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Balancing Productivity & Job Satisfaction During the Great Resignation

The Better.com CEO who fired 900 via Zoom said his company will be checking up to make sure employees are actually working. Remote work and a delayed return to office have spurred some organizations to be more proactive in measuring productivity.

The Great Resignation may be casting a shadow over your enterprise’s late-pandemic digital transformation and business acceleration plans as employees look for better opportunities or turn their hobbies into new careers. It’s a trend that may have you looking into employee wellness initiatives and even salary audits and adjustments in an effort to retain your top talent.

But there’s a flip side to the labor shortage, too. With the rise of remote work, the management default of measuring whether you are getting your job done -- counting butts in seats -- doesn’t work anymore. How do you know if your employees are really doing their jobs?

In a now-famous viral video, the CEO of mortgage originator company Better.com was recorded firing 900 employees over a Zoom call. CEO Vishal Garg confirmed to Fortune that he was also the author of a previously anonymous post on a message board that stated that at least 250 of the people terminated “were working an average of 2 hours a day while clocking in 8+ hours a day in the payroll system.” He told Fortune that his management team started reviewing individual employee productivity data four weeks ago, including missed telephone call rates, the number of inbound and outbound calls, employees showing up late to customer meetings, and other factors. He further told Fortune that his company is now paying more attention to productivity data.

It’s possible that the company’s status, funded by Softbank and Novator, with plans to go public via a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) merger before the end of 2021, put some new pressure on executives to scrutinize financials and payrolls.

However, the move to remote work may be bringing these questions of how to measure productivity to top of mind for managers at a variety of companies. Their old methods of making sure employees are busy are no longer available.

“There’s a thousand reasons why I believe work from home is not going to become a thing” over the long haul, says Omdia senior analyst Terry White. “One of the main ones is that executives and managers will have to change their management styles.”

Indeed, many of the technology giants themselves who championed remote work enabled with their own tools, such as Google Meet, for instance, have been setting plans for employees to return to the office.

Google itself had planned to require employees to return to the office as of January 10, 2022. However, the company sent out an email to workers earlier this month delaying that requirement indefinitely amid concern over the new COVID-19 variant Omicron. The company did not set a new return date for employees, saying a decision will be made in the new year based on local conditions.

However, the number of employees coming back to the office voluntarily seems to be on the rise. During a Reuters Next conference on Dec. 2, a Google real estate executive said that about 40% of US employees on average had come to office in recent weeks, up from 20% to 25% three months ago.

Employees who continue to work from home may encounter an increased level of monitoring in the months and years ahead, according to Gartner. The firm said that organizations are using AI-enabled systems to analyze worker behavior in the same way that AI is used to understand shoppers, customers, and members of the public.

Plenty of other methods were put in place last year, too, according to Gartner distinguished research VP Whit Andrews, which is why so many workers suddenly found their schedules filled with Zoom calls and possibly also some extra manager/worker check-in meetings and newly required progress reports.

As for Google, the company has said that it expects employees to return at least 3 days a week once it sets a new return to office date. Meanwhile, the company is redesigning its floor plans to increase private, quiet spaces for distraction-free work, based on the feedback of those who have already returned to the office, according to Reuters.

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