Redefining Productivity and Professionalism In Our Work-from-Home Worlds
By Julie Zadow, CMO in Residence, Demand Spring
The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted professional life all over the world. Zeroing in on the global marketing community, Demand Spring recently conducted a comprehensive survey, asking marketers about how they’re really doing with adjusting to the new world order.
The good news is that marketers are mostly adjusting well, and the survey results reveal marketers for what they indeed often strive to be: an optimistic yet realistic and resilient bunch.
Let’s take a look at one of the most reassuring survey results. When asked if working from home has changed their productivity levels, only 15 percent of marketers indicated that they felt less productive working from home. So, after years of being told that it’s “essential” to be in the office for collaboration and productivity reasons, the data is now revealing that being in the office actually wasn’t so essential after all.
This is not to say that there aren’t things about in-office culture we don’t miss. There are. I used to joke that the secret benefit of in-office work was that on some level — toxic cultures aside — workplaces are these environments where we get paid to show up, create great work and build friendly relationships along the way. I used to run a large marketing team and we convened every Monday morning. Before we got down to business, we would always chat and share funny stories about our weekends, our families or our adventures before diving into the agenda. These days I spend my work days surrounded by family, and while I’m extremely grateful for the fact that we enjoy our time together, no one in this house gets paid to chit chat Monday morning pleasantries to me. Maybe this is just a point of remorse for extroverted people, but I do miss the little things like that.
And working from home certainly has its distractions…like dogs, cats, kids, and family all under one roof with you while you’re trying to focus. It’s like EVERY day is “take your kid to work day”. Yet I can’t help but wonder: is it really any more distracting than the “collaborative, open floor plan” office designs that have become so popular in this past decade of in-office work?
I do think it’s fair to say that team cohesion and free flow brainstorming are definitely harder in this remote work world — we have to be honest about that. But if we’re looking for a “net value score” here on productivity and purpose, maybe those tradeoffs can’t compete with what we’ve otherwise gained: We can spend our commuting time taking a walk before work. We can schedule a lunch break with our family. We can wear whatever we want from the waist down — even shoes have become totally optional. Eating healthier is really just a matter of stocking our own fridge for it. We are not at the mercy of the corporate cafeteria. We are saving money on gas. We are reducing pollution. We can achieve productivity at work and ALSO achieve more presence at home — something many marketing execs have told me they desperately needed. And when we take better care of ourselves, we can show up as better versions of ourselves at work, too. And when we show up as the best versions of ourselves at work, guess what? We are more productive.
Maybe our survey results portend an entirely new definition of productivity on the horizon for recovering office workers everywhere. It’s certainly worth asking ourselves if “productive” is even the right yardstick moving forward. Maybe it’s time to replace the notion of “productive” with “effective” when it comes to evaluating our professional selves in 2020 and beyond. Specifically, what does it really take to be effective working from home in this new world order, and what could this change of perspective mean for us as marketers, leaders of teams, personifiers of brands, and champions of the voice of the customer.