You would think that cutting commute time and working from home would make you feel more energized throughout the day, but that couldn't be further from the truth. Remote workers are becoming more and more mentally drained from Zoom fatigue and collaboration fatigue because virtual interactions are extremely hard on the brain.

Experts who spoke during an MIT Management Review Webinar said the solution lies within "sustainable productivity," which simply means honing in on employee engagement and well-being.

With that being said, organizations have been adopting three specific steps toward sustainable productivity in the workplace.

First, define the well-being problem

Organizations all define well-being differently, and the factors impacting well-being will also differ. You have to distinguish between two types of workers: The burned-out category is a group of individuals who have been working too many hours, and the fed up category, are those who have dealt with structural issues that make their jobs challenging.

"When we see turnover, how much of that is burned out, and how much of that is fed up?" asks Melissa Swift, U.S. transformation leader at asset management company Mercer.

Next, implement a new model of productivity measurement
Employees can misinterpret activity monitoring as a form of performance measurement or behavior policing. To avoid this, you could incorporate a new model of productivity measurement with three focal points:

  • Trust is a two-way street where leaders can trust their employees to fulfill their jobs, and employers are able to provide the support and space employees need to complete their work.
  • Empowerment enables managers and employees to manage their time to the utmost highest in order to achieve the right business outcomes as well as raise their hands when they need help.
  • Accountability ensures employees assume responsibility for completing their work, while managers focus on their teams' growth and development while simultaneously addressing needs as they come up.

"The best way to use data effectively is to do it in a way that supports your employees. This means when you collect insights, you're being transparent with them, and you're responsible for taking action to improve the workplace," says Gabriela Mauch, vice president of the ActivTrak productivity lab.

Use insight to influence new behaviors
The majority of organizations avoid asking questions about employee well-being and burnout because they don't want the answer. Exploring foundational changes in how work is done can often even feel disruptive. However, three actions can minimize the potential for disruption. 

  1. Communicate why activity data is being collected to your employees. This will put your employees in a position to make decisions in their own self-interest.
  2. Put data into the hands of employees. This will enable them to propose their own solutions instead of having solutions dictated to them by management. 
  3. Ensure that all discussions about employee activity and business outcomes happen at the same time. 

Essentially, as an employer, you have to ask yourself, "How do I tie the activity to the positive outcomes that I want to see for my business?" And ultimately, that's how you make a case for sustainable productivity.

If you constantly overlook the inputs and you only look at the outputs, you put not only sustainability at risk, but also the value.