Why it’s time to address ‘productivity guilt’ with your employer

Find out why the pressure to prove you’re working efficiently has led to ‘productivity guilt’ and how to address it with your employer.

A colleague at work mentioned that they pace the room when they are brainstorming for an idea. In this era of home office life, how does anybody know you’re actually coming up with the next best thing in your living room? How does all this unforeseen remote working impact workplace culture and monitoring our wellbeing?

Since the start of the pandemic we have seen employees report an increase in time tracking and surveillance at their jobs. In some cases, this has demoralized and demotivated their employees.

Overall, the urge to prove you’ve worked every minute you have been online comes with a fear. Many are terrified of the side-by-side comparison of how long it took to get the task done. “Forty-five minutes to write an email. Yikes, I’d better work harder to cut down that time.”

There are many ways a boss can evaluate your work instead of solely tracking time. If anxiety surrounding your schedule or productivity starts to creep up, it’s time to suggest that your performance is best tracked by the quality and not the quantity. Here are a few things to discuss with your employer. 

Emphasize the details

Prepare for this discussion by knowing which KPIs you are responsible for and ensuring that you are both on the same page about how long they take to execute. Then, offer your point of view when it comes to the research or preparation stage of your task.

Don’t forget to include the subtasks you do in order to keep things organized, like meetings with other team members or archiving information that’s out of use. Let your employer know that they can check in on subtasks when ever they feel the need to be brought up to speed.

Remind them why you’re an asset

Prepare to advocate for what you do that makes theirjob easier. If vetting a new system makes it easier for your employer to focus on something a stakeholder needs, that justifies your role and doesn’t require their input on how much time it took to do.

Additionally, remind them of any recent training you’ve done to improve on your current role.

Promote asynchronous communication

Right now, most companies are navigating remote work, different time-zones, makeshift home offices, child-care needs etc. The modern employee is flexible, and communication follows similarly.

Discuss the different projects and how often their milestones need to be synchronized with your employers’ schedule. Focus on how the two of your can make it easier to provide feedback or communicate your work in a timely manner.

There are great platforms to discuss objectives like small improvements or get an email client that can help you align your calendars, slack or whatsapp each other, and unify your inboxes all into one app.

Being concerned about how much work can be crammed into 40 hours is not going to produce perfectly synchronized teams anyway, so this is a great way to shift their mindset. 

Cultivating this discussion with your employer, or anyone you’re working with is essential and not just to get some relief surrounding deadlines. Showing that you trust your employer will enable them to return that trust and in turn will make navigating future conversations easier.

Need to negotiate a higher wage? You’re more likely to get that raise if your employer values how well you already communicate with your team.

Stanford Professor and author Jenny Odell wrote the book How To Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy.  She questions what we deem to be “productive” and encourages detaching one’s self from being online.

Knowing that your employer or clients are happy with what you produce will help you to take a page from Odell’s book and return to life off-screen. The result could be quality time with loved ones or free you up to participate in your community. Living productivity guilt-free might be just a conversation and a few tweaks away.

Carla Andre-Brown is a content marketer for Mailbird.

Photo by Adomas Aleno