Has Going Virtual Made Us More Efficient?

So, we’ve been through a pandemic, unprecedented in our lifetimes. We switched to virtual work and many, but not all, businesses are finding their way back to water coolers and foosball tables. 

Which environment is more efficient, from a productivity perspective?

To help answer this question, here are some interesting work/life efficiency trends stemming from the pandemic:

  • A survey from e-conolight found that almost half of respondents have worked for another company while on the clock with their employer during the pandemic.
  • The Wall Street Journal noted that “white-collar workers, in industries from tech to banking to insurance, say they have found a way to double their pay” by working “two full-time remote jobs.”

Tech workers are potentially working two jobs without their employers’ knowledge since they no longer need to be in the office to work. What does that say about our productivity mindset? 

They are taking these opportunities to maximize their wealth because their skills are in demand and because they know how to work hard and fast, and be more efficient with their time. So how should companies manage their teams and report on productivity in a virtual environment? Should it even matter if employees are working another job or engaging in a hobby if they are still providing value to the organization? 

While this discussion may veer into new territory surrounding the notion of how we work and manage workers in a post-COVID environment (personally, I lean to the side of work/life balance), the main takeaway for me is this:

We need to shift the success mindset from tickets resolved to the value of the workforce resolving them, as the 40-hour work week fades into a lost paradigm of the pre-COVID era.

What if you assigned a developer a task, which they complete very quickly, and they then show you the value of the work they did for the company? A purely economic-based point of view on the part of business stakeholders might dictate this individual be given more work because they have extra time in their day due to how quickly they work. (This is a POV that is solely based on productivity gains, but I would argue against this mindset in the name of employee morale and work/life balance.)

Whichever approach you espouse is essentially beside the point, as none of the current tools measure this value, nor is the developer conditioned to find it. But there are ways to measure the value when you tune code and attribute the result to a particular employee. Managers want this information. That’s why it’s so important to measure after the change goes into effect and attribute that change not only to the KPI, but also to the individual.

Some tasks may require specialists, but in principle, a developer should be empowered to think that if I can make something better, I will do better.

Currently, they’re always working on the newer, bigger, better because they don’t realize the value otherwise, and it’s not up to them to do so at their level. They’re paid to get the task out – build this app, fix this process—as meeting their business goals is based on functional requirements. No one is evaluating them against making something faster or more efficient. 

We need to focus both on functional and efficiency requirements as acceptance criteria for code going into production. Implementing measurements before and after the “surgery” with each “operation” will go a long way to delivering business value. 

As we shift to the new world of work, one thing that’s going to be fundamental in the technology industry is value—both in terms of employee value based on their skills, but also the value they bring to the table in terms of reducing costs and improving efficiencies. If a virtual environment empowers them to create more, whether for the company or for themselves, this should be encouraged as people are not robots. 

They need nurturing and they need rewards, whether monetary or in terms of recognition, to bring forth this new vision for efficiency.