Productivity paranoia is plaguing the workplace. Here’s what CHROs can do about it

April 13, 2023, 10:53 AM UTC
Human hand holding the magnifier and studies the network.
The rise of productivity paranoia highlights a culture shift in the workplace.
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Good morning!

Productivity paranoia” is spreading through the workplace, and CHROs play a role in quelling this phenomenon. 

The term is defined as a fear of lost productivity “due to employees not working, even though hours worked, number of meetings, and other activity metrics have increased,” according to a Microsoft Work Trend Index Report. The sentiment among leadership has been further heightened by hybrid and remote work. Managers feel a greater need to account for their employees’ time and are going to great lengths to do so.

“Productivity paranoia is so prevalent that companies have invested in expensive technology—ranging from tracking software, surveillance cameras, and GPS data—to monitor their employees’ whereabouts and active time online,” writes my colleague L’Oreal Thompson Payton.

Surveillance technology shouldn’t be a company’s first response to address perceived productivity loss, says Anne Maltese, director of people insights at employee engagement software company Quantum Workplace. But its use speaks to a cultural shift, she says: the erosion of trust in the workplace. As remote work becomes more of a personal choice than a corporate mandate, skepticism among leaders has increased. 

That’s where the CHRO role is critical. “We should be really defining expectations,” Maltese tells Fortune. “We should have clear goals for employees and goals that connect to the business success.” 

Setting clear expectations of what defines success allows managers to spend more time coaching their employees rather than managing their time and outflow. 

Flexible work arrangements and business objectives don’t have to be at odds, says Maltese. Instead, “How do we focus on that intersection of what our people need to be successful, but also what our businesses need? And how do we figure out the zone of where those meet?”

Amber Burton

Reporter's Notebook

The most compelling data, quotes, and insights from the field.

Layoffs have hit the finance sector, but industry leaders say they're still hiring tech talent. Fortune's Sheryl Estrada reports that the finance and insurance sectors represented 18.7% of tech job postings in the U.S. in the first quarter of 2023.

“Taking a longer-term view, all signs point to a continuation of strong demand by financial services firms for software development, data science and analytics, cybersecurity, cloud infrastructure, and A.I. skills. The data suggests any lull in hiring is likely to be relatively short-lived," Tim Herbert, chief research officer at CompTIA, tells Fortune.

Around the Table

A round-up of the most important HR headlines, studies, podcasts, and long-reads.

- Meta faces a crisis of low morale after recent layoffs and as top executives continue to work remotely. New York Times 

- JPMorgan told managing directors they must return to the office five days a week. Bloomberg

- The U.S. lacks the workers to fill the rapidly growing number of green jobs. Wired

- Talented and ambitious Gen Zers must work hard to shed the stigma that their generation doesn’t care about professional success. Wall Street Journal

- A video from last December shows the president of the Amazon Labor Union fighting another union member. Insider


Everything you need to know from Fortune.

Elon’s defense. Elon Musk defended his decision to reduce Twitter’s workforce by 81%, saying, “If the whole ship sinks, then nobody’s got a job.” —Christiaan Hetzner

Now hiring. On the hiring website Indeed, the salaries for the fastest-growing entry-level jobs that do and don’t require college degrees are practically identical. —Chloe Berger

Build the network. A founder created a dedicated networking community for Black women struggling with stress and burnout. —Marci Alboher

Talent expenses. Recruiting talent just got more expensive, as the cost of living in America’s biggest cities grew 20% compared to last year. —Chloe Berger

This is the web version of CHRO Daily, a newsletter focusing on helping HR executives navigate the needs of the workplace. Today’s edition was curated by Paolo Confino. Sign up to get it delivered free to your inbox.

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