Remote worker productivity: output over hours worked

Clock results vs. hours

Clock results, not hours.

When running leading a remote team or company, it becomes very difficult to understand what people are doing at every moment during the day (we talked more about how to avoid this in a previous principle - visibility is key). In fact, it’s impossible, so you may as well stop trying to do it. 

The output (or the result) is what really matters in the grand scheme of things. It’s less about how someone gets to the destination (the inputs, like how many hours someone works). It’s much more important that they deliver the result.


This is part 7 of our remote work mental models series where we discuss the key principles to remote work success. Read the previous post here.


Hours worked is a relic of the past

A hundred years around it was important to know that someone was on the manufacturing line producing widgets, because if they weren’t there, work wasn’t getting done. Now, people can do their best work at their most naturally productive times. Sometimes lightning can strike at random moments throughout the day (post-lunch walk, in the shower, etc) and now employees have the flexibility to work when they are most useful.

To achieve this goal, you will need to create a new level of clarity around the expected output of individuals, teams, and departments. You need to double-down on clarifying the expected outputs vs. spending your day running around in status update meetings and trying to ensure that “butts are in seats.”

There’s two ways to start unpacking this question:

  • Role clarity - what is the expected output of the role? “What do you say you do here?”
  • Day-to-day clarity - What should I expect you to do in the next week/month? 

This takes a lot of work for leaders who are new to remote work, but the results (pun intended) can be pretty epic and freeing.

Ready to read the next principle in the series? Learn why remote work accelerates problems that already exist, but it doesn't create them.