Is Worker Productivity Declining? (Part 2)

Last week I began a blog post on declining worker productivity, spurred by a recent Wall Street Journal report suggesting that future interest rate increases might be deferred, based on steadily declining worker productivity over the past decade. Several factors have changed how we work in the 2010s, part of which has been driven by technology advances now a dominant part of our lives, namely Personal Computers, the Internet, remote working, social media and smart phones.

In my last post, I touched on the role of a changing work environment and social media on worker productivity … let’s take a close look at what social changes can be attributed to smart phone technology.

Do Smart Phones Make us More Productive?

Of all the technology advances I have seen over the past 30 years, I think the smart phone may be the one that will leave the most lasting impact on social pattern changes as well as how we work. No other device has blurred the lines between work and play that the iPhone revolution. The processing power in an iPhone 6 today dwarfs what was possible just 10 years from a hand held device. To start, more people are now accessing the Internet through their phones than PCs, as validated by Google’s recent algorithm update to penalize website rankings if not mobile friendly.

More importantly, however, it the blurring of the lines the lines of work and play. As a business professional, when you go to lunch, is that your time or the company’s? If you are frequently checking your phone for work emails, it could be considered you never really took a break. Alternatively, if you are texting with your significant other while on a work call, are you really 100% engaged? Some of us have had a text that is disturbing, such as “your child is hurt – come pick her up now.” Trust me, you are no longer engaged with whatever work activity that was going on before that text!

What has resulted, however, is a “give and take” mental game we now all play. In our minds, we realize that jobs are not measured by what output was generated from 9-5. If we have a day where some personal activities must be tended to, we know that at other times we may work in the evening to get a proposal completed, or to be prepared for next week’s meeting with a client. In the end, we are all juggling competing priorities, hoping to please everyone and not miss any critical deadlines – personal or work related.

Good Intentions Gone Awry

While we strive to achieve the perfect balance of work and play, the reality is there are other factors. For example, a sour encounter with a co-worker might just tip the scales to do more personal items during that day than others. And, over time, the pattern in your mind of what is the “right” balance might also get skewed towards more of a balance that favors personal over work – especially if you are not 100% engaged with your current work situation.

The concept of multi-tasking is another that is easy to “hide” behind, but the reality is that we really can’t do two competing tasks at the same time – we think we are, but what occurs is the sequential completion of one task followed by another, with downtime often occurring to get “back on track” to what the first competing priority was. What this means is that we have set ourselves up to work like a computer algorithm, when in fact, we forget that we are still human.

Time for a New Approach

What is needed is a new way to help manage and quantify what time we are spending on tasks – whenever it is we are doing them, despite all the interruptions. We need help to identify what our “baseline” of work productivity really is, at which point we can start considering how to improve upon it.

Here is situation where a solution such as Prodoscore can help. Operating in the background, tabulating the time we are spending doing various work tasks, gives you a score that is a quick and easy snapshot of what our productivity was for that hour, day or week. With real-time access to our productivity – much like what a Fitbit wrist device can do – it is much easier to gauge what balances we should apply to our work / play allocation today, to hopefully end up with a productive work week by Friday, to then start the juggling process all over again.


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