Are Employees Actually More Productive Working From Home? I Say NO; And Here’s 4 Ways They’re Robbing You Blind

Since everyone was forced to work from home earlier this year, I’ve heard countless executives proclaim how much more productive everyone was and how they are now going to allow remote work even after restrictions are lifted, predicting the demise of the corporate office. We’ll see.

According to a recent survey of people working from home conducted by SellCell, a comparison site for cell phones, 53% of the people surveyed admitted to scrolling through social media sites when they were supposed to be working, and 44% admitted to watching Netflix or TV while they were supposed to be working. Not surprisingly, 43% also admitted to visiting adult websites (now that they were on their own unfiltered home Internet). And that’s only those who’d admit it. Other top distractions given were:

  • Playing with kids
  • Exercising
  • Gaming
  • Housekeeping
  • Eating
  • Talking with the family
  • Shopping online

Is it any wonder? Yes, some people have the ability to work from home and be productive. Personally, I’m most productive when working from home, but I’m a unique individual with honest ambition and the rare ability to stay focused. I can (and do) control my environment. Most people can’t control their environment (kids popping in and out, spouse asking for help on a project, no closed-off dedicated workspace, etc.), and they lack the discipline to put in a solid 40 hours of productive work when surrounded by home projects, hobbies, laundry, kids, and fun distractions like gaming or Netflix. Most people aren’t putting in anywhere near 40 hours of focused, productive work. They’re at work, but they aren’t working.

After digging into why profitability was down on one of their largest accounts, one MSP client of mine discovered that a highly paid tech assigned to the account was routinely going home during the day to mow the lawn, work around the house, or take a nap when he was supposed to be on-site working at this client’s office, and the office manager of the client was a friend and would cover for him.

A friend of mine who ran a home insulation company was horrified to discover his teams were over-ordering insulation materials and skimping on jobs for paying clients so they could sell the excess for a profit to competitors. He only found it out after enforcing accountability for raw materials and job profitability — something he hadn’t done in the past.

Back when I was a sales rep for CGI Systems, I had a sales assistant whose job it was to process inbound leads that had called, faxed, or mailed in a request for more information by entering them into our CRM and setting up the appointment for me. One day, she suddenly quit to sell Herbal Life full time — a side hustle she had been working on for some time. While cleaning out her desk, I discovered a drawer so stuffed full of leads (on paper) that I had to force it open. None had been entered, processed, or followed up with — a GIANT, unproductive waste.

All of these situations are not uncommon, and there are hundreds more like them that I could talk about, which brings me to a few important points about ensuring maximum productivity and profit from your employees, especially now that so many are working from home.

1. Forget “Ownership” Mentality. The first thing you have to accept is that employees are NOT owners, nor do they want to be. They are a rented asset, a hired gun. If they wanted your responsibility and workload, they’d start their own business instead of working for you. Further, they don’t own your business — YOU do. So, expecting an employee to adopt an “ownership mentality” is foolish. That’s not to say you shouldn’t expect them to own some responsibility or to do a great job; you just shouldn’t expect MORE than that. In fact, most want to do just enough work to keep their job and avoid being fired, and that’s the accurate thinking required as a starting point for maximum profit and productivity from your employees. Candidly, who can blame them? Are you incentivizing them to work longer or harder? If not, you can’t be mad at them for doing the minimum necessary to perform so they can save the rest of their day for what’s important to them. Often, that is NOT the maximum profitability or productivity of your business.

2. Have Clearly Defined Work Output And Productivity Standards. If you want productive employees, then YOU must define what “productivity” is. For techs, it’s 75% utilization toward a billable client event as well as other productivity standards for clearing and resolving client problems. In sales, it’s X appointments sat, X sales closed, and X dollars secured. If it’s an administrative job, you need to have a clear list of daily, weekly, monthly, and periodic responsibilities that define what needs to be done and by when. Every employee needs to have clearly stated and documented expectations for how the work is supposed to be done. But in addition to that, you must track and measure their activities. This is the part no one likes about managing people. Sure, everyone likes to give out awards, host the company barbecue, and give out the motivational pat on the back for a great job, but constantly checking to ensure an employee is doing their work to set standards and performance metrics and then confronting them when they’re not is FAR from enjoyable, which is why so many don’t do it and, therefore, bleed profits from lost productivity.

3. Don’t Let Employees Waste Or Burn “Inventory.” If you want to get maximum productivity, you (first) must view your employees’ hours as INVENTORY that you PURCHASED. If they screw around on the job, come in late, go home early, or use any of those hours for playing games or running personal errands, they are stealing paid-for inventory from you. While I don’t think any CEO would begrudge a few minutes a day on personal activities, spending hours shopping, gambling, and playing games is a horrendous violation of professional ethics, AND IT IS STEALING. So is going home early and coming in late. Don’t think so? Try NOT paying an employee for all the hours they worked and see how that goes over. You’ll get a not-so-friendly visit from the U.S. Department of Labor.

4. Have A Way To Track Productivity. Our sales reps are required to use a dialer connected to our CRM to account for the calls they make and the outcomes they produce. Without that, there’s a LOT of wiggle room for saying they’re prospecting when they are not. We also use Activtrak to measure employees work hours and productivity. Further, our MSP ensures certain websites and searches are blocked from Internet search on company machines. By the way, ALL of this is something you can SELL TO CLIENTS in addition to putting it to work in your business.

Of course, not all employees don’t want to work, but even the good ones WILL slack off, take it easy, and work slower than you’d like if left unmonitored and unmanaged. YOU set the pace, and lack of productivity is now rampant more than ever with undisciplined people with poor work environments and productivity skills working remotely, unmonitored, and unmanaged.

So, even if you don’t have a problem in YOUR business, you can bet one or more of your clients DO, and you can greatly assist your clients by helping them install controls to prevent employee “theft” of hours and, more importantly, prevent employees from using company Internet access, data, email, and apps to expose the company to lawsuits and negative PR. Much of this can be solved by blocking the websites and activity on company devices and Internet. Another solution is installing and setting up productivity-tracking software that monitors activity.