What are you measuring: business or busyness?

In a famous scene from the 1999 Comedy, Office Space, Protagonist Peter Gibbons admits to two Management Consultants that in a given week, he only does about 15 minutes of actual work. It might be amusing to ponder why he hasn’t been fired but the truth is the average office worker can become quite skilled at appearing busy. If you have ever walked into a government office and were confronted by a Staff sitting behind a table covered with files, you probably have an idea what I mean. The files themselves might not have been touched in months but it gives the Staff an excuse to pull one of them and pretend to be reviewing some important detail anytime a visitor walks in.

Not busyness

As a knowledge worker, it is important to choose the right metrics to measure your productivity. Far too often, Management (and workers themselves) fall into the trap of measuring the act of looking busy as productivity. This can quickly lead to a situation where team members become like Peter Gibbons. They are not even interested in the work they do but manage to keep their jobs just because they show up every day.

As a productive person, you should know that it is not very helpful to measure your productivity by the amount of time you spend at your desk. It’s not how much work you do that matters but what type of work you do. A sales agent does not measure productivity by the number of sales calls he makes but by the number of units he is able to sell each month.

Quite a number of people have reached this point

Organisations that focus so much on the perceived quantity of work done don’t become more productive. Instead, they put workers under unnecessary pressure. When the pressure gets too much, workers can become disengaged from the work they do. When that happens, productivity drops quickly. It’s hard to stay motivated when you have 8 bosses and each demands a different thing from you.

As we return to work following the Eid break, take some time to reflect upon how you measure your productivity at work. What metrics do you use? Are they relevant to what you do? Or have you become a victim of the presenteeism trap?

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