The Illusion of Output

We are in the midst of the one of the most fascinating shifts in modern labor. Businesses are desperately trying to get teams back to the office, while many people are considering whether they even want to work at all.

The culprit is not remote work, millennials, or corporate real estate. Those are a red herring. The central issue is productivity.

If I hired a brilliant engineer that could code more in 25 hours than a mediocre one could in 40 hours, would I care if she worked 25 hours a week? Not really.

If I hired an amazing admin who could balance a calendar and optimize my world, would I care if he could do it in 30 hours a week instead of 50? Nope.

The gap that exists is what I call the illusion of output. The gap between what a company assumes is done each week and what is actually accomplished each week.

Organizations by their nature are terrible at translating goals and initiatives from the top all the way down through the entire organization. And now some of the smartest people in the world, have had 2 years to think about this gap. Even if they don’t have a name for it.

People are quitting their job in record numbers, working multiple jobs, getting raises, and exploiting this gap to their advantage.

The 40-hour workweek has stood in as a poor replacement for well-written strategy and great middle management. That illusion is now gone. And while it’s easy for companies to blame remote work, the location where employees work is irrelevant.

Work from home? Try work from anywhere. That is where we are headed. And it only needs one thing to thrive. Clear goals.

Corporate America doesn’t realize it yet, but they are geared for remote work. The typical earnings call has a “give me the highlights and don’t waste my time” feel to it. No filler, no illusion of output, just results.

Is it really that hard to imagine a future in which companies only care about results, instead of where and when you work?