What Does Employee Productivity Actually Mean?

Managers spend a lot of time talking about productivity - how to create it, how to optimize it, how to get the right tools for it - but less time actually defining the term.

Honing in on what your organization considers “productivity” to be isn’t just a good thought exercise, it’s a necessity. How can you increase your team’s productivity if you don’t all agree on what that means? If you haven’t clarified the concept, you won’t be able to measure it, or set achievable KPIs and goals.

How does your department define productivity?

Productivity isn’t just getting work done or meeting a deadline. It’s both of those things, and more. 

That’s one of the challenges with defining productivity - everyone has their own ideas about what makes an employee productive. And just because they work for the same company, doesn’t mean those definitions automatically align.

Definitions typically vary depending on demographics. Senior managers will likely define productivity differently than company owners, just as junior staff will also have their own ideas. 

The role of employers is to develop an organization-wide definition that everyone understands and can work towards. As a starting point, it’s helpful to establish productivity markers to outline the various facets of productivity and how they blend together.

Deadlines & details

Efficiency is a key aspect of productivity. If you have an employee who’s consistently meeting their deadlines, carefully keeping track of their workload, and helping their team hit every project delivery date, you’d probably describe them as productive.


Some managers measure productivity by the quality of the work their team produces, making it less about hitting your deadlines and more about the end result. They work backwards from the outcome, judging productivity by results rather than processes.


The most basic interpretation of productivity looks at volume - assuming that the most productive team member is the one who’s producing the most work. Of course, that’s not always the case, but it is worth noting when making an overall assessment. Productivity certainly cannot be measured by quantity alone, but it should be a factor. 

Realistically, with the right training and skills, staff should be able to produce certain forms of work in defined periods of time - if someone is doing excellent work but taking twice as long to produce it as another staffer turning in the same quality of work, that would need to be addressed.


Employers value workers who go the extra mile. Employees who consistently go above and beyond - working late when needed, putting extra effort into projects, offering to assist colleagues - are generally seen as productive employees simply because of their obvious loyalty to their team and company. However, this is something that is difficult to quantify and is more likely to pop up on employee reviews rather than as a KPI to measure productivity. 

Attitude contributes to productivity, but companies should be leery of rewarding things like answering emails after-hours or staying late on a regular basis; such behavior starts to become  the expectation this way. In addition, if an employee has to do this regularly, it is a failure of management - they clearly need assistance with their workload and aren’t getting it, which could lead to the burnout of an indispensable staff member.

Measuring productivity & creating a performance plan

Now that your department has more of a handle on what productivity means, it’s time to figure out how to improve and measure it.

Outline your productivity goals. What exactly is expected of each team member, and within what timeframe? Prioritize those goals - if you were to make a productivity pyramid, which of the above productivity aspects would be at the top? 

Spelling out an employee’s KPIs in this way turns productivity from a desirable feature to a concrete objective.

Look also at what may be hindering your team’s productivity and try to account for those obstacles in your performance plan. Studies show that employee wellness directly impacts productivity, and this can be enhanced through small steps such as putting more plants in the office, encouraging exercise breaks, and even improving office air quality.

Company culture also affects productivity, so it may be time for a change in the way your team works. Giving employees space to socialize helps, as does shifting schedules to maximize the times when workers are naturally more focused. 

Once they’re in place, employee and team productivity plans should be reviewed regularly. You may want to assess short-term goals in weekly meetings and long-term objectives every quarter.

Productivity in the modern workplace

With workplaces shifting to remote working or hybrid models, productivity is becoming more of a concern for senior managers as they fear losing oversight of their teams.

Setting benchmarks and KPIs can address these concerns, but managers have to be careful not to equate productivity with presence. A worker at home is not automatically less productive than an employee in-office. 

In fact, studies show the opposite. Hybrid working - working from home at least one day a week - boosts productivity by 4.8% according to a recent survey of more than 30,000 US employees. And 90% of remote workers say they’re more productive when not tied to the office.

Monitoring productivity while managing a remote team means giving that team freedom to focus on their work. And, of course, it also means giving them the right digital tools and training to get their job done. An employee who spends an hour every morning trying to navigate the company network or constantly runs into connection issues isn’t going to produce their best work.

Building a productivity-focused tech stack can help companies manage and measure their teams’ performance, while giving individual employees the flexibility they need to feel motivated and engaged.

Employee productivity monitoring tool Prodoscore helps managers identify which employees are struggling with the transition to remote work, and which are performing to expectations. The software monitors how a company’s tech stack is being used by each employee in real-time. This allows managers to track trends and daily activity so they know exactly how their team is engaged. Contact us today to book a demonstration or find out more.

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