It’s very easy to get caught up in the whole ‘speeding up’ movement. The advancements in technology mean everything is geared towards being more convenient and faster. As workplaces embrace these new technologies in order to improve productivity, unrealistic expectations are placed on employees. Research indicates that making people busier in the workplace does not in fact increase productivity, it kills it.
Because people are not machines who can switch on and switch off. We pulse. During the course of a day, we naturally have moments where we work slower, have a burst of productivity, have a break, have another burst of productivity, then slow down or stop. We go home to have down time, sleep and recharge before we come back for another day of work in similar short bursts of productivity. Machines, on the other hand can be switched on at high intensity for many hours. We are designed to be most effective in shorter bursts of energy output. To expect human beings to operate like machines and be constantly “on” in the workplace is completely unrealistic.
When productivity expectations are too high, people feel overwhelmed and can become disillusioned and disengaged, even burnt out, but may not readily speak up. In our culture of busyness, not keeping up the pace is often seen as a weakness. Being busy has a certain degree of prestige about it, it carries a certain respect. Being busy is often associated with being deeply committed and driven in our jobs, and often those who are not busy, who openly welcome a slower way of doing things, who leave work ‘on time’ or push back on deadlines, are seen as lazy or unmotivated in their work or not as good as their busier colleagues. But this just isn’t the case.
Being too busy compromises our ability to achieve balance, be present and create meaningful relationships, because we simply don’t have the time. When we are busy, we take short cuts with our communication, and indeed our technology encourages this. It’s easier to send a quick text or email to a colleague than take the time to have a face to face conversation, meeting or even a phone call. It’s these interactions though, that foster strong relationships and shape our workplace culture. In an “always-on” workplace, the pressure people feel is enormous and detrimental. When employees feel stuck, stagnant, rushed or like a cog in the wheel and/ or are only doing high urgent work, burn-out is inevitable.
Breaking the ‘busy’ cycle
Leaders who can break this cycle of busyness, who actively give their staff permission to slow down, who encourage their team to stop and take more time to get their work done, are going to reap the rewards.
It’s often when we slow down that we change the way we think. When we change the way we think, we see things differently and that leads to insight which in turn, changes the way we move forward.
A good leader operating in a busy workplace, should recognise the need to schedule in time to slow down, for themselves and their team. Of course, doing this will feel like it goes against the grain of business, of productivity, but it will do the opposite.
Create some space in the day, not just going for a walk at lunchtime, schedule time to think at work, not just act. Be more present in the moment. Be comfortable with toying with the problem, and not feeling like you have to solve it or find the solution straight away. Some decisions take time. Be comfortable in this space and let your team know they have more time to simply think as well. Carving space to slow down and think, allows people to consider options rather than force solutions.
If you have been to one of my workshops you may have done an exercise involving solving a difficult challenge with some matchsticks. I start the exercise by telling people they can ask for feedback and I will nod or shake my head to help them. I always find it interesting that some people simply stare at their matchsticks not trying any options to solve the puzzles, others in their rush to find the answer, will ask me for feedback consistently until I give them a ‘yes’. The problem is, we are so focused on finding the solution or the answer right away, that we don’t spend enough time considering and exploring different options.
Doing tasks with mindfulness and enough time allows us to be more engaged and present in the work we do. This concept is true for our work lives and our personal lives. We all need to slow down. Life is what’s happening right here, right now – and only by slowing down can you live it to the full. If you are always rushing, you only skim the surface of things.
I would love to show you how slowing down can benefit your business significantly. Could your leadership team benefit from one of my tailored workshops in 2020? Please get in touch today . I’d love to help!