The way we work isn’t working

In most modern workplaces, the idea of clocking on and clocking off for the day seems outdated.

In a world of computers, smartphones, teams, messenger, text messages and myriad of other instant communications, people can always be reached. Thanks to technology, we are available around the clock. Technology ironically was meant to make our working lives easier, but in some respects, it has made it harder, busier and more stressful. 

The lines between work hours and outside of work hours have blurred. As such, many people struggle to leave work behind for the day, switch off and engaged in family life. 

Likewise, when we are at work, it’s tempting to charge through jobs to try to get through never ending to do lists, skipping lunch, skipping small talk to cut to the more important issues at hand and getting caught up in the business of it all. 

When workloads are too high, people feel overwhelmed and can become disillusioned, disengaged and burnt out. But in our culture of busyness, not keeping up with the pace is often seen as a weakness.

Being busy has a certain degree of prestige about it. Being busy is often associated with being deeply committed and driven at work and who aren’t busy, who leave work ‘on time’ or actually take an hour for lunch, can be seen as lazy or unmotivated in their work or not as good as their busier colleagues.

Employers tend to treat their staff like machines, expecting longer work hours and even going without breaks. But we are not robots. We are humans. And humans work in a pulsing fashion, in bursts. Naturally, we are wired to work in bursts for several hours at a time and then rest in between. And of course, with a long rest between workdays to fully recharge. 

Increasing the space to allow for adequate downtime allows people to be more productive and more focused when they are working. In fact, research undertaken by some companies has found that enforcing days off or finishing times results in a more energized and productive workforce. 

In his book The Way We’re Working Isn’t Working, Tony Schwartz states that demand is far exceeding our capacity in the modern workplace.

The concept of faster, bigger, more is at a huge cost to our workers. Not only is our collective energy undermined, so is our focus our passion and our creativity. As Schwartz states “human beings perform best and are most productive when they alternate between periods of intense focus and intermittent renewal.”

How can we create more space in our busy lives? 

Schwartz suggests that individuals can take charge themselves to an extent, by creating rituals for our day-to-day to balance intense effort with regular rest. We need to infiltrate daily practices to build resilience when we are faced with emotionally draining experiences at work. Eating healthy meals, exercising daily, getting enough downtime after work, connecting with loved ones and getting a good night’s sleep – all seem obvious – but in reality, these necessities are often impacted by busy workloads, long work hours and not putting enough boundaries in place to have downtime.

He further suggests that when we are working we should oscillate between focusing on urgent demands and tasks with slowing down for more creative pursuits that require space and time to develop.

People need to be sustained both physically and emotionally. In order to be healthy and resilient, individuals need to be given the time and space to recharge. And employers need to truly respect this. 

Employees need to find meaning at work and have the ability to be self-expressive. They should be in work environments where they able to reach their full potential, using their unique skillset and abilities as well as having a genuine sense of purpose. 

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!

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