Redefining Expectations In The Workplace
by Andreea D. Vanacker
Original article first published in Forbes
We live in a world where overworking is often praised, admired and even expected by some organizations, and the pressure to increase performance becomes relentless in an ever-competing world.
For some people, overworking brings pride, promotions and admiration because they were able to push the limits of their ability and prevail. For others, overworking is also achieved, but with a heavy price tag: burnout, a higher risk of depression and even heart problems.
Below are a few considerations for leaders to ensure that their team members remain passionate about their jobs in a way that doesn't require overworking or unhealthy habits.
Do not mistake hard work for healthy persistence.
There are two ways I believe we can approach persistence at work. The first way is healthy persistence, which is when employees work hard but are also able to disconnect from their duties during the evenings and weekends. These individuals understand the importance of sleep and recovery to regain their energy for the next day, as being well rested can ultimately result in improved work performance and prevent fatigue-related health problems. Hence, they are able to flourish professionally and personally.
The second way to approach persistence is in an unhealthy, obsessive manner. These employees work long hours and put their health, relationships and free time on hold until they accomplish important projects or tasks. Even if they do take some time off, they never fully disconnect, and they are always checking their email and working on some of their duties. This type of obsessive persistence is unhealthy and will inevitably lead to burnout.
As leaders and managers of teams, it is your duty to identify the team members who are pushing themselves too far and in the danger zone of burnout. Protect your team, and help them thrive in a healthy way. Start looking at the percentage of your employees who are on sick leave due to burnout or depression. If success for your company comes with many negative human impacts, can that really be defined as "success"?
Remember that empowerment can help drive productivity.
More and more companies are shifting toward models that focus more on empowering employees to manage their own schedules, rather than requiring them to follow the rigid 9-to-5 model. Consequently, I believe it is all about the results, not the hours spent working.
Allowing a flexible schedule allows everyone to work during their peak energy times. Although each person is different, most people have a capacity to focus on an activity for about 90 minutes, after which feelings of fatigue, irritability, hunger and distraction can emerge. This is a signal that your body and mind need some rest in order to regain your focus and energy.
From my perspective, the ideal break consists of getting away from electronics and reading, taking a walk, meditating, or talking to friends or colleagues. The problem arises when we ignore our need to take a break and try to maintain constant activity all day long with limited or no breaks. When we skip a well-needed break, our performance can decline.
By encouraging employees to pay more attention to the signals that they need a break, you can enable them to be more productive and become stronger contributors to your organization. This also allows your team to have some energy left at the end of the day to enjoy their families, friends and hobbies.
Give your team time off.
We all know how important vacation is, not only for our own physical and mental well-being, but also to allow us to spend time with friends and family members. Given these benefits, why do su
ch disparities in vacation time exist between the U.S. and other countries?
For example, the European Union requires member countries to give workers a minimum of 20 days of paid vacation time, and some countries well exceed that requirement. France, for instance, requires businesses to offer a minimum of 30 days of paid time off. In the U.S., however, businesses are not required to offer any paid vacation days, according to The Washington Post.
Despite this, many organizations do offer paid vacation days for full-time employees, but the surprising thing is that 55% of Americans do not use all their time off, The Washington Post also reported. And when they do, many struggle to fully disconnect from their jobs.
As leaders, we need to redefine what vacation is so employees can feel comfortable taking time off.
Ensure you have measures in place that prevent workers from having to worry about work while they are away or fall under an avalanche of tasks when they are back.
To conclude, leaders have a duty to rethink how they can create healthy workplaces that enable employees to thrive. By redefining performance, empowerment, flexibility and vacation policies, you show employees you care about their well-being, and you help them more effectively achieve a work-life balance. As a result, you can form lasting partnerships that are mutually beneficial.