Result-based productivity is considered to be one of the most important work movements today. But how much of it are we getting right?

The concept of a results-based work environment is being embraced by more and more employers now that there are technologies that can support it, and an increasing demand for professionals who thrive in such conditions. As we speak, a growing number of companies are making the transition from a strict shift-based arrangement to a more flexible approach to measuring employee contribution. Now, instead of focusing on how much time people spend working at the office, they take into account the quality of the actual output they produce. For many young workers, it’s the perfect arrangement.

While it seems to be a simple enough idea to grasp, results-based work environments and results-based productivity still have a lot of misconceptions attached to them. And sometimes, it leads to some misguided work policies that don’t necessarily work out for people.

Time and overwork

One of the reasons why employers and management professionals are implementing more flexible and results-based work arrangements is because they’re afraid of being accused of overworking employees. While in the past a lot of value was placed on workers who stayed well after their work hours for the sake of the company, these days such people are labeled “workaholics” and chided for their unhealthy priorities. As such, we are now discouraged from “working too long” and “taking on too much” lest we risk burning ourselves out.

Of course, it’s never as simple as that. Sometimes, the right kind of work puts some professionals into a “flow” state (discussed at length by Dr. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi in his book “Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience”) that allows them to devote several hours of their time to an activity. It’s one of the reasons why file storage sites, modern phone service providers, and other cloud-based services are so popular – because some people like being able to work all the time.

Autonomy alone as motivation

The other thing that employers and managers might get wrong about results-based productivity and associated work environments is the concept of motivation. Sometimes, they think that simply implementing a work arrangement that allows people to do their work however they want at the pace they find most comfortable with is enough to inspire loyalty and great output. And they may be right at first.. As attractive as a flexible work schedule is, it can still end up being very unfulfilling for even some of the most accomplished workers.

It’s all to do with the elements of motivation, as discussed by author and business thinker Dan Pink detailed in his book “Drive:” autonomy, mastery, and purpose. Flexible work arrangements only give workers autonomy; to implement true results-based productivity in your company, you need to offer employees the opportunity to master skills for a purpose they find meaningful. It’s why even some of the coolest companies lose some of their people.

In the end, it’s about knowing the people you hire

The point of results-based productivity is, of course, getting the results you want out of yourself and your employees. For all of us to do that, we need to stop limiting the concept to the work schedule and environment you’re offering to the people. We need to extend it to the actual employees who will be working for us, and understanding what does or does not inspire them to work. It’s not just about giving them more “me-time” or giving them more control over their workloads. It’s about allowing them to have passion for what they do and aligning it with your business.