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The Thought Break: 8 Ways to Beat Device Reflex and Build Work-Life Balance

 
By Joe Robinson

Task overload keeps out work-life balance

With all the time people spend looking down at their phones, future generations may be endowed with additional neck muscles to manage the posture. We don’t have to wait for one of the side effects of too much time in screen mode. Researchers have found that when the default in every spare second is to automatically check a digital devicd, you are doing serious damage to memory and learning.

The impulse to fill spare moments with a check of electronic devices robs brain neurons of the downtime they need to process and remember thoughts. Ideas, problems, dilemmas, musings, and experiences don’t have the space to be weighed, so we have a hard time remembering them, research at the University of San Francisco suggests.

In experiments with rats, they discovered that only when the animals took a break from activity were they able to process the patterns of a new experience. They suspect humans operate the same way. In fact, a very novel study from the University of Michigan, which examined how humans (monitored by portable brain sensors) reacted to natural surroundings, found the same dynamic. Walking in a park or in a natural setting created a meditative state in the brain ideal for reflection and processing.

NO TIME TO THINK

The research is providing a very good picture of why so many feel so overwhelmed these days in the always-on world. There’s no time to think. We can’t prioritize, solve problems, or take the time needed to plan an organized workday or time off the clock to refuel the batteries. Instead, there is constant commotion and busyness, which masquerades as productive behavior, but is actually very different from forward progress. Commotion isn’t motion. It’s a mechanical momentum without intentionality or mobility.

Nonstop busyness has become the real business today. Many of us live to be occupied, while being unconscious to what it is that we’re actually doing, since there’s no time for thinking. For busyness to work, it has to be connected with thought and prioritization. Otherwise, everything that comes through the unfiltered digital pipeline is urgent.

When there’s no allowance for critical thought, there’s frenzy and frazzle. Thinking is how we tamp down the load, decipher paths forward, delegate, and make adjustments to how we do our tasks that help us work smarter. It’s how we process the experiences and notions that plant the seeds that lead to discoveries and solutions.

SQUEEZING OUT MEMORIES

When we sleep, our brains process the events of the day, look for patterns, and file the data in our memories. Filling up every minute with reflex digital checking or busyness deprives brain neurons of the thoughts needed for processing during shuteye. That can affect memory, since the information is being squeezed out by preoccupation from entering the incubation process. Besides making our lives a lot easier, memories play an important role in mood state. Our memories are a kind of ongoing status report as to whether we like our lives or not. Researchers say we’re as happy as the most recent positive and novel experience we can remember.

On the front end of the day’s events, reverting to the digital default can affect working memory, since the self-interruptions play havoc with our ability to retain short-term information.

The habit of busyness can become self-defining to the point that if we are not in hyperventilation mode on a task every moment, there is guilt—even at home. Yet productivity is something that depends on informed performance, thought before action. Without thought, we can wind up doing more than we can do well and at times doing tasks we shouldn’t be doing, when others are more urgent.

THINK WORK-LIFE BALANCE

Without thought, there is no work-life balance. That is not the default position. In fact, it’s the opposite. A semblance of work-life fit requires proactive planning and regular check-ins to see how we are doing. Keeping work-life balance in mind can serve as a conscious check on the autopilot that drives frenzy and overwhelm. Having a work-life goal of low-stress, effective work practices, and time for family and friends outside the job insures time to plan and reflect.

A state of busyness can make it seem that you don’t have a moment for reflection, but that is a mirage from stress-addled thoughts that make you feel every minute is an emergency. The I’m-Too-Busy mental block is very effective at screening out the things we need to work more effectively or squash any notion of time off-the-clock for recharging. As the old saying goes, you have to take time to make time, so let’s look at times when you could do that and schedule something new and very exciting into your day: thought breaks.

1. The first ten minutes of your day. When you get into the office, before you check email, write down your top three priorities for the day.

2. Use the transition points between tasks or work spheres, when you have finished one and are moving into another, to take a moment to celebrate the finish of one task and think about what you want to accomplish with the next item.

3. Use coffee or water cooler breaks to take a deep breath, think about what you’re doing next, or muse on something unrelated to help rebooting.

4. Take a five-minute walk three or four times a day to let your mind reflect and wonder.

5. Shut off all devices at lunch and have uninterrupted time to space, observe, muse, or plan a weekend activity.

6. The first 30 minutes when you get home from work. If you’re doing exercise, do it without digital screens in front of you. But music is good for letting your mind drift to thoughts and associations that may connect some dots.

7. Anytime your brain is fried, and you are going in circles mentally, get up, take a walk, do some stretching, and let your mind reset. Even five minutes is helpful.

