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We need to talk about how the new way to work is about outcomes, not hours

One of the biggest misconceptions is that time spent at your desk is equivalent to success and that people are less effective when they’re not working in the office.

We need to talk about how the new way to work is about outcomes, not hours
[Photos: Karolina Grabowska/Pexels; Dousan_Miao/iStock]
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As the workplace revolution accelerates, we are witnessing an overhaul in what it means for companies to be flexible. The conversation is no longer solely focused on work-from-home or even hybrid work. Due to generational demand and the shift of the workplace overtime, flexibility is transforming. From unlimited vacation policies to asynchronous schedules, companies and their employees are adapting at a rapid pace. With these seismic shifts it is imperative that organizations rethink how success is evaluated and implement an employee performance model that is focused on results, not “chair time.”

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One of the biggest misconceptions is that time spent at your desk is equivalent to success and that people are less effective when they’re not working in the office. Performance and success can no longer be thought of in terms of face time or the number of hours worked. Instead, the focus should be on how an employee matches up to the clear expectations set by a manager at the onset. While the process is important, the end result is truly what drives an organization.

Building a successful culture in today’s new workplace environment requires trust, flexibility, and a philosophy of work based on results and not on chair time. Here are four key tips for creating a workplace that flourishes.

Set specific metrics

To accurately and efficiently measure results, managers must set specific and clearly defined metrics for their teams. Hard deadlines, set numbers, and solid output goals are major elements that make a results-focused model work. When specific metrics are set for individual employees it provides them with the structure needed to meet their goals allowing the results to speak for themselves as a point for evaluation.

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Something to be cognizant of when setting metrics is to not overload people. We can’t boil the ocean, and it’s important that metrics are both scalable and digestible—avoid giving an unmeetable amount of metrics. Teams can be set up for success by implementing well-defined objectives and key results (OKR) processes. A top-notch OKR process clearly outlines company-wide, departmental, and direct team goals along with how each person is contributing to these goals accompanied by a progress tracker. This form of goal setting holds teams accountable and drives the work forward more than any predetermined amount of chair time.

Encourage open and empathetic communication

In a remote or hybrid work setting, there is a need for empathetic and open communication from leadership and team members. This is especially important right now during pandemic times, with the lines between personal and professional life totally blurred. Remember people are humans first and employees second. Lead with empathy and try to really understand who your people are and what they need—step into your colleague’s shoes and understand that life comes up. Having empathy in communication allows for employees to be heard, feel appreciated, and overall, be more productive.

Avoid continuous check-ins

It is crucial that all leaders instill good management practices to ensure their teams are on the right track and don’t feel they need to prove their worth with “chair time” and the number of hours they are “online.” Although very few leaders would own up to micromanaging, employees often feel otherwise. Working in a results-focused model takes away some touchpoints that managers might be used to for monitoring the process. While checking in over the course of the project is important, managers should avoid being overbearing if they want to truly reap the benefits of this flexible work style.

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Provide actionable feedback

In a results-focused workplace, it is imperative for managers to provide feedback on the results produced. Since the attention is shifted away from the overall process, evaluation needs to be based on employee output. Having regular 1:1s is key to ensuring that employees have an opportunity to give and get feedback. Creating a designated space for open two-way communication can help to build trust and support greater innovation. We have seen success through our OKR model paired with regular “start, stop, and continue” performance reviews each quarter. The feedback itself needs to be actionable and based on performance metrics that were set forth at the onset.

By evaluating employees based on results produced over hours spent, companies can create a highly driven workplace with increased employee output, improved team rapport, and a flexible company culture. Additionally, a principle benefit of the results-focused workplace is the culture that it creates, allowing work to naturally be part of life, not a separate thing.

Many companies today have what appears to be a good company culture when written out on paper or on their careers page, and we know that company culture is much deeper than tangible benefits like time off or happy hours—it is about care and prioritizing how employees feel about work and their well-being. When a company focuses on results over time spent, employees feel that flexibility and are allowed to have work-life balance, which ultimately drives the best results for their team, and subsequently the company.

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We believe work is something you do, not a place you go, and we are seeing other companies adopt that mindset and the positive side effects. The workplace is changing, a physical office is no longer an essential need to do business, and the 9-to-5 grind is dated and dying. The traditional way of measuring success in hours isn’t sustainable in the new work world—will you embrace it?


Carolyn Moore is the SVP of People at Auth0.