Do you wish your people brought more energy and commitment to their work? Do they seem exhausted and disheartened by the load?After years of struggling to balance expectations and resources in the workplace, we still don’t have it right. This article explores what’s going on, why we need to change and how to make a difference.
Overload and overwhelm are still serious problems in today’s workplace. According to results of a 2012 survey of 25,000 Canadian employees by Duxbury & Higgins, 97% report high or moderate levels of stress in their lives. Employees are working longer hours (50.2/week) and taking more work home (another 7 hours/week).
A number of factors are at play:
- Exploding performance expectations
- Relentless technology
- Volatile objectives
- Mismatched goals and resources
- Peer pressure to keep up
- Indifference about sustainability
This fast and furious approach to multiple issues on multiple fronts leads to: lack of focus, misaligned activities, scattered resources, conflicting messages, exhausted and disengaged employees.
Corporate results suffer and so do the people charged with delivery. Actively disengaged employees erode an organization’s bottom line while breaking the spirits of colleagues in the process. Within the U.S. workforce, Gallup estimates this cost to be more than $300 billion in lost productivity alone.
Why We Need To Change
Getting the load right and investing in employee well-being matters now more than ever. Millenials and Gen Y, the new recruits who will backfill the departing Boomers, are committed to balance in their lives. They are determined to find or create workplaces where their health and their lives beyond the job are valued just as much as their performance in the workplace. If they can’t find it with you, they’ll go elsewhere.
Research is on their side. A growing number of studies show that actions that promote well-being are directly linked to employee satisfaction and organizational success.
- Employees who feel they have better work-life balance work 21% harder than those who don’t, are 33% less likely to leave, and miss half as many work days as those who are highly stressed.
- For every dollar invested in wellness initiatives, three to five dollars are returned through reduced staff turnover, productivity gains and reduced medical claims.
- When employees take part in corporate sponsored fitness programming absenteeism and turnover are reduced.
- Informal breaks cut down on mental strain and increase feelings of well-being. Micro breaks maintain or increase productivity.
- Time away from work makes employees more productive and creative on their return.
- Movement matters. Excessive sitting is proving to be a significant health risk.
- A good night’s sleep and short daytime naps have a major positive impact on physical health and mental acuity.
- Mindfulness training reduces stress, bolsters immune systems, and improves concentration.
- Those who take their vacations reduce their risk for heart disease compared to those who forego their annual leave.
What’s also new is that organizations are increasingly being held responsible for creating psychologically safe workplaces – not just physically safe workplaces. This means that setting unreasonable demands and tolerating bullish behaviours are fast becoming a corporate liability.
How To Make A Difference
The overload generated by ‘nose to grindstone syndrome’ will not be resolved by pretending it doesn’t exist. Neither will the issue be resolved in isolation – with organizational leaders writing policies and assuming the problems are fixed, while employees struggle silently, opting out and moving on, or taking sick leave hoping that in their absence things will improve.
Rightloading™ (striking a sustainable balance) is a shared responsibility that hinges on open conversation, shifts in mindset and practice, and employees and managers taking personal and corporate responsibility for doing things differently.
Here are four places to focus.
- Draw Attention To Issues Of Load:
- Share the research.
- Gather the facts and share info about your current state.
- Open the conversation. Make it safe to speak up. Be prepared to hear what you may not want to hear and speak what you fear to say.
- Set an intention to make things better.
- Assign equal value to business results and impact on others. Make well-being not just an individual responsibility, but a measure of managerial & organizational success.
- Profile examples of successful balance & renewal.
- Shift How Loads Are Carried:
- Focus on managing energy – not just time.
- Re-introduce renewing time outs into the workday, and work week.
- Educate managers and employees on effective strategies for success and wellbeing.
- Build corporate time outs into the cycle of projects.
- Redefine The Nature Of The Load
- Connect the work to its larger purpose and underlying value.
- Cultivate a mindset of service and joy instead of duty and obligation.
- Identify and minimize discretionary burdens.
- Control & Monitor Loads:
- Clarify strategy and high priorities and link activities directly to them.
- Get real about capacity and the resources it takes to accomplish the goals in reasonable time frames.
- Offer to help reset priorities as new tasks arise.
- Find the courage to stop projects and initiatives that no longer stack up.
- Filter new ideas through reality checks before launching.
If your goals include productivity, innovation, quality service and profitability, then getting the load right will be one of your most important business strategies. Work together to balance the load, and you reap the dual rewards of a healthy workforce and sustainable results.
© Patricia Katz, MCE CHRP HoF, is a Canadian speaker and author who works with organizational leaders to ease the load and fuel the spirit. This best selling author of 5 books shares her wisdom weekly with thousands of readers of her e-zine, Pause. Sign up for Pause, and learn more about easing your load at www.pauseworks.com. Contact Pat for programs and publications at firstname.lastname@example.org or 877-728-5289.