Behaviour, not physical presence, drives results

Imagine this…you are a seasoned professional, having been in your field for many years and are an expert at what you do. You have been happily, productively, and successfully working for a number of weeks/months doing a mixture of physical presence in the office during office hours and working from home at your personal preference. Your task is to complete a set amount of work for specific deadlines, so realistically, the majority of the time it doesn’t matter when or where you are when doing it (with the exception of the tasks and meetings where you’re required physically).

One day, your manager or the head of your team or business asks you for a quick chat. They appear apprehensive about the discussion, but you go into it with an open mind – everyone has pressure on them at the moment. The discussion is to outline concerns about your work that had been raised by the broader team. In particular, they’ve noticed you’re working from home a lot and when working from home, are not on the internal messaging system which shows who is online at the time. Their concern is that you’re not actually working when you say you are, so with this in mind it’s probably best you refrain from working from home as much as possible and are seen in the office more.

What’s wrong with this picture?

Do you see a problem with this scenario?

How would you respond to this?

Do you agree with the manager?

Does physically being in the office mean a better outcome for all, individuals and business?

The answer to that last question is categorically no. We now know, thanks to neuroscience, that face-time and physically being present in a workplace does not equal productivity. In fact, in a lot of cases it contributes to the lack of productivity of an individual and overall business. Forcing people to work against their natural way of working can significantly reduce their productivity and the overall profitability of a business.

Now, not everyone has the luxury of working where, when and how they want every minute of the day. But for the things we can influence, the science definitely backs up the productivity case.

So, what happens in this scenario?

This exact scenario played out to a contact of mine recently. I’m pleased to say they were very quick to respond, questioning whether there was a problem with the actual work they were delivering, their output and productivity. There wasn’t. In fact, they were highly praised for the effort and contribution they had made over the past few months.

It did, unfortunately, take some energy to help the manager see their limiting beliefs around this issue. They were focused on silencing the issue by simply removing what they saw as the obstacle – the fact that the staff member was working remotely. The real issue was both their limiting beliefs and the teams below the line behavior towards other team members (I mean really, adults checking to see who is actually online when? Who has energy credits to do that?? And if you don’t trust your people….that’s a whole other topic to be discussed!)

When we focus on the behaviors that drive outcomes, we get results. When we focus on face-time, we get….well, surely by now you know the rest.