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Faking it: How productivity can become a performance at work

Productivity theatre is when employees feel pressured to show their bosses they're working.
Productivity theatre is when employees feel pressured to show their bosses they're working.   -   Copyright  Canva

By Susan Armstrong

Have you ever stayed back at the office purely so your boss could see you working late?

Ever found yourself quickly switching tabs to bring up the spreadsheet or report you’re supposed to be working on as your manager strolled by? What about adding a few fake meetings to your calendar so you looked busier than you were?

If this sounds familiar to you, then you’ve participated in “productivity theatre”.

This workplace phenomenon where employees act like they’re working hard to keep their jobs and the boss happy is particularly toxic.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s found its way into our home offices as well.

Productivity paranoia

When we were all office-bound it was hard enough, but then the world changed, we started working remotely and productivity paranoia hit new levels.

Leaders no longer had the visual cues they once enjoyed in an in-person workplace, and they didn’t like it. Microsoft surveyed 20,000 people in 11 countries and analysed trillions of Microsoft 365 productivity signals. The results were surprising.

There was a huge disconnect between the degree to which employees were working more than ever (87 per cent), and the degree to which managers struggled to trust that people were, in fact, being productive (12 per cent).

Tracking behaviour

Ouch. This level of mistrust between employee and employer has led to some companies using technology to track workers’ behaviour in more minute detail than ever before.

Some are using digital tools, marketed as “productivity” measurement applications, to identify employees by name and track how they spend their time – logging keystrokes, recording their screens, even logging when they step away from their desks for bathroom breaks.

In response, remote employees have felt the pressure to up the theatrics, attending virtual meetings they don’t need to be present for or using mouse jigglers to simulate activity.

According to a recent survey, 54 per cent of knowledge workers say they’re wasting an additional hour online every day to show colleagues and managers that they’re still “working”.

Surely, those 67 minutes per day could be better spent. Is it any wonder then that burnout and stress are at an all-time high?

Working harder

The simple reality is people are working harder than ever, and managers need to realise that productivity isn’t about getting more done in less time; it’s about getting the right things done in less time.

If your current company has a bad case of productivity paranoia, here’s the good news: There are hundreds of companies and organisations that don't. What’s more, they actively facilitate remote and hybrid working arrangements. Even better than that? They’re currently hiring.

Check out these three great jobs in three equally great companies, and find plenty more on Euronews.jobs.

Senior DevOps Engineer, Metaverse Solutions, Improbable

Improbable is a British metaverse technology company that’s pioneering new ways to connect, play, create and build value across interconnected virtual worlds. Its philosophy is that the only way to progress is by learning from each other and supporting new ideas. Your job should challenge you. Your work environment should not.

Improbable is currently looking for a Lead DevOps Engineer to become part of its Metaverse Solutions group, where you’ll work alongside experienced game developers familiar with all aspects of the game development lifecycle, including production, art, design, technology, and operations. The remote role allows you to own the entire process of software development and the overarching technical delivery plan within a given customer project.

If this has piqued your interest, read all about the role here.

Full Stack Engineer, Zalando

It's the perfect time to join Zalando’s journey, from being a pioneer in the world of e-commerce, to becoming the starting point for fashion in Europe. You will help drive digital and sustainable solutions for fashion, logistics, advertising and research, bringing head-to-toe fashion to more than 49 million active customers.

The company offers a hybrid working model, with flexible hours and up to 60 per cent remote work, and is currently looking for a Full Stack Engineer to join its team in Berlin. As a Senior Data Engineer – Demand Data Platform – you will contribute to the design, maintenance and orchestration of the team's data and machine learning pipelines, data provisioning via cloud-based processing technologies as well as data extraction from different source systems.

If this sounds like the role for you, you can apply for it here.

Security Operations Analyst, GoCardless

GoCardless is a global leader in account-to-account payments, making it easy for merchants to collect both recurring and one-off payments directly from customers’ bank accounts. It’s headquartered in the UK, with additional offices in Australia, France and the United States, and is proud of its adaptive working scheme. This allows staff to work flexibly, and in a way that fits around their lifestyle, whilst still ensuring teams can collaborate effectively.

The company is currently looking for a Security Operations Analyst for its London office to provide subject matter expertise on its security detection and response capabilities. Your background will ideally be in security operations, with experience using Security information and event management (SIEM) tools to develop security monitoring cases and writing scripts to automate tasks. You will also have previous experience in incident response and threat management.

Sound something like you? Read all about this role here.

For more remote or hybrid working opportunities, check out Euronews.jobs today.