Workplace messaging platform Slack says it’s developing new ways to measure remote employee productivity beyond time worked or tasks completed – tools that could help the tech giant convince managers to fire their employees back to the office.
Slack unveiled a redesign on its primary messaging platform on Wednesday, adding new features for teams across multiple work sites, cities or continents.
The update includes a new application â€œworkflowâ€, allowing users to cut and paste different digital tools together as they see fit.
Slack says this “blocking” system will allow teams to customize and automate processes, like vacation leave requests or IT tickets.
Speaking to Business Insider Australia, Ilan Frank, vice president of corporate products at Slack, said the goal is to make remote teams â€œflexible, inclusive and connectedâ€.
Such updates are likely to be welcomed by companies deeply accustomed to remote working and the Slack ecosystem.
But as pandemic restrictions loosen around the world, Slack faces a bigger challenge: convincing companies to allow employees to work from home, even when the office reopens.
A September Productivity Commission report found that up to 40% of Australian workers were working from home during the pandemic, up from 8% before COVID-19 swept the world.
Despite this, many employers remain skeptical about decentralized work. Many of these concerns relate to productivity, with managers wary of an employee’s ability to do work unsupervised in the workplace.
The existing solutions to this problem are flawed at best.
An Australia Institute report on Wednesday found that 39% of workers surveyed said their employers monitored their activity through keystroke counters or directly via their webcam – measures very unlikely to improve employee morale.
Arbitrary productivity goals can also lead remote workers to overwork and burnout, damaging the mental health and financial stability of employees and ultimately undermining the companies they work for.
Slack says it’s exploring ways to deliver productivity data beyond just ticking boxes, or typing and webcam monitoring.
â€œYou used to look at metrics, like hours worked, you know, number of tasks done,â€ Frank said.
â€œBut we’re going to be looking more at ‘impact’. And so, from Slack’s perspective, we also need to be able to help you measure the impact of the work that’s going on within Slack.
Slack’s efforts to refine intangible workplace activity into hard and fast data are still in their infancy, but Frank said the company’s potential tools would not surround workers “under -performers â€.
â€œSome of the work we do is about actual analysis and revealing more information than you see in Slack,â€ he said.
â€œNot for the purpose of looking at a specific employee and saying, ‘Is this employee working? Hopefully there is enough trust in the organization that you don’t need it. “
Instead, Slack aims to “diagnose the bigger effects of collaboration, of teams that work well with each other, of teams that are efficient at decision-making, things like that.”
Selling the promise of non-invasive productivity metrics to remote work skeptics will be vital for platforms like Slack, which flourished when offices first closed around the world.
Previously, Slack claimed that the forced remote work experience would have “failed” if employers felt pressured to return to the physical office.