At ActivTrak, we talk a lot about the importance of taking a holistic, person-driven approach to productivity management. After all, we believe productivity is at its best when it’s coupled with a healthy culture, engaged employees, and sustainable wellness levels. Unfortunately, traditional approaches to product management tend to take a different approach, with managers and team leaders placing so much emphasis on the numbers — how many hours were logged today, how many deadlines were met, etc. — that they do a disservice to the people producing those numbers.
Of course, taking a people-centric approach to productivity management doesn’t mean you should omit productivity metrics altogether. The best approach — one that focuses on supporting individual employees and helping them succeed — uses good data and relevant performance metrics to improve the team’s productivity
In this piece, you’ll learn why we believe productivity metrics play an important role when it comes to measuring productivity and when it comes to supporting each employee. We’ll talk about the three most important productivity metrics and show you how each one can help you boost employee productivity, giving you the insights you need to support your teams as they work to achieve your business goals.
Where do you want to start?
- The Importance of Productivity Metrics
- The 3 Key Productivity Metrics You Should Be Measuring
- Moving Beyond Productivity Metrics to Boost Productivity and Performance
The Importance of Productivity Metrics
Productivity metrics are data points that indicate whether or not you’re meeting your enterprise’s productivity baseline while also helping you understand how employees are performing. Without productivity metrics and key performance indicators (KPIs) helping you generate data-driven insights into employee productivity, your efforts to boost productivity levels would be based on guesswork or observations. Even if you make an effort to get insights into team members’ experiences through team syncs, status updates, or performance reviews, you are still unlikely to get the real-time, authentic insight you need. That’s why we believe the only effective way to spark lasting change is to collect and analyze important metrics that you can combine with a people-centric approach to productivity.
The 3 Key Productivity Metrics You Should Be Measuring
Every business across every industry, from the smallest startups to the biggest enterprises, has specific needs that dictate which metrics are most relevant to their team’s productivity. While it’s always important to focus on the KPIs for your business, we believe that every enterprise, no matter its number of employees or industry, should collect productivity metrics in these three core buckets:
This is a big bucket that covers a huge number of important factors, so to make things easier we’ve narrowed down the most important productivity metrics to these top four:
- Productive Hrs/Day: This metric measures the average amount of time a user spends on applications classified as “productive,” including both active and passive time. It’s calculated by dividing (productive time) / (# of users).
- Productivity Efficiency %: This metric reflects the percentage of productive time in relationship to total time. It’s calculated by dividing (productive hrs per day) / (total time hrs per day).
- Productive Session (minutes): This is the average time users spend working without unproductive interruption, calculated by counting the number of non-business activities per total hours
These key metrics can help you answer a number of important questions not only about the amount of time your team members spend working, but also about the way they spend their workday. The metrics are perhaps most valuable when viewed over time. That view gives you a sense of the normal benchmarks for each metric, making it easier to identify patterns and investigate when deviations occur.
There are a lot of reasons why these deviations may occur. Perhaps forthcoming deadlines are leading to a surge of productive hours or perhaps you’re seeing a higher level of engagement thanks to strategy alignment efforts. Or, internal confusion might lead to additional time spent on certain activities or disengagement due to role alignment complications. Using these productivity metrics to drive meaningful conversations with team members about what causes changes in behavior will give you a good foundation from which to problem solve and better identify what’s working and what isn’t.
At ActivTrak, we define focus as the working time in which an employee is engaged and working on a single task for an extended period of time, without disruption or multitasking. Now that multitasking is the norm and almost every work app has push notifications, staying focused is harder than ever. Context switching — which is defined as jumping between tools, tasks, or projects — makes finding even 20 minutes of uninterrupted focus a challenge, something that is particularly detrimental to workplace productivity.
Within the general focus bucket, there are three essential metrics that can help you better understand individual performance. These are:
- Focused Hrs/Day: This is the average time team members spend working without interruptions. It’s calculated as (productive time) – (attention time).
- Focused Session (minutes): This is a further refinement of the above. It represents the average amount of time employees spend working without distractions. It’s calculated with this formula: (attention shifts) / (productive time).