8. Do a work-life balance check once a week to see how you are doing. What are the challenges? What’s going well?

If you would like more information on how to build more attention and effective work practices, click the button below for pricing and details on one of our work-life balance or productivity programs.

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Tips and Tools to Make Work Work

Copyright © 2012, Joe Robinson

Stress Management: How to Switch Off Job Stress at Home

 
By Joe Robinson

Dancing builds great work-life balance

One of the things my coaching clients tell me over and over again is that they can’t switch off from work at the end of the workday. It’s not just the electronic pipeline that keeps the tension going, it’s the work mind that just won’t punch out after-hours. There’s the constant replay of events that didn’t go according to plan, the worries about what’s coming up tomorrow, the rehash of issues with colleagues.  

How do you turn it off? The replay loop is a side effect of stress. The stress response is triggered when a part of your ancient brain believes there is a threat to your life and limb. Since it thinks you’re going to die, from 200 emails or a deadline or some other pressure that appears to overwhelm your ability to cope, it keeps harping away with its false alarm. That makes it hard to let it go and keeps work-life balance a pipedream.

DAILY DETACHMENT

The key to relaxing evenings, less stress, and better focus and mood when you go back to work the next day, say researchers, is psychological detachment from the pressures of the day. While we’re all pretty good at planning our careers, when it comes to our free time, we don't pay much attention to that. Yet it’s in the self-determined realm of free time where you have the best chance of keeping stress at bay, recovering burned-up mental and emotional resources, and putting a quality life on the calendar. 

It turns out that what we do away from work is critical for well-being, health and even what we do at work. Researchers at the University of Konstanz and Bowling Green University found that work-related thoughts combined with a lack of recovery strategies after work aggravate emotional exhaustion and prevents the resupply of energetic resources. As they put it, “High workload, emotional dissonance, and low spatial work-home boundaries are related to poor psychological detachment from work during non-work time.”

Studies show that leisure experiences off the job play a major role in buffering stressors and creating a positive mood state—active and strong— that allows for recovery and keeping negative mood at bay. Research by Williams and Alliger found that mood state, called affect, at home was related to affect state at work.  

RECOUPING RESOURCES

Job stressors drive psychological attachment to the events of the day that make it harder for our brains and bodies to let go and recover the resources they expended. This sets up a pattern of cumulative fatigue, in which we don’t recoup our resources at night and return to work the next day already behind the energy 8-ball.  The more fatigued we get, the more recovery we need.

Just as we need sleep to function the next day, we also need strategies to replace the mental and emotional resources burned up at the office. If they’re not replenished, we go down the track to chronic stress and exhaustion. The key tools to resupply lost resources are relaxation techniques, active leisure experiences that promote mastery, and sleep.

One of the things that makes it hard to unwind from the pressures of the day is that the stress response suppresses the play equipment in our brains. How can you think about having fun when your life is on the line? When demands are at their highest and you need relaxation the most, your ancient defense mechanism is working against you. You’re not in the mood to do anything non-serious. The way out of the loop is blocked by what’s known as negative affect. Gloom, anger, and pessimism restrict options to stewing and rumination.

Rumination is one of the leading drivers of stress, pessimism, and depression. It’s the constant replay of a stressful event, or rather the story we tell ourselves about that event, that entrenches a false belief and makes us think the danger is real. Rumination thrives on the nonsense coming from self-talk inside our head, so the counter to that is physical action and relaxation experiences that shut off the broken record and the demands of the workday. 

MOOD-SHIFTING

A wide variety of relaxation techniques can take thoughts off the stressful events of the day. Researchers have found that techniques from progressive relaxation, to experiences in nature, to aerobic exercise, yoga, meditation, and listening to music can shift the focus of attention. The evocative power of music is particularly effective in changing the emotional dynamic. The negative mood that locks us in our bunkers is ephemeral. Subject it to some empowering or beautiful music, and you change the emotional temperature.

One of the most effective ways to squelch self-talk and make the break from the workday is through active leisure experiences, the fun track to work-life balance. As a study led by Princeton’s Alan Krueger found, we are at our happiest when we are involved in engaging leisure experiences. This is not something that gets a lot of press, but it should. When we participate in recreational activities, from dancing to rowing, that allow us to build skills and meet a challenge, we satisfy core self-determination needs, such as autonomy and competence.

The two key elements for long-term fulfillment are novelty and challenge, brain scientist Gregory Berns has argued. Jumping in to pursuits that allow you to gratify those needs and feel mastery is a powerful way to shift out of brainlock and leave the work at work. Absorbing experiences off the career track allow you to demonstrate competence in a world of your own making, no matter what happens at the office. Everything isn’t riding on every approval and perfect outcome in the workday.

