Productivity is for robots

Leave productivity to the robots, it’s time to care for employees

Increasing productivity has been a prime focus for organizations since the industrial revolution. It’s clear that COVID-19 has brought other aspects into the spotlight (more about that later), but it should be obvious that for most organizations, focusing only on productivity should have been a moot point even before the pandemic!

With the recent progress in automation, mundane tasks are increasingly the domain of robots of one type or another. Increasing productivity doesn’t mean your employees need to do more — it means they must work alongside robots. According to McKinsey, “successful organizations adopt human-in-the-loop solutions to scale their automation programs.”[1]

To achieve this balance, you need employees to be engaged. When tasks are fully automated, the remaining tasks involve creativity, innovation, vision and analyzing complex problems — the bread and butter of highly skilled, trained and motivated employees.

Mélanie de Vigan

Director, Business Management
and member of the Scientific Community, Atos

So, the questions isn’t “How do I get my employees to be more productive?” but rather “How do I ensure they are as engaged and motivated as possible?”

The answer to that (or at least one of them) is “by caring for them.”At the most basic level, it means that the onus of productivity must not be on your employees: put simply, they’re not machines, they’re human beings.

They need to work with a purpose, must understand the company’s raison d’être, and require a smooth experience with their workplace tools as well as with their colleagues and managers. All of this has become even more fundamentally true since COVID-19.

In April 2021, Basecamp announced new policies aimed at creating a healthier work environment, but which arguably achieved the exact opposite.[2] The core idea was that work should be work, that employees should leave their opinions (particularly political ones) at the doorstep and focus exclusively on doing their job for the company. Makes sense, right?

You might think so, but in short order almost a third of their employees decided to leave. So, what happened?

What Basecamp did was to dehumanize their workforce

They focused on productivity, sending the implicit message that the less time you waste arguing about the 2020 election the more lines of code you’ll spit out. They denied their employees the right to a part of their identity within their organization. Plus, they did it in the middle of a pandemic when mental health issues have been skyrocketing — including loneliness, fatigue and a lack of human interactions. No wonder people decided to slam the door!

This isn’t just about fairness or consideration towards one’s workforce — it also affects the bottom line. Before the pandemic, mental health issues cost employers an estimated $1 trillion per year in productivity losses. [3] A McKinsey study projects that this figure will increase by 50%. [4] More generally, a Deloitte paper asserts that if organizations tackle these issues head on and start focusing on employee experience, they could triple their market value by 2030.[5] Pretty neat, wouldn’t you say?


So – how do you really care for employees and put these ideas into practice transforming their experience at work?

At Atos, we are constantly developing innovative approaches and solutions, and we’re always on the lookout for new ideas. What do you think?

Find out more in this Digital Vision on Employee Experience.


Mélanie de Vigan

Mélanie is the global domain manager responsible for defining and developing digital workplace outsourcing offerings. She is a member of the Atos Scientific Community since 2014. Throughout her career, Mélanie has held multiple positions in outsourcing and consulting at Atos. Relying on a core expertise in mobility and workplace services, she focuses on getting the most value out of technology to support the digital transformation of the business.

[1] McKinsey, The imperatives for automation success, August 2020

[2] A third of Basecamp’s workers resign after a ban on talking politics. – The New York Times (

[3] “Mental Health and Substance Use,” World Health Organization

[4] Mental health in the workplace: The coming revolution, December 2020. The revolution in mental health care | McKinsey

[5] Organizations “with a soul” outperform the S&P 400 in terms of higher employee engagement and retention, better customer service, long-term profitability, and more than 8x return vs. S&P 400 10-year returns. Bersin by Deloitte, “Simply Irresistible: Engaging the 21st Century Workforce”, April 2014

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