A Letter from the Productivity Lab
What a year it has been—with the ever-changing narrative of a pandemic as the backdrop to political distress, labor uncertainty, and economic volatility. We have lived through it together, and while the headlines may apply to all, the impact of each has disrupted and challenged our lives in unique and specific ways.
Here at ActivTrak, we faced the same challenges and questions as our customers, vendors, competitors, and investors. That is, how should we operate our business in the new world of work? How can we shift the way we operate away from the reactive tactics of the early days of remote work towards a workplace that is sustainably productive? Most importantly, how can we define a new approach that elevates trust, empowers employees, and preserves everyone’s well-being as we become a preeminent leader and voice in the world of work?
One thing is certain: Making claims about how well we maintained productivity at home in 2020 while ignoring employees’ cries for help regarding burnout, social isolation, and feelings of disconnectedness would only further prevent us and others from identifying real solutions for healthy productivity and habits in the new workplace.
We started 2021 with a mission in mind—to step forward into the unknown and be bold in our experimentation with flexible work so we could share lessons learned with others who look to us for guidance. In keeping with our company’s values, we leveraged data-driven insights for context to help us continuously adapt and modify our approach to work. We were determined not to rely on speculation, anecdotes, or biases to drive our decisions, but instead, to base our decisions on facts from our data and feedback from our employees.
We took deliberate action-oriented steps to improve our remote-first workplace, which included:
- Focus Fridays to give employees critical distraction-free time for heads-down independent work.
- Quarterly stipends for employees to improve their home workspaces—in addition to the separate wellness stipends that encourage them to get outside, stay active and engage with others.
- Doubled-down on our offerings of virtual yoga-sessions, happy hours and one-on-one meet & greets across teams to drive identity and relationships beyond the chatter of product roadmaps and progress toward sales goals.
- (As Covid-19 trends declined and vaccination statuses increased) Leveraged in-person meetings not for problem-solving (a skill we refined virtually over the last 24 months), but for team-building and cultural enrichment.
- Promoted self-advocacy and empowerment by providing employees with their own Personal Insights into the potential risks of burnout, engagement, focus levels, etc. that they could share with their managers as a basis for increased support.
Using our own internal ActivTrak data, we evaluated the success of our initiatives and learned our tactics didn’t all work.
Halfway through the year, we shifted away from company-wide Focus Fridays towards team-driven 4-hour time blocks that made the most sense for employees. We encouraged them to be more outspoken using Slack “away” status messages and calendar holds for “Focus Time,” while reinforcing the social norm to acknowledge and respect such blocks. As a result, we saw our Focus Session time increase 21% — from 11.2 minutes to 14.1 minutes from the beginning to the end of the year. Over the same period, we saw context-switching and distractions decrease 27% from an average of 56 to 40 minutes per employee per day. And later in the year, we adopted a two-pronged approach of combining our remote-work pulse survey data with our ActivTrak workplace analytics insights to better understand how employees’ needs and sentiments impacted their daily behavior, well-being, and productivity.
We kept three key areas top of mind as we planned for the coming year: Work Habits & Schedule Flexibility, Workload Balance & Utilization, and Workplace Focus & Distractions. We designed our research in this report around those very topics—providing you with insights across 9,000-plus customers and leveraging 2.7B data points to better understand the workplace today and inform our efforts to support it in the future.
Looking ahead, we’re excited for even more change—recognizing that adaptation and flexibility are not something to fear in the new world of work, but instead, something to embrace. I hope you enjoy this research conducted in collaboration with ActivTrak’s Productivity Lab, Cornell University’s Kimberly Gordon, and of course, the willing participation of the most fearless business leaders among us, our customers.
Head of ActivTrak Productivity Lab
ActivTrak helps companies unlock productivity potential. Our award-winning workforce analytics and productivity management software provides expert insights that empower people, optimize processes, and maximize technology. Additionally, with data sourced from more than 9,000 customers and over 500,000 users, ActivTrak’s Workforce Productivity Lab is a global center for ground-breaking research and expertise that helps companies embrace and embody the future of work.