Managers and leaders must remember that data and metrics require workforce-specific context to be useful.

Making decisions based on numbers and stats alone means you miss the complexities and nuances of cultural and workplace trends.

Context helps you uncover the “why” behind your metrics. Without that “why,” you may not know how to resolve pain points or improve the employee experience.

Moreover, delving deeper into the “why” not only aids in resolving pain points but also strengthens the alignment of company strategies with employee needs. When you integrate the understanding of these into decision-making processes, managers and leaders can foster a more productive and engaging work environment.

Let’s look at a few stats and connect these metrics to the “why” behind them:

  • HBR: 53% of managers report feeling burned out. Why? Because they are “managing escalating demands with potentially fewer resources.”
  • Almanac: Some team members spend a lot of time on busywork: searching for files and documents (34%), responding to email and messaging (33%), and being in meetings (28%), as compared to core work (5%). Why? Because file systems could be more efficient or because some meetings are unnecessary and should be shortened or canceled. 
  • Deloitte: 46% of Gen Z and 37% of millennials work a second job, leading to higher stress and negative mental health. Why? Just to make ends meet, amidst financial and housing insecurities.
  • Gallup: Low engagement costs the global economy $7.8 trillion annually. Why? Because companies are lacking in areas related to employee well-being.

Without the “why” behind the metric, we might come to the wrong conclusions about working environments or employee needs.

Let’s continue discussing the importance of context by exploring productivity metrics in Hubstaff.

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Example: connecting Hubstaff activity metrics to context

Let’s start by diving into activity levels in Hubstaff.

Regarding industry benchmarks, Hubstaff data finds that sales and marketing teams average about 34% to 49% activity levels.

While writing this introduction and looking up research I was familiar with beforehand, my activity rate was around 61%. So even when actively engaged, expecting a 100% level would be unrealistic.

Remember, these are levels, not scores — you don’t get extra points if you’re at 61%!

Activity levels rely on tracking mouse movements and keyboard activity (note: we never log keystrokes, and you avoid programs that do unless compliance or security reasons require you to).

Activity reports are often taken as measurements of productivity. There’s been a dramatic rise in productivity tracking since the pandemic sent droves of workers to home offices.

However, these activity numbers are just data — there’s not a whole lot of context to them. Keep a few things in mind when looking at these scores:

  • Has an employee stepped away to work on a whiteboard or notebook?
  • Are high activity levels really necessary for certain kinds of work (e.g., research or reading)?
  • Is there insecurity or a culture of micromanagement among leaders, making them want to see unreasonable activity levels?

High activity levels can help managers and leaders feel more confident in their teams and aid the company. However, relying on numbers alone provides a false sense of security in truly understanding what people are working on.

Our Insights product offers those industry and vertical benchmarks to help remind your leaders that no activity levels should be at 100%. That way, your team can know it’s okay to take a short break, grab a coffee, have a casual Slack conversation with a co-worker, or just take a moment to breathe.

Putting data into practice

Now that we’ve established the need for understanding context alongside your data, let’s put this new knowledge into action.

According to Deloitte’s research, millennial managers are among the most stressed groups of workers. If you use activity and productivity scoring for their performance evaluations without nuance and context, is it possible that a review like that could cause further stress and harm engagement?

To avoid such stress, avoid micromanaging your employees or setting unrealistic expectations of them.

So then, start simple. Remind your teams about what actual productivity is all about. “Productivity theatre” isn’t the goal, but deliverables and outputs are. Let your employees know you trust them and that you understand that some work can be accomplished without a lot of keyboard or mouse activity.

By centering your coaching and feedback on your individual contributors (and not just metrics), you’ll get to learn what makes your team tick, you’ll build trust, and you’ll therefore decrease stress and increase retention.

Category: Workforce Management