KTLA

People return to offices, productivity plunges

One of the most interesting things about the pandemic, at least from an employment perspective, is that productivity didn’t suffer as a result of remote work.

In many cases, employees became even more productive while working from home, either because they were happier or because they were making an extra effort to impress far-away bosses.

Now comes word from the Bureau of Labor Statistics that productivity plunged during the first half of 2022, down by the sharpest rate since the 1940s.

Economists are trying to come up with explanations for the decline, and to understand what this means for post-pandemic changes to the workplace, including hybrid schedules that allow more time out of the office.

My hunch is that many workers are letting their employers know that things are different now.

First, there’s the trend of “quiet quitting,” by which some employees throttle back on their work tempo to express a recalibration of their work-life balance. That is, they’re reprioritizing the importance of work in their lives.

More important, I suspect, productivity is falling because many people simply came away from the pandemic feeling that their employer wasn’t there for them in a meaningful fashion as Mr. Corona pushed us all around.

And now that many businesses are once again requiring a physical presence in the office, some employees are consciously or subconsciously expressing their dissatisfaction by taking their foot off the gas pedal, as it were.

People who previously went above and beyond at work are now giving little more than the expected output.

People who previously gave only the expected output are now just going through the motions.

Managers will say this is a problem with their workforce. I see it more as a management issue.

If managers can’t motivate their staffs with positive, satisfying workplaces, they’ll see productivity fall by the wayside.

Some managers are even responding to the changes by imposing productivity-tracking software on employees — programs that monitor how long you’re at your desk and how busy you are at the keyboard.

I may not know how precisely to create a positive, satisfying workplace. But I know that spying on employees isn’t a great start.

So, yeah, productivity is down as wary workers are returning to offices.

It’s not rocket science.