When many companies responded to an unprecedented global pandemic with an unparalleled shift to remote work, many leaders were skeptical that on-site productivity gains achieved in the past few years could continue.

It turns out, in many cases, the opposite was true. According to one survey of 800 employers, 94% of respondents indicated that productivity was “the same or higher than it was before the pandemic.” These gains come as companies increasingly turn to behavior analytics and activity monitoring to understand worker behavior. Surging sales for employee monitoring reflect many companies’ growing desire, especially in a decentralized work environment, to understand what workers are doing with their time.

While these efforts can provide meaningful accountability and corporate peace of mind, they only touch the surface of potential opportunities. Notably, in a data-driven business environment, behavior analytics positions companies to understand how their companies operate. The results can be incredible, allowing companies to optimize time, set reasonable expectations and deliver better outcomes.

1. Optimize Time

For most people, the average day looks different than it did a year ago. Rather than slogging through odious commutes and meeting with colleagues for lunch, employees help kids with math problems, answer doorbells and attend hours of Zoom meetings.

In other words, remote work simplifies some things while creating new complications and challenges that businesses must overcome.

Simplifying the workday and optimizing employees’ time is a readily available solution for most companies. For instance, describing today’s hybrid work environment, Bloomberg reports, “We log longer hours. We attend more meetings with more people. And, we send more emails.” These constant work-related disruptions create a flurry of activity without improving productivity or employee well-being.

Notably, 42% of remote workers say they are more productive when they have extended periods of uninterrupted time. To improve employee productivity in today’s hectic environment, Microsoft turned to employee analytics. The tech giant learned that its employees were most productive during a three-hour window each morning. In response, Microsoft asked managers to avoid scheduling meetings during this time, optimizing employees’ time without compromising communication and collaboration imperatives.

These data-driven decisions are available to all companies deploying employee monitoring. Analyze data sets that indicate high-value work and prioritize company activities accordingly.

2. Set Reasonable Expectations

Employees proved to be remarkably resilient during the pandemic, embracing rapid workplace transitions and other disruptions with excellence. That doesn’t mean that there hasn’t been a cost.

A startling survey on employee well-being found that 75% of employees have experienced burnout, and 40% cite pandemic-related factors as a major contributor to their stress. At the same time, the pandemic increased many peoples’ workdays by as many as three hours while eroding many remaining barriers to sufficient work-life balance.

Again looking at Microsoft, as the company considered its post-pandemic normal, it surveyed 30,000 full-time and self-employed workers, discovering that more than half of respondents felt overworked. In response, the company plans to continue offering flexible work arrangements and other perks to help employees manage.

However, companies don’t have to wait for employees to self-report burnout before taking action. Digitally derived behavior analytics can support discovery initiatives, revealing critical metrics like the number of hours worked, frequency of after-hours engagement and always-on professional practices.

Whether deploying internal surveys or analyzing employee monitoring metrics, leaders should strive to set and model reasonable expectations to foster healthier, more sustainable teams.

3. Deliver Better Outcomes

Employee well-being is more than just an altruistic endeavor. It’s a practical, bottom-line issue. Ultimately, companies are trying to deliver better outcomes, and productivity optimization is key to their success, making it critical that we choose wisely which metrics we monitor and assess.

Knowing that employees are already incredibly busy, activity-based monitoring likely paints an incomplete picture of their efforts and confuses insights. That’s why companies should consider measuring outcome rather than activity. In this way, companies can ensure that they get the results they need while setting clear guidelines and expectations while providing maximum flexibility and trust.

Simply put, identifying what matters most and measuring related behavior analytics can deliver better outcomes, promoting bottom-line results and employee well-being in the process.

Conclusion

In a highly competitive, rapidly changing business landscape, every company is looking for an edge. Some will undoubtedly turn to employee monitoring to make sure that their employees are as active as possible, viewing them as consumable resources to be pushed and challenged. The smarter, more effective leaders will harness behavior analytics to build healthier, more sustainable teams that deliver better results.

This data can help leaders optimize their workers’ time, set reasonable expectations and deliver better results, a trifecta that will define companies ready to flourish in a post-pandemic environment.

Originally published in Forbes and reprinted with permission.

 

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