If the pandemic has taught us anything about work, we don’t need to spend long hours in the office to be productive. So why is attendance still so important?
It’s almost hard to imagine a time people spend at least 40 hours a week in an actual office (and often more to impress a boss).
But for the pre-pandemic workforce, this kind of “presence” — sitting at your desk, showing dedication no matter how unproductive you were — was just another fact of office life.
Before the pandemic, UK survey data showed that 80% of workers said attendance is present At their workplace, a quarter of those surveyed said the situation had worsened since the previous year.
But now, remote work has given bosses and workers a chance to re-evaluate this current, well-established trend.
We’ve known for a long time that the current presence is a problem – it can cost the country’s economy tens of billions of dollars when patients crawl into the office and infect others.
Creates toxic environments that lead to fatigueBecause people who work long hours put pressure on others to do the same.
We know that what matters is productivity, not being chained to your desk or computer, a conversation we’ve had for years.
But despite this golden opportunity to ditch the practice amidst a new world of work, the focus on attendance is still alive and well.
right Now, The current presence has simply turned into a digital world– People are working longer than ever, replying to emails and messages at all hours of the day to show how “engaged” they are.
As bosses call for workers to return to the office, evidence is mounting that we may not have acted on attendance at all.
But, Why, despite what we know, is there still so much focus on attendance?
It is not simply that employers are eager to control workers in the performance of their duties.
Rather, it is the unconscious biases that keep the practice intact, and unless we do a better job of acknowledging its harms and creating workplaces that discourage it, we are likely to be slaves to appearances forever.
Why do presidents reward attendance?
Adhering to a culture of attendance only serves those who “have time to come early and be late,” says Brandi Avene, associate professor of organizational theory, strategy and entrepreneurship at Carnegie Mellon University’s Tepper School of Business.
Avene also notes that this can unfairly favor some workers over others; Parents may have no choice but to leave early, for example.
However, despite the current poor attendance, there are some indications of that People who do not attend may be punished.
For example, it’s hard to believe now, teleworking has generally been stigmatized as irresponsible and has hurt some workers in the past.
A 2019 investigation, for example, found that remote workers at companies where remote work was unusual had slower wage growth.
These factors can worry workers, many of whom fear that a lack of physical presence in the office may hinder their success.
And the normalization of remote work amid the pandemic has not necessarily changed this.
In 2020, researchers from human resource software company ADP found that 54% of British workers Felt like you had to physically go to the office At some point during the pandemic, especially those who are in their early and middle career, despite the increase in flexible working.
Lee Thompson, professor of management and organizations at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Business, says there are two main psychological phenomena that fuel attendance.
The first is “Just the effect of exposure”, which states that the more a person is exposed to someone or something, the more he begins to develop an affinity for that person or thing.
“If I saw a person 10 times every time I saw another person, then naturally I loved them more,” Thompson explains.
If a particular worker makes themselves more visible, they can naturally accept others just by being there, even if others don’t know well or can’t define what they like about that person being there.
“You might think, ‘I like his smile, I like his style, he can be a good leader,'” Thompson says, ‘and suddenly that person could get a raise or a promotion.
This bias exists along with another psychological concept called “halo effect”Connecting positive impressions of a person to their true personality.
“You start thinking that the person who brings you coffee or asks you about the weekend sounds like a ‘nice boy,’ and then you take the mental step of assuming they’re a productive worker as well,” says Thompson.
“Because you’re cute, I immediately jump to the conclusion that ‘this guy must be a hard worker too,’ even though you gave me no evidence that you are.”
This can lead to promotions or other benefits for workers who attend in person.
Ironically, despite the potential rewards of showing your face in the office, workers aren’t necessarily more productive when they spend that time face-to-face or work overtime.
However, Workers feel the need to show upWhether on a personal level or now digitally, managers don’t necessarily know that their workers aren’t getting anything extra done.
Indeed, during the pandemic, the number of working hours worldwide has increased, not decreased.
2020 average daily working hours It increased by more than half an hour on average. The idea is that if anyone else is online, so should I.
Too many bosses alone Note For the most visible people, so they assume these are the most productive employees.
This is a relatively new problem. When the economy was more focused on manufacturing, it was easier to measure tangible results: this is built, and this is not.
But “as we move to the knowledge economy, It is very difficult to actually measure productionsays Scott Sonninchin, professor of organizational behavior at the Jones Graduate School of Business at Rice University in Houston, Texas.
So rather than something that can be measured, managers tend to think that workers are producing while they are in their offices.
Workers know that managers clearly value it, so they fall into the presence trap, especially when they see their peers do the same.
This is especially true in times of economic instability, such as the one we are seeing now due to COVID-19, when workers fear for the continuity of their jobs.
They work because of They want to show that they can resist stress and excelIn addition to being reliable.
However, this is ultimately counterproductive The quality of production of workers is affected As a result of this need to show itself.
In the UK, for example, 35 working days per worker are lost per year due to attendance, and some research also shows that productivity drops after working more than 50 hours per week.
How to end presence
Now, in an era when business practices have undergone seismic shifts and led to unprecedented scrutiny, there is an urgent need to reduce the focus on the present, both physically and digitally.
But solving huge existential problems, like Burnt (Burnout) and present, requires a major top-down review of what is valued in the workplace and why.
The best place to start, Sonenshein says, is that workers, especially leaders, A healthier behavior model.
Once the work is done, go away. Disconnect. Workers who are left alone can pressure other workers to do the same, creating a vicious and toxic cycle.
Easier said than done, of course. This is why the motivation is also for managers to become more aware of why the present occurs, to learn about their own biases and about phenomena such as mere exposure and aura effects.
Experts also advocate better, clearer metrics that teams can use to measure productivity beyond “who lasts out of the office” or “who responds to emails at dawn.”
A good place to start, says Thompson, is to just look at raw performance: “I think managers and supervisors need to ask themselves, ‘This is what my team will be working on next month or next quarter.'” What are my basic expectations and who exceeds them? “
However, the sad truth is that the foundations of the present are still there in this new world of work.
“It’s not sustainable. People will eventually burn out; this has been a huge struggle for people over the past 15 months,” Sunshin says.
“It’s like an arms race to see Which seems to work the most“.
The fact that the behavior has been carried over from physical desktops to digital devices shows how rooted This is in our practical life.
“You expect that during a pandemic, there will be change.” But without taking a close look at our inherent biases, transformation can be difficult.
“Unfortunately, I’m not sure things will really change,” Sonenshein says.
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