Project Management

We Debunked These 5 Myths About Workplace Effectiveness

Published by and in Project Management

We’ll take you through some common myths about workplace effectiveness and share tips to make your employees more productive.

Let’s face it, the internet is great for hilarious memes, but it’s not always the best for universal agreement and concise, truthful information.

Despite the consensus on funny memes, the internet lacks consensus around productivity tools and how to make your teams more successful. Conflicting ideas, strategies, and recommendations abound.

As a small-business leader and project manager, you need reliable information on what works and what doesn’t when it comes to workplace effectiveness—whether your company works fully remote, in-person, or a hybrid of both.

Let’s look at some common workplace effectiveness myths and how they’ve been debunked. We’ll also talk about the best approach for cutting through the noise and building an effective workplace.

Myth #1: Open offices are more effective offices

the myth:

If you set up a bunch of laptops on long tables, you’ll save money on office space and your employees will be buzzing like worker bees, collaborating on the next billion-dollar unicorn.

the reality:

The most productive workplaces balance open areas for collaboration work with private spaces for concentration work. On top of that, the effects of COVID-19 have shown open offices aren’t practical when it comes to protecting the health of your employees.

According to a 2019 Harvard Business Review study, when companies switched to open offices, face-to-face meetings actually dropped by 70%. Instead of increasing effective communication and collaboration, open office floor plans encouraged employees to switch to electronic communication.

Our recommended approach: There’s a happy middle ground between tech wizards writing code in a Silicon Valley utopia vs. worker drones toiling in Dilbert-esque cubicles.

People like having private space when they’re doing work that requires focus and concentration, and people also like open meeting space when they’re doing work that requires communication and collaboration.

In short: You need both.

Even post-COVID, tables and rows of desks are fine, as long as they’re spread out. Barriers and quiet spaces for employees to go when they need to do head-down work can also help with productivity and keeping employees safe. If your office space is too small to allow for sufficient, dedicated quiet rooms, a good workaround is to allow remote work.

Myth #2: Remote workers are less engaged

the myth:

Your remote workers are sitting at home all day in their bathrobes, binge-watching Netflix instead of getting their work done.

the reality:

A July 2020 Capterra survey of individual contributors found that 84% of employees are moderately or completely satisfied with remote work. Employees also report that remote work allows them to be more productive and achieve a healthier work-life balance.

Our recommended approach: The most important thing to remember when it comes to remote work is that it’s not about having employees account for every minute of their time when working remotely—it’s about whether or not they’re getting their work done.Your employees likely hold themselves accountable and truly want to do good work.

To help employees keep themselves accountable, set goals for everyone, whether they work remotely or not, and track their progress. You can also proactively set a strategy to keep employees engaged remotely. The standards should be the same for everyone, whether remote or in-person.

As a small-business owner, strategically keeping employees engaged can be a fun task to take on. Not only will it help make your work environment more pleasant and productive, but it can also help retain employees.

Check out our article on new remote skills small businesses like yours are prioritizing.

Myth #3: The more work employees have, the more effective they are

the myth:

If an employee is able to finish their work by 3 p.m. one afternoon or has a slow Friday, you need to pile on more work so they always have something to do.

the reality:

The counterintuitive truth is that the most immediate and cost-effective way to increase productivity is to give employees less to do.

According to Gartner, the “sweet spot” for the most effective employees is actually between 70 to 80%. Try to squeeze anything more than that out of your employees and like an engine choked with too much fuel, you’ll actually make them less effective and cost your organization more money.

Our recommended approach: Planning at 80% and managing at 80% will get 100% of planned work done. Build slack into the system during the planning stage, and you’ll get everything done on a more predictable schedule.

If you take the approach of planning at 120%, you’ll not only never get to that goal, but all the extra time and energy spent on planning will also cost your team additional work. And rather than getting the satisfaction of meeting your goals, you and your team will feel like you’ve failed for falling short.

Myth #4: The employees who arrive first and leave last are the most effective

the myth:

Your most effective employees (and those who should be considered future managers) are those who arrive before the sun comes up and turn the lights off when they leave the office 12 hours later. For remote workers, that translates to those who send the most emails between the hours of midnight and 7 a.m.

the reality:

“First in, last out” is a noble motto for the U.S. Army Pathfinders and maybe NFL coaches, but it’s a wildly inappropriate standard to set for your employees. It’s also unreasonable to expect remote employees to work longer hours than a traditional workday.

If you’re trying to grow your small business, there will undoubtedly be some early mornings and late nights, but they should be few and far between and should never be encouraged or celebrated.

Our recommended approach: Plan/manage at 80% to get 100% of planned work done and increase morale.

As a manager, you should talk to any of your employees who are working excessive hours and find ways to reduce their workload. Keep in mind that some employees may see the office as a sanctuary or work odd hours to accommodate childcare, for example, but that’s a different situation from feeling like they have to work all hours to keep up.

Other ways you can help minimize burnout due to overwork:

  • Keep an open dialogue with your employees so they can voice concerns.
  • Offer an employee wellness program.
  • Don’t celebrate weekend work or late nights.
  • Encourage vacation and PTO.
  • Offer mental health support.
  • Encourage casual coffee video chats for team members to catch up and socialize.
  • Make sure that your team is equipped with the right tools and technology so they don’t have to work excessively to make up for insufficient infrastructure.

Myth #5: Frequent breaks are counterproductive to effectiveness

the myth:

The employees who are always taking coffee breaks, running errands, going for walks, or working out during lunch aren’t doing as much as the employees who sit down at their desk at 9 a.m. with a giant cup of coffee and don’t get up again until 5 p.m.

the reality:

Working without breaks isn’t efficient. According to Psychology Today, taking periodic breaks can:

  • Help you retain new information
  • Replenish your motivation
  • Improve your emotional and physical health
  • Help you think through decisions better
  • Increase your creativity and productivity

In other words: by taking regular, short breaks, the employees who seem to be away from their desks the most are likely working much more effectively when they are at their desks than employees who are in a semi-trance gazing into the abyss of their computer monitor for hours at a time.

Our recommended approach: Encourage your employees to take breaks by having a well-stocked break room, comfy couches or inviting communal spaces, and a wellness room for quiet reflection.

If you’re working remotely, you can also start a virtual coffee club where employees are randomly matched up to have video chats together.

You can also use (and encourage employee use of) the Pomodoro Technique, which involves taking a five-minute break for every 25 minutes of work, with 15- to 30-minute breaks every few hours.

the pomodoro technique means a 5 minute break for every 25 minutes of work with 15 to30 minute breaks every few hours

Want help keeping your team running smoothly? We’ve got more employee effectiveness resources for that.

Survey methodology: This survey was conducted in July 2020 among 384 individual contributors in small U.S. businesses (2 – 500 employees) who are now working from home at least part-time because of the pandemic.

Looking for Project Management software? Check out Capterra's list of the best Project Management software solutions.

About the Authors

Andrew Conrad

Andrew Conrad

Andrew Conrad is a senior content writer at Capterra, covering business intelligence, retail, and construction, among other markets. As a seven-time award winner in the Maryland, Delaware, D.C. and Suburban Newspapers of America editorial contests, Andrew’s work has been featured in the Baltimore Sun and PSFK. He lives in Austin with his wife, son, and their rescue dog, Piper.

Amanda Kennedy

Amanda Kennedy

Senior Content Writer @ Capterra, sharing insights about how small businesses can better use technology. BA, English, the University of Texas at Austin; currently completing my master’s in information systems at the University of North Texas. You can find me on my mat practicing Power Vinyasa or Bowspring yoga, jogging with my dog Rhombus, or reading a novel.


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