When Your Employees Are Remote, You Have To Stop The Butt-In-Seat Mentality
There's an insidious attitude permeating many companies; that when employees have their butts-in-their-seats, it means they're productive.
But if you've ever seen studies on actual employee productivity, or if you've ever forced yourself to sit at your desk for eight straight hours, you know that having a butt-in-the-seat does not equal productivity.
And the problem becomes especially acute when the butt-in-seat mentality follows suddenly-remote employees into their home workspace.
One study found that knowledge workers check email/Slack every 6 minutes. And a third checked every 3 minutes. And 40% of knowledge workers never get more than 30 minutes straight of focused time.
How can you expect employees to deliver amazing thoughtful work when they’re getting interrupted EVERY 3 MINUTES?
By contrast, top remote workers operate VERY DIFFERENTLY.
For example, many top freelancers (who've worked from home for years) work intensely for dedicated blocks of time WITHOUT INTERRUPTIONS and then get their butts OUT OF THEIR SEATS!
Time chunking (also known as time blocking) is essentially carving out pieces of the day when you can disconnect from email (or Slack or IM, etc.) and focus on performing work that requires deep thinking. It's just like when (pre-pandemic) you worked from a coffee shop and accomplished more in one hour than you would have accomplished in eight hours at the office.
BTW, this is just one of a hundred techniques you’ll be getting at our 1-day online seminar The Science Of Leading Remote Employees (space is filling fast, so please don’t lose your spot).
If you want to drastically improve the productivity and effectiveness of your remote team, start giving your team dedicated blocks of time throughout the day when they have to be online and other times when they can disconnect and work free from interruptions.
For example, you could set core periods throughout the day, e.g., 10 AM-12 PM and 2 PM-4 PM, when employees have to be accessible online (via email, Slack, IM, etc.). And then, they can disconnect to get deep thinking work done!
One of the world’s largest companies, Siemens, just made the switch to END the butt-in-seat mentality. Their Deputy CEO said, “These changes will also be associated with a different leadership style, one that focuses on outcomes rather than on time spent at the office…we trust our employees and empower them to shape their work themselves so that they can achieve the best possible results.”
It literally took 1 SENTENCE to stop the butt-in-seat mentality! Of course, leaders will need practice to implement it well, but when top leadership speaks this clearly, they're off to a great start.
I really hope this represents a tipping point in companies managing employees with a butt-in-seat mentality. But there’s reason to be doubtful. Because notwithstanding Siemens’ progressiveness, the butt-in-seat mentality persists.
As I wrote in Forbes only six months ago, Barclays recently “installed software that monitors Barclays workers’ activity on their computers, and in some instances admonishes staff in daily updates to them if they are not deemed to have been active enough — which is described as being in ‘the zone.’ The system tells staff to ‘avoid breaks’ as it monitors their productivity in real-time, and records activities such as toilet visits as ‘unaccounted activity.’”
Doesn't that sound painful? Good luck recruiting star employees with that message. And seriously, how can someone be uber-productive when they're digitally chained to their desk?
Giving your employees periods of the day when they're allowed to disconnect, to focus deeply on their work without interruptions, produces great results!
And there's much to be said for focusing on the results someone achieves rather than how long they sit in front of a computer. But when we're operating with a butt-in-seat mentality, we're de facto telling people, "it's not what you get done but how long you sit there that matters."
I've seen organizations where employees are online for only 3 hours a day that accomplish twice as much work as companies where everyone is online for 10 straight hours.
The reality is that if you want your employees to generate innovative and critical thinking, they need some time to concentrate.
If you want to learn the most advanced techniques for leading remotely, be sure to attend our 1-day online seminar The Science Of Leading Remote Employees! (Space is filling fast, so please don’t lose your spot).
And if you want custom training for your organization, learn more here.