Your Productivity Metrics Are Outdated: How to Assess Employee Output in 2021 and Beyond

Continued Coronavirus uncertainty and employee preferences are delaying in-person returns to the office, making long-term workplace disruption an inevitable part of today’s business environment. 

According to Gartner, 82 percent of company leaders plan to allow people to work remotely at least part of the time moving forward. At the same time, burgeoning business opportunities make it critical that employees remain productive and efficient whether they are working from a corporate headquarters or their living room couch. 

Unfortunately, many pre-pandemic productivity models are no longer an effective formula for assessing productivity. Traditional productivity measurements use a simple input/output equation to calculate productivity related to labor costs, hourly gains, or employee output. Not only do these metrics paint an incomplete picture of employees’ work, but they incentivize productivity-adjacent activity, like app engagement or message frequency, without capturing real-world value or output.

To fully measure and understand employee productivity in the modern workplace, we need a better way to evaluate our teams. Here are three ways leaders can obtain better insights into their employee productivity today. 

#1 Differentiate Valuable Work From Busy Work

Valuable work furthers company objectives and makes progress on organizational goals. As the name suggests, it’s the gold standard of productivity. It’s also incredibly infrequent. It’s estimated that employees spend less than 25 percent of their time on valuable work, while 67 percent of their day is occupied with busywork. 

This is especially true in today’s hyper-connected, highly collaborative workplaces that require almost constant communication to remain operational. Employees often spend two-thirds of their workdays maintaining these collaborative relationships through email, group chats, and other connective technologies. 

This work-related activity may be necessary, but it also doesn’t reflect high-value work. Therefore, leaders should assess employee output and the results of these efforts when measuring productivity. Making progress toward company objectives and organizational goals is the practical expression of employee productivity, and it should be evaluated accordingly. 

#2 Embrace Data-driven Improvement Plans 

When many businesses pivoted their workplace arrangements in response to pandemic restrictions, employee monitoring software became ubiquitous. One survey found that 78 percent of employers offering remote or hybrid work arrangements implemented monitoring software to evaluate their teams during that highly consequential transitional time. 

These tools are an incredible asset for collecting productivity metrics, providing business leaders with the hard data needed to make informed decisions about productivity optimization. For example, leaders can analyze the time spent on individual tasks to improve completion rate, while task gamification can positively impact employees’ overall performance. 

In addition, leaders can consider idle time and loss of focus when determining an employee or team’s overall productivity. Most importantly, if productivity metrics show that not enough time is being dedicated to valuable work, workflow overhauls can reinvigorate stagnant teams, creating dynamic, data-driven companies marked by continual improvement. 

#3 Evaluate and Honor Employee Efficiency & Work Quality

Many people want to produce high-quality work with an efficient process. However, poor work quality can have many causes, including too many tasks or poor strategy, and efficiency is often a lagging integrator of effectiveness. 

Employers can improve efficiency by evaluating task completion, time worked, and quality of work to determine organizational best practices moving forward. This analysis will help leaders better understand the cause of poor work quality or completion while identifying top-performing employees’ workflows that can be implemented across the organization. 

Of course, always improving operational efficiencies doesn’t necessarily produce happy, healthy, or sustainable teams. Consider embracing an outcomes-based approach to employee productivity that maximizes flexibility by empowering employees to make workflow, workplace, and work time decisions when they demonstrate excellence in their work. With so many employees feeling overworked, overwhelmed, and on the verge of burnout, rewarding efficiency with flexibility is a natural way to improve holistic company outcomes. 


Productivity is top of mind for many business leaders. One survey of business owners found that nearly half of employers believe that employee productivity has decreased while working remotely. With so much on the line, companies can’t afford to be wrong about their assessments, making it critical that they effectively assess employee output in 2021 and beyond. 

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Isaac Kohen