First, a little background. I'm a consultant working in the digital world. The work consists of me supplying my time to a client (mostly Digital Agencies) to help deliver a project, complete a task or get a job over the line. Sometimes I am in the trenches digging the ditch. Other times I give that job to someone else and am left to wonder what kind of ditch will be dug.

My desk looks very similar to this picture, except for the lack of scribbled notes, papers strewn over everything else and ring marks left from previous cups of coffee

My desk looks very similar to this picture, except for the lack of scribbled notes, papers strewn over everything else and ring marks left from previous cups of coffee

I can summarise working at a digital agency with one word - busy. There is no shortage of work available. Balance is an important factor for an agency yet is rarely the experience when working at one. If the balance of working coming in vs work going out tips too far on either end then that company is in for a world of hurt. Which seems to be a regular experience for most agencies. Productive employee's are a godsend as work doesn't roll into the agency at a steady and maintainable pace. It sort of falls out of the sky at once when you need it the least. 

For a digital agency, productivity can be easily measured through the completion rate of tasks. Completing tasks means completing projects, resulting in (hopefully) happy clients and more work. One example of this measurement is a burn down chart - measuring the remaining tasks until completion.

 

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A real burn down chart used by Wikipedia for their project XYZ

 

For the individual, the completion rate of work related tasks may have a positive impact on their personal well-being however the this often by virtue of not having the boss/client/colleague breathing down your throat. For an individual, much like myself. this can lead to a separate and consequential outcome; burnout. What is the point of a completing a project early to only receive the next project earlier. Some reasons for burnout can be seen in the chart below.

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Top reasons for burnout cited by HR leaders. (Source)

 


So if a business only measures the completion of tasks as a measure of productivity, then it may can have a counter-productive outcome; continually replacing and re-training staff due to burnout. Is that an environment we want to nurture? I personally don't want a workplace like that. Does this mean we cannot use completion of tasks as a measure? No, in fact for a business this is an effective measure to check the progress of a project.

What we do need are our checks and balances which are put in place to control the work the employees are doing at a sustainable pace; perhaps a burnout chart makes sense..