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My employees (front, back, and full-stack programmers) are working remotely since March and I'm noticing their productivity has dropped.

We had a deadline in September (currently moved to end of October) and have already done ~70% of the project + need time to do bug tracking.

Does anyone know how to improve employee productivity?

P.S. No time to find new employees

EDIT: So let me add some information:

  1. I`m not going to fire my employees
  2. I want to show them, their productivity for a day/week
  3. I do not need any spying software
  4. Is there is software,similar to www.worktime.com , what can detect used software for a day?
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  • 8
    How can you be sure their productivity has declined?
    – Al rl
    Oct 6 '20 at 10:03
  • 9
    @Hidja: You're sounding like every out of touch project manager I have ever worked for. "We did 70%" says nothing about the complexity of the work currently being done, or any roadblocks encountered. You're ignoring the realities of software development in favor of the metrics on the spreadsheet in front of you. "It's just a bit of clean up left" is the hallmark of a project management that is going to significantly undervalue the work being done, more often than not ending in a product that's either never going to be finished or cancelled when the client has decided to cut their losses.
    – Flater
    Oct 6 '20 at 10:49
  • 4
    Have you asked them what you can do to help them be more productive?
    – Erik
    Oct 6 '20 at 11:04
  • 8
    Seems to me that point 3 and 4 contradict each other. Oct 6 '20 at 13:20
  • 5
    The comments about your developers' productivity not being the issue are possibly correct, but it's also possible they are having productivity problems due to working at home. Have you checked that they have a suitable space and the right equipment (ergonomic chair and desk, enough monitors, etc) to work safely and productively? Do any of your developers have children at home who would normally be in school? Have you ensured they have access to mental health care in case being isolated is causing depression? There are lots of reasons for low productivity besides people goofing off.
    – Kat
    Oct 6 '20 at 16:58
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Based on your question, the question you posted, and more important which arguments you seem to only care about to justify your position, I'm severely questioning your project management skills and your ability to lead a team to the project's completion.

Several commenters asked for justification on how you know that productivity is slacking, and your responses consist of:

  • We've done 70% of the project
  • Less tasks are being picked up
  • The "only" things left to do, "only" some work on Front and Database + data transfer. And bug tracking.
  • When the deadline was scheduled

What is notably absent:

  • Complexity of the current tasks
  • Roadblocks encountered
  • Bugs or refactoring that is being done

You don't seem to care about the development at all. You seem to only care about the metrics on your spreadsheet.

Just for completion's sake, here's a counter to every argument you made:

  • Being close to finishing a project does not in any way make scheduled tasks easier or shorter. If anything, larger codebases tend to slow down work on them, as there is more logic that can impact any new feature that gets developed.
  • Less tasks being picked up doesn't mean that less work is being done. You have not meaningfully quantified the complexity of each task, and are not accounting for whether the current tasks are simply more complex or take more time to complete.
  • The underlying implication that the remaining tasks are supposedly easy and quick to handle is simply not justified anywhere in anything you've posted here, answers or comments. "only some work on Front and Database + data transfer. And bug tracking" comes across as naively and significantly downplaying the actual effort required for these tasks.
  • If you didn't meet your deadline, you picked a bad deadline. That is a failure on the part of project management, not that of development. The arbitrarily chosen deadline does not magically change the implementation time of the requested features, or the effort required to maintain the codebase.

P.S. No time to find new employees

If I was your employee, I would be looking for a new job after that statement.

The fact that you even checked to confirm whether you can replace your employees before addressing anything constructive with the current employees is a massive red flag that you see developers as expendable code monkeys that have to live by your deadline.

Had you done any due diligence in asking what the current developers are experiences (difficulties, roadblocks, ...), you would've mentioned those findings here. Instead, you dismiss the value of your employees based on nothing but your metrics and arbitrarily chosen dates, not on your employees actual workload, and already are more willing to consider simply finding new employees.

The arrogance dripping from this question is quite frankly staggering.


Based on your edit

  1. I want to show them, their productivity for a day/week

Are you going to show them their productivity, or are you going to show them your metric that you think explains their productivity?

Given the absence of any observation of your developers' workload before judging their productivity, I suspect you're trying to make your developers match your expected metric, instead of improving your metric to accurately display what's really going on in the development team.

This is also going to put them on the defensive. No matter how you put it, if you judge their productivity, they're going to start considering you as looking over their shoulder, and it may cause them to push out updates before they are fully done. Beware.

  1. I do not need any spying software
  2. Is there is software, what can detect used software for a day?

If you're not going to use spying software, why are you then asking for software that can spy on them?

There is a pervasive tone across your question that smells of micromanagement.

