The smart work recipe: less load, more performance

What does a boss do when he or she notices that the productivity of the firm he or she leads has declined? He blames the employees, assumes they are slacking off and buries them in more workloads. But unfortunately, many bosses wear blinders and are unaware of the effects that overload has on employees.

So many bosses around the world notice that the productivity of the companies they run is declining and automatically believe that their people have become lazier. As a result, bosses rush to load people with even more workloads, believing that this will help them regain productivity and performance.

Well, managers are wrong, and the effect of overload is even more damaging: people and organisations sink into an ever more dizzying spiral of underperformance. Which proves once again that you can't do management in 2023 on the 1950s recipe and that the problem of lack of productivity and results is a soft one, not a hard one. That is, the problem is about the culture of the organisation and how you select and manage people, not about people's skills, tasks and activities.

Recent research in the United States shows that 58% of American employees spend less than 20 hours a week on activities that actually produce results. At the same time, 53% of them spend more than 10 hours a week looking for the information they need to do their jobs, i.e. they are busy but not productive.

Poor organisation, superficial training and management that is not attentive to the real needs of employees means that half of the time is wasted getting ready to work or talking about work, which shows that long working hours do not necessarily mean valuable results, but rather poor organisation.

The phenomenon of time wasted by employees on worthless tasks is called 'productivity theatre'. Basically, employees spend their time on non-productive activities just to appear busy and active and thus show their bosses that they are working. Inefficient processes, inadequate technology, hard-to-find resources, unclear performance criteria and unclear tasks lead to lack of productivity and therefore to a large number of working hours that are not actually producing value. All this describes an organisational culture based on distrust, lack of autonomy, centralised decision-making at the top, obsession with command and control and lack of transparency.

To understand how things should be done properly, let's look at one of the world's most successful and envied organisations. At Apple, people have fewer tasks than the industry average, much more autonomy and, surprisingly, they achieve much more performance if you look at the turnover and profit generated by each individual employee.

How does this happen? Simple: Apple is an attractive employer not just because of the generous salary offers or benefits it offers, but more importantly because of its unique approach to work culture. The company gives employees freedom and autonomy and rewards those who perform with even more independence, rather than burdening them with extra tasks.

This is made possible by a rigorous screening process, where Apple recruiters ensure that employees are suitable for their role in the company, and managers explain what is expected of each individual and make available all the resources they need. This eliminates the need for excessive supervision, and people work autonomously, each in their own style and at their own pace, achieving the required results.

What's more, Apple encourages personal relationships and a sense of trust and open communication between managers and employees. Autonomy, freedom of expression, transparency and honesty motivate people to work with pleasure and motivation, creating a positive work culture.

To summarise: choose competent people, explain to them what they have to do, give them the information and resources they need, let them organise themselves and don't play policeman with them, make all operations and results transparent so they can evaluate themselves and encourage them to communicate openly and intensively. In this way, good people build their working style independently and take motivation, confidence and high quality standards from others.

Apple is proof that organizations that have a culture where performance is rewarded with autonomy and freedom are higher performing and more attractive to the most valuable professionals. It may sound counter-intuitive: less control and less burden lead to far superior results. Certainly in a modern organisational culture where managers know how to work with people.

This article is brought to you by Blankfactor, a global leader in digital innovation for fintechs and payment processors. An American company with a global presence, Blankfactor is building a strong software engineering team in Romania, with offices in Bucharest, Cluj and Brasov and collaborating with top professionals across the country.

Blankfactor - Engineering Impact.

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