pool of candidates. They may be wondering — correctly, in my view — why they should limit themselves to just the candidates who live near their offices.

Remote work is here to stay, so companies should plan to enable the workforce to do it productively with the right tools, expectations and support.

2. Productivity will be data-driven.

Like many other KPIs in business, I believe employee productivity will be data-driven. Talent is just about every company’s biggest investment, so why not measure it? Now that managers are seeing less of employees, new metrics could help determine their performance levels. Companies already have access to the data that can point to the productivity and effectiveness of their workforce — office email accounts, calendars, phones, chat and customer relationship management (CRM) usage, for example — they just need to aggregate and track it. By augmenting peer feedback and management assessments with productivity data, employers can understand how workers are utilizing their time so they can take steps to optimize it. In addition to my company’s platform, some other employee productivity and visibility tools include InterGuard, ActivTrak and Time Doctor.

3. Numbers will no longer be just for sales teams.

Moving forward, the sales team likely won’t have the only employees working hard to hit their numbers. Once employers are able to better track productivity data, they’ll be able to set appropriate benchmarks for other disciplines in the organization. Without as much in-person interaction, employees need new ways to show their leadership and engagement in activities that align with company objectives. These benchmarks should be unique for each department so the comparisons are valid. The challenge is to find meaningful metrics that demonstrate the value of contributions in roles not typically evaluated by a number, such as finance or engineering. Some meaningful metrics (which companies can either use software to measure or do so independently) include activity levels on critical business applications such as the number of emails and chats sent and the time spent composing and reading them, the number of documents created and time spent editing them, the amount of time spent on CRM updates and the quantity, and time spent on phone and video communication. Most importantly, factor in any set goals to match time and effort to results.

4. Full disclosure will build trust.

Companies need to be careful not to snoop on employees with spyware. Employers should be transparent when they’re tracking their employees — and employees should ask how they’re being monitored and measured. Successful working relationships are built on trust, especially in remote settings. If employees feel their employer is infringing on their privacy, that trust will be hard to establish.

5. Competition will be encouraged.

To foster a productive work environment, companies should consider implementing a friendly contest around company goals with incentives for the winners each week, month or quarter. For example, a weekly metric review can encourage team members to be more efficient and continually improve the way they get their jobs done. This is especially important for the younger generations entering the workforce, who may be used to measuring themselves with public numbers and be motivated by the results. If a post didn’t get many likes, similar content won’t make the cut next time. The same logic can be applied to work — workers won’t spend time on things that don’t boost their standing, especially if others can see it. Other types of competitions could — and, frankly, should — be more fun and less work-related. For example, employees could:

• Compete as a group in an online video game.

• Set aside an hour to have a trivia contest (which could also include industry trivia).

• Play “two truths and a lie,” where people share two truthful facts and a lie about themselves, and the other people must guess which of the three statements is the lie.

The future of employee productivity arrived sooner than expected, and many employers weren’t quite ready for it. Companies shouldn’t have to scramble when the next wave of massive change hits the workplace. Monitoring, measuring and managing employee productivity will help them engage their workforce to quickly adapt and continue contributing in the years to come, regardless of the challenges ahead.

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