  • You ask how to control your employees' productivity. Not gauge, not improve, but control.
  • You seem interested in the outward appearance of productivity, rather than focusing on what is actually being done. Every judgment you've made is based on a metric, with no attempt made to back up that metric by actually talking to your employees or observing the actual effort being spent.
  • Your request for spying software suggests that you're not interested in their actual work output, but rather what they spend their time on. If you were truly interested in their productivity, you would be trying to judge them based on the work they're doing, not what windows they have open during working hours.
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  • OP might want to increase the team, not replace it. But interesting point of view, he might actually really intend the replacement.
    – virolino
    Oct 6 '20 at 11:39
  • 2
    Very good analysis of the question. I would add here that even if there is real productivity drop of the whole team it is rarely indicator of that whole team is slacking. Unless it is organized sort of mutiny you would see some people drop in productivity but some people increase (no commute, less office chat, blending the line between office and home in some people would cause longer hours). With all this said it is either broken metrics, team manager or project manager. Also doesn't seem that OP tried to figure issues team might experience that are caused by working from home, etc.
    – AlexanderM
    Oct 6 '20 at 22:38
  • "see developers as expendable code monkeys that have to live by your deadline." I'm not agree with You. I respect everyone in my team and do not want to cross the line in working process.That is why i`m here to ask for a help
    – Hidja
    Oct 7 '20 at 14:09
  • @Hidja: So why don't you even investigate what's going on with your developers, before jumping to the conclusion that they must have collectively decided to lower their productivity? There is no mention of any concrete investigation on the state of the current development tasks whatsoever. Either you're genuinely disinterested or woefully misguided - which is why I've pulled your ability to lead this team's development effort into question.
    – Flater
    Oct 9 '20 at 10:50
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... and I'm noticing their productivity has dropped.

and

Because of Trello and Jira using. Every week in Trello I can see lesser tasks, than in the other week. And even with my middle knowledge in project management, I can understand they can do much more

The number of issues in JIRA (or whatever) is not at all a good metric for anything. One has to go deep in understanding all the issues, with their complexities, and their inter-dependencies, in order to understand the productivity trend.

As a middle manager, you should have a project manager do the project management, you do not seem to have the know-how to do that - or even get a proper project status.

The project manager, besides doing proper project management, might be able to explain you how to motivate your people.

Personal confusion: why are you a middle manager if you have no idea how to motivate people? What is your actual job?

We had a deadline in September (currently moved to end of October) and have already done ~70% of the project + need time to do bug tracking.

Who decided the "~70%"? How was it measured? Moreover, did you hear about the 80-20 rule (also called the Pareto principle)? It also applies to the relationship work - time:

The first 80% of the work is done in 20% of the time. The remaining 20% of the work is done in 80% of the time.

According to this rule, you have not yet reached 20% of the time. So you might need at least 4 times additional time to finish the work left.


Does anyone know how to improve employee productivity?

That is a good questions for the beginning of the project. Right now, it is quite late.

The only thing which might work is to sign some additional contract with the employees. Give them minimally:

  • a relevant and significant money bonus for a successful delivery;
  • extra days of vacation right after the delivery, so they can rest after the intense over-time.

Anything less than that is not going to get you anywhere, long term. Even if short-term they might work for less, long term I see you coming back here asking: "Why did my employees leave?"

Personal confusion: did you actually talk to your employees, to find out what would actually motivate them? Why not?

P.S. No time to find new employees

Typical middle-management thinking: if there is a problem, then probably there is an insufficient number of people. With the help of another 8 women, one woman can deliver a child in one month.


How to control my employees productivity?

"Control" usually implies the increase, as well the decrease of some parameters, in order to achieve a certain result. Why would you ever want to decrease the productivity of your employees?

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  • Who said anything about him wanting to decrease the productivity of his employees?
    – OmarL
    Oct 14 '20 at 8:01
  • @OmarL: that is a very good question. Please meditate about it for a while, and if you still do not find the answer, I will be happy to explain ;)
    – virolino
    Oct 14 '20 at 8:53
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Before you can start to look for a solution, you need to identify the problem.

First of all, is productivity really down? Burndown charts and ticket system statistics can be deceiving. The individual items might not reflect the real work which was done or is to be done, because they might each represent tasks with varying complexity.

Then assuming it is, you need to find out why.

  • Is it a technical problem? Some unforeseen complication which roadblocks the whole project progress?
  • Is it a planning problem? Were the resources or requirements of the project planned incorrectly? Are there other obligations your employees need to fulfill which compete for their attention to your project?
  • Is it a process problem? Inappropriate development processes or other organisational red tape preventing them from getting work done?
  • Is it a motivation problem?
    • Do employees feel burnt out by too much stress and pressure over the past months?
    • Are they frustrated about some aspect of how the project goes or is managed?
    • Does the isolation of working remotely for so long affect them negatively?
  • Is it an interpersonal problem? Employees no longer trusting...
    • ...the upper management?
    • ...the client?
    • ...each other?
    • ...you?

Only then, after you found out which of these problems your project is suffering from, can you start to consider possible solutions.

So how do you find out which problems you have?

Ask your employees.

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How to control my employees productivity?

By looking at what must be done and how they do it.
This requires insight of what they do.
This requires technical understanding of their work.

Not understanding what developers do and what problems they face is not a shame.
But to be honest, it is no good condition for a proper evaluation of what they do.

There are many tools out there that leaders use, hoping it can be fed with nontechnical information the leader understands and spits out just numbers that only must be sorted to see exactly how good someone is, without having to look at what developing is.
How would that work?

If accomplished jobs are counted without looking deeper, everyone will grab the simple and fast-to-do jobs.
In this environment who would care about hard things that take some time?

Perhaps jobs and time matters. Then why do things right on the first attempt, if hasty working is praised and as a side effect one single task becomes four tasks (the task plus three bugs coming from bad work, but nobody cares)?

Does anyone know how to improve employee productivity?

First step: don't do the above ;-)

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