Estimated reading time: 3 minutes
I have a confession to make. I like being busy. That being said, I don’t like being unproductive. There’s a difference.
It’s very easy to fill your calendar with a bunch of stuff to do. It’s not always easy to fill your calendar with productive stuff to do. Harvard Business Review recently published an article titled “Beware a Culture of Busyness”. It’s a good read. The purpose of the article was to remind us that there’s a difference between accomplishment and just being busy.
Managers need to be particularly focused on this because it can be very easy to look around the office, see people doing things, and say to yourself, “Look at all of the productivity going on!”. And that may or may not be true. I hate to sound cynical but there are people who are very good at looking busy. This doesn’t mean they are equally good at being productive.
Productivity is what the organization wants. Productivity is what helps the bottom-line. So how can managers make sure that employees are focused on productivity and not just being busy?
- Make sure employees understand the job. Managers should make sure that employees know how their work benefits the organization, not just how to do the tasks. When employees can see the big picture, they’re able to plan their work more effectively and efficiently.
- Give employees the tools to be successful. A lot of busy work can be attributed to work arounds. Employees should be given the tools to get their work done in the least amount of time and with the highest quality.
- Get feedback on how to make processes more efficient. When employees know their job (#1) and they have the tools to get work done (#2), it’s possible they will discover ways to do the work even better. Encourage employees to share their ideas for process improvement. It benefits everyone.
- Delegate to employees the right way. When employees know a task and are willing to take ownership for its completion, managers should delegate. Employees are often “busy” because they were delegated a task too soon OR because they haven’t been delegated the right task.
- Provide recognition for accomplishments. Managers should regularly recognize employees for their accomplishments – not their busyness. The team can tell when employees are being recognized for the wrong things. And if the company is rewarding busyness, well – it’s easy to look busy.
This conversation about busyness and productivity is particularly important right now. As organizations are thinking about onsite, hybrid, and remote work, we have to ask the question “Are we asking employees to return onsite because they’re not productive OR is it because we can’t tell if they’re just busy?”. And once employees do return to onsite work, are we holding them accountable for productivity OR simply staying busy?
I’ve been seeing a lot of articles lately about the negative impacts of hustle culture on individual wellbeing and the workplace. Honestly, I don’t think these conversations are about people not wanting to work or work hard. I also don’t believe the conversations are about putting in extra when necessary. I do wonder though if it’s about busy versus productive. We need to put our focus and emphasis on the right things.
It’s okay to be busy when we’re being productive and accomplishing the right things.
Image of Peter Tunney art print captured by Sharlyn Lauby at the Wynwood Art District in Miami, FL45