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The Output Model: How the Pandemic Triggered a Seismic Shift in Our Way of Working

Asia, Indonesia, Bali. Asian woman working from home sitting in garden furniture surrounded by tropical plants, using laptop computer and mobile phone and reaching for a coffee.

COVID-19: The global pandemic that lost hundreds of thousands of lives will forever change the way we live and interact. These changes run deep and permeate throughout personal and professional interactions. The fundamental way we approach business has been altered, too, and our expectations on performance should reflect a new model.

According to the PEW Research Center, only 23% of Americans worked from home prior to COVID-19, with that number jumping to 71% during the pandemic. As we emerge on the other side, 61% of the US workforce is choosing to keep working from home, citing an improved work-life balance as a key driver.

For this reason, it’s clear the ‘traditional’ working model needs an adjustment. The current formula of input employment no longer works and companies must adapt to retain current talent, attract new employees and remain a viable business.

Before diving deeper into why businesses need to change, let’s first understand what the input model is.

What is the input model? 

Currently, much of corporate America works on an input model i.e. when an employee’s value is measured in time. Think work broken across hours utilized. Some models even detail how many hours employees are permitted to spend on a project. This way of working is familiar, it’s comfortable. This is the way businesses have worked for decades.

The pandemic forced us to learn a new way of working and managing time. We adapted to function in a fully-remote, at-home environment, completing tasks, hitting hours and tending to families in tandem. One might think this is a testament to the resiliency and dedication of a company’s employees… or, did we stumble on a better way of working?

Enter a new way of working: The output model. 

The output model focuses on measuring work based on positive results, rather than the hours put in. An employee’s time is no longer the commodity. It’s their efficiency, effectiveness and quality that identifies strong employees and offers the most benefit to employers.

The output model has been the model of consultants for years, but never absorbed into the W2 Full-Time Employee timesheets cycle. With the newfound comfort to work from home (WFH) COVID-19 afforded, the anticipation (if not expectation from employees) is W2 companies will adjust and adopt this new model imminently.

Since the WFH model became feasible, businesses have had to adapt to new ways of engaging with their staff, clients and partners. And with this “new norm” and the idea of remote working becoming more mainstream, the output model must be fully adopted into the business workspace. 

Operating on a 100% output model offers benefits to employees as well as to companies. However, trust, work ethic and independence must be established. It would not be surprising if, in the near future, companies first built a hybrid model of half week WFH or new employees are required to work from the office for their initial six months. This would give new employees the time to learn, educate and understand what is fully expected of them and for employers to build the trust needed for an output model.  

The output model also provides more flexibility for a work-life balance, which has been the missing piece to the puzzle, the holy grail for employees.

The great balancing act

The world is a balancing act, and with COVID-19 the world had to learn how to rebalance itself. The output model’s new way of working is just one of the changes we can expect to see.

In the end, it’s about the quality of output, not necessarily how much time is spent doing it.

Resources: Pew Research

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