- Focus Efficiency %: This represents the percentage of focused time in relationship to total time. It’s calculated as (focused hrs/day) / (total time hrs/day).
At a time when an employee’s daily workflow will inevitably be interrupted by any of the million distractions and disruptions that define modern working life, it’s more important than ever to understand the actual makeup of their productive time. Productivity metrics that look at focus can answer questions about how much is actually getting done during that productive time and whether an abundance of distractions may be interfering with your team’s ability to complete work effectively and efficiently. As with the general productivity metrics, you can use this information to guide discussions with team members and to troubleshoot ways to reduce disruptions and context switching.
This last bucket of metrics has always been important, but it has become particularly critical in the era of remote work. The lines between work and home have blurred and it’s become harder for employees to unplug, leading to more overwork and overtime hours (paid or not). That’s leading to a massive increase in burnout, which wreaks havoc on employee well-being, retention, engagement, and productivity.
Recent reports on surveys conducted by Indeed and Deloitte show that it’s time for burnout to be a top priority for managers. Not only did 52% of respondents report experiencing burnout in 2021, nearly 70% felt that their employers weren’t doing enough to alleviate or prevent burnout. Even worse, 91% said that unmanageable frustration or stress impacts the quality of their work.
Luckily, keeping track of workload balance metrics and trends over time can help you identify employees who are at risk of burnout so you can intervene before it’s too late. The most important productivity metric to keep an eye on in the workload balance category is the utilization level. Utilization level showcases the number of Healthy, Underutilized, or Overutilized employees you have on your team to help you assess which employees are at risk of burnout. This metric can also help you distribute work evenly across teams to ensure everyone is getting a balanced workload.
Generally speaking, the default threshold for over/underutilization is defined as productive hours per day plus or minus 30%. To determine a specific employee’s utilization, use the following formulas:
- Healthy = A healthy workload occurs when an employee is within +/- the default % Threshold of their productive hrs/day goal. Calculated as: (Productive Time) >= (Underutilized Threshold) AND (Productive Time) <= (Overutilized Threshold)
- Overutilized = Overutilization occurs when an employee is more than the default % Threshold over their productive hours/day goal. In this case, (Productive Time) > (Overutilized Threshold)
- Underutilized = Underutilization occurs when an employee is less than the default % Threshold under their productive hours/day goal. In situations of underutilization, (Productive Time) < (Underutilized Threshold)
Although there are a lot of factors that contribute to employee burnout, tracking employee utilization gives managers key insight into employee fatigue and strain that can be used to drive positive interventions. These metrics also help managers ensure that employees are maintaining a healthy workload and that they aren’t forced to work overtime hours to meet unreasonable benchmarks. Maintaining the well-being of employees by monitoring their workload balance will pay dividends when it comes to boosting productivity.
Moving Beyond Productivity Metrics to Boost Productivity and Performance
When it comes to processing and analyzing quality metrics — particularly those tied to productivity — it’s important to remember two essential points:
First, remember that all productive time is valuable time and sometimes, often even, an employee can be productive without having tangible outputs to showcase at the end of the day. Activities like collaborating, brainstorming, researching, and problem-solving are all just as productive and valuable ways to spend your workday as writing a report or working on a sale.
Second, if you’re only considering productivity metrics (and nothing else!) you’re only getting half the story. Remember: productivity metrics provide the data, but not the context. For example, imagine your workplace productivity technology shows that an employee spent a lot of time on a messaging app on a given day last week. You could look at that data and assume that your teammate was just chatting and increasing their unproductive time, but then you might inquire further and find that they were actually troubleshooting a last-minute issue and all of that time was productive time. Always dig deeper. It does a disservice to your team members (and yourself) if you don’t!
Finally, remember that productivity is always at its best when it’s coupled with engaged employees, a healthy culture, and sustainable wellness levels. At ActivTrak, we emphasize these three buckets of metrics because they deliver insight on more than just productivity. They also tell you about other characteristics that play a crucial role in creating a successful and healthy working environment.
- Remember the holy trinity of productivity metrics — productivity, focus, and workload balance.
- Use productivity metrics to support a people-centric approach that places people above the bottom line.
- Always put productivity metrics in their proper context and never make assumptions about the data.