MASTERY EXPERIENCES

Research by Sonnentag and Ernst shows that “people who experience mastery in their off-job time generally report better well-being and life satisfaction.” Sports and hobbies are the places to look for mastery experiences. What have you always wanted to try your hand at? What are your affinities? What did you used to do for fun that you dropped and could take up again? Give it a try, and you will discover one of the best antidotes to one-tracked work minds.

Experiences make us happier than material things, and they usually connect us with others, which satisfies another core psychological need, connection with others. One of the great things about taking up a hobby or sport is that it is self-propelling. As we get better at it, the competence growth motivates you to learn more. If you get home from work, and you're not in the mood (or so your ancient brain makes you think), having a scheduled activity to go to forces you to get out and participate. Within five minutes of doing a dance lesson or volleyball, you've forgotten you weren't in the mood.

Having a fun activity to do every week or a couple of times a week is a powerful counter to negative affect and a provider of something that may be the best tonic of all, joy. Having a passion can add eight hours of joy to your week, say researchers.

So when you get home from work, do something different. Don’t fall for the usual mood. Too exhausted, too upset, etc. Rally and jump in to a new leisure activity or relaxation process. It puts you in charge of your mood, not the workday—and doing the living you’re making for yourself.

If you would like to get tools to turn off the work mind, reduce stress, and open up your life, click on the button below and learn how my one-on-one coaching program can get you where you want to go.

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Tips and Tools to Make Work Work

Copyright © 2012, Joe Robinson

Attention and Employee Engagement

 
By Joe Robinson

Focused team demonstrates employee engagement

With the growing advances in brain research, we’re getting a much better picture, literally, of when our command center works and when it doesn’t. Researchers say MRI scans of fatigued brains show so little activity, they look like they are sound asleep.

I’m sure you know that feeling around 4 p.m., when it seems like you’re swimming in molasses, and you have to expend twice the effort to get something accomplished that you need when you are fresh. The reality is that there is a limited period that the brain can stay focused without wandering or going into brownout mode. Researchers say 90-minutes to three hours of time and task, and the brain has to step back from task to reset.

The instinct to never pause and go to the mental wall may be admirable, but it’s not productive—and it’s one of the best ways to kill employee engagement. Studies show that engagement is not so much an attitude as a state of motivated attentiveness.

FULL ABSORPTION

One of the key hallmarks of engagement is absorption, full concentration in the moment. Pushing gray matter to the edge insures there won’t be much of that. Fried, overloaded brains are characterized by tension, inability to focus, slower processing, and an inability to handle complex tasks.

Even if dedication and commitment are there, engaged employees can’t deliver extra effort when mental resources are spent. Fatigue and exhaustion also undercut another key metric of engagement, the physical, energetic resources of vigor.

There is a fallacy in the knowledge economy that, because we are just sitting on our behinds, that the brain is a kind of unlimited well. We’re not being physically taxed, so the mind can just keep going. Brain scientists I’ve spoken with have told me that the brain goes down well before the body. That means, so does the chief productivity tool, attention, and the prospects for engagement.

FRACTURING FOCUS

Any organization that wants engaged employees has to have attentive employees, yet everything about the nature of work today undermines that—unbounded interruptions, information overload, social media intrusions. It’s not how much volume we can cram into our heads, but how we manage demands that leads to the focus necessary for engaged performance. Yet few organizations have tied shrinking attention to engagementm si more and more intrusions pour in.

It’s often thought that engagement can be measured by the amount of commitment to the organization, but that’s not enough to drive engagement, which is a function of the specific effort an employee brings to the task. As Alan Saks at the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto put it in one study, “Engagement has to do with how individuals employ themselves in the performance of their job,” not attachment to the organization.

It’s great when people are dedicated to the cause, but, if they have the attention span of a gnat, there won’t be much in the way of engagement. Disengagement is more like it, and, in fact, that is the trend these days as attention spans shrink, thanks to nonstop interruptions and information overload.

Leaders need to be alert for the signs of disengagement—withdrawal, absenteeism, personal conflicts, falling behind schedule, burnout—when attention vanishes in the face of excessive demands without compensating latitude or choice. Researchers say that burnout is a marker for the opposite of engagement’s dedication, absorption and vigor. Instead, there is estrangement from the goals of the organization and a downward spiral of physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion, cynicism, and futility.

THE OPPOSITE OF BURNOUT: ENGAGEMENT

That leads to the logic that less burnout can promote more attentive employees who have the potential to be engaged. What areas do organizations have to adjust to reduce the burnout track and promote more focus? Saks points to research from burnout scholar Christina Maslach and associates. “Job engagement is associated with a sustainable workload, feelings of choice and control, appropriate recognition and reward, a supportive work community, fairness and justice, and meaningful and valued work.”

People who have a sustainable workload are naturally going to be able to bring more focus to the task than if they have depleted their coping resources. Choice and control keep stress away, which prevents the brain from having focus constricted to the narrow fixation of a perceived false crisis. Recognition and supportive work means that attention is appreciated and nurtured, while fairness and meaningful work internalize the importance of doing quality, attentive work.

So much of the way we work today is simply autopilot, reflexively responding to the demands without managing them. The research shows that engagement, and productivity, are not the result of brain drain, of cognitive feats of endurance, but the opposite, promoting behaviors and policies that allow minds to find the space to focus.

That’s hard to engineer when most people are in a state of triage all day. Yet there are other choices than triage, other approaches to the way we do our work that are actually based on the evidence of what has been proven to be productive. From no-interruption zones to email management to the power of full-absorption goals, there are a wealth of tools that can bring about the gains in commitment, attention, and motivation that prime the pump for engagement.

This is where development programs can make a big difference, providing a path out of reflex mode to practices that are the most engaging and productive. If you are interested in increasing the attention, engagement, and productivity of your employees, click on the button below for more details.

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Tips and Tools to Make Work Work

Copyright © 2012, Joe Robinson

Employee Engagement: The Secret of Involvement

 
By Joe Robinson

Employee engagement delivers attentive troops

 

IF THERE'S A SECRET to the universe that's not generally known, it's that the magic in work and life comes, not from being a spectator, but from being a participant. You'd never know it, of course, given how much time we spend staring at digital screens.

The consensus of behavioral scientists is that humans are designed for action. The two key elements for long-term fulfillment are novelty and challenge. No wonder, the average state of someone watching TV is a mild depression, as research from Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi has found—especially given what’s on TV, Dog the Bounty Hunter, Worst Tattoos. Depression is more than a natural reaction to superb fare like this.

Nobody wants to sit at the office and watch others participate or be a cog in a wheel. Everyone wants to feel like they can use their talents to achieve results, be effective, and have a sense of contribution. We were not born to sit on the bench. Our brain neurons are designed for us to be in the game and contributing. When we participate, we satisfy core psychological needs crucial for gratification. Lack of involvement fuels boredom, cynicism, and learned helplessness. 

INVOLVEMENT INCREASES PROFITS

Management studies testify to the importance of employee involvement. USC’s Edward Lawler studied the performance of a number of large firms and measured them on various financial indicators—from sales and equity to assets and stockholder investment. He found that companies that invested in employee involvement had a return on investment of 19.1%, higher than any other metric. Greater employee involvement also increased job satisfaction and work-life effectiveness.

Lawler wrote that, “Employee Involvement, if well implemented, changes the fundamental relationship between individuals and the organization they work for. It really builds [employees] in as a business partner, so they know more and they do more to make the organization successful, particularly in industries where the human component is important—most knowledge work, high-tech, and many kinds of service industries."

When people participate, they feel a part of the process and team. They feel trusted and valued, which are key to employee engagement, which is another way of saying employee involvement. With a vested interest and more self-initiative, the effort level increases and along with it performance. Data from Gallup, which has been tracking engagement metrics meticulously for a number of years, shows that engagement can result in employees being  28% more productive. 

LEAVING MONEY ON THE TABLE

Yet few organizations encourage employee involvement or engagement. Lawler estimates that only 12% of employees are highly involved in their work. The command-and-control style of management still predominates when the research shows the opposite, that collaboration, self-responsibility, and self-initiative are much more effective at generating employee engagement.

Over the last two decades scientists have discovered that the most potent motivation is not fear, external payoff, or even bonuses, but something completely different, intrinsic motivation. That comes from within, as does the discretionary effort of engagement. Intrinsic motivation can’t be commanded; it can only be enabled and encouraged through involvement and internal goals such as excellence, service, challenge, learning, or inherent interest.

EFFORT DRIVES SATISFACTION 

Researchers Judith Harackiewicz and Andrew Elliot found that intrinsically motivated employees are continuously interested in the work that they’re doing. When employees feel they have a stake in the process and can make contributions, they are self-motivated, self-managed, self-propelled. That satisfies core needs such as autonomy, feeling that you are not being forced and controlled, and competence, a sense that you can be effective. Satisfaction is not something that comes from doing something easy. It’s the