How To Build a Better Employee: Let Them Relax

January 28, 2016
American employees are constantly “on.” We are connected by smartphones, tablets, laptops, conference calls, and Skype. Wherever you go, your emails and phone calls and meetings can follow you. And research shows, workers are feeling the strain and that’s a risk to their organizations. As we reported in our article, The Daily Grind: Employee Engagement and Burnout, statistics show that only 18% of respondents stated that they had “regular time for creative or strategic thinking,” just 21% were able to “focus on one thing at a time.” When employees are pulled in too many directions and there’s never time to process new information or generate ideas, the employees suffer and so does the business. Aside from wearing out the most important resource – people – continuing to demand more and more time does not necessarily actually produce more work. Quoted in the Inc. article, Why Working More than 40 Hours a Week is Useless, Sara Robinson notes, “Studies showed, over and over, that industrial workers have eight good, reliable hours a day in them. On average, you get no more widgets out of a 10-hour day than you do out of an eight-hour day.” And when it comes to office workers, “Increasing a team’s hours in the office by 50 percent (from 40 to 60 hours) does not result in 50 percent more output...In fact, the numbers may typically be something closer to 25-30 percent more work in 50 percent more time.” In other words, at some point we just run out of steam. In an interesting stand against burnout, J.P. Morgan recently asked their employees to scale back work outside office hours, unless a “live deal” is actively going on. As reported in the Wall Street Journal article, J.P. Morgan to Workaholics: Knock It Off, Carlos Hernandez, the head of global banking stated, “At the end of the day continuity matters, developing people who understand the firm, understand the culture. We’re not tearing the whole place upside down, it is enhancements…and realistic to what this generation wants.” Software and app developers are supporting the trend, too. The tools that made working around the clock possible are now being adapted to help employees turn off the constant stream of information. In her Fast Company article, How the Tech that Took Away Your Work-Life Balance is Working to Reinstate It, Lydia Dishman reports on new features that allow employees to “snooze” their work emails and phone calls. When employees can literally press “pause” on all the push notifications from work email, it allows them to take a break and come back during work hours or at a time that’s more convenient than the middle of their child’s school play. While many managers still expect 24/7 access, such tools provide a way to manage the demand in a way that can support employee well-being. No one wins if your best employees burn out or look for work with a company that can give purpose and direction without squeezing them dry. Expecting people to work longer and longer hours just won't make an organization more successful. By creating reasonable expectations and allowing employees time to recover, to reflect, and to return fresh to their tasks tomorrow, you can actually see an uptick in innovation, retention, and loyalty. Employees are better able to make the right decisions and take the right actions. Add to that recognition for a job well done and an environment of shared success, and you’re well on your way to a culture that thrives, instead of one that crashes.

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