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IS PRODUCTIVITY ACTUALLY DOWN?

All Things Productivity


There have been many reports and many studies showing that employee productivity is down for the first time in over 70 years. However, a recent study points to an increase in productivity the second half of this year. So what is it? We are breaking down for you the studies, what the data says and how do you actually define productivity?

 
WORKER PRODUCTIVITY IS DOWN. IS REMOTE WORK THE CAUSE?

"U.S. worker productivity year-over-year has declined for five straight quarters for the first time on record. Does that support the arguments made by critics of remote work that traditional, in-person work produces better results? "We've seen ongoing sluggishness with economic output, all the while experiencing a very strong labor market recovery," said Gregory Daco, chief economist at EY-Parthenon, the strategy consulting arm of global accounting and advisory firm EY, which produced the insight using data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. But in response to those who say the sustained drop in productivity is a result of the work-from-anywhere revolution, Daco says "not necessarily."


U.S. productivity fell 2.7 percent in the first quarter of this year compared to last year, but concurrently, the number of hours worked increased, meaning that people are working longer hours but aren't as productive as they used to be. Daco said employers should be careful not to scapegoat flexible work, while affirming that it could be one of the causes of lower productivity. "The assumption is that people may work less efficiently when at home, because they are often multitasking nonwork tasks," he said. That may include caring for children, elderly parents or others who need assistance, say workplace experts." Learn more


BUT... LABOR PRODUCTIVITY INCREASED IN THE SECOND HALF OF 2023

"Worker productivity has been a hotbutton issue in 2023, with many laying the blame for its decrease on remote work. In June, a study out of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York said that workers who moved from the office to remote work at the start of the pandemic saw a 4% decrease in productivity.


That study was based on call center workers at a Fortune 500 company, however; other experts pointed to larger productivity losses being more tied to worker exhaustion in the wake of the pandemic and its various stressors. To figure out the core of productivity issues, employers may need to focus on building rapport with employees and ensuring they feel taken care of, experts previously told HR Dive." Learn more


HOW TO YOU DEFINE PRODUCTIVITY? AND DO BOSSES KNOW WHAT IT MEANS?

"The emphasis on productivity can seem disingenuous, given that many companies raked in record profits as their workforces toiled in their living rooms. And even when companies try to measure productivity, they’re not necessarily measuring the right thing. In other words, your boss might be obsessed with productivity without really knowing what it means.


Some 71 percent of business leaders say they’re under immense pressure to squeeze more productivity out of their workers, according to a new Slack survey of 18,000 knowledge workers, including managers. But most are measuring what workers put in, rather than what they put out. In turn, workers say they’re spending a third of their time “performing” work — that is, making an effort to look like they’re working rather than actually working. That includes focusing on supposed productivity signals, like speaking up in work threads regularly and responding to emails more quickly than necessary, even after hours." Learn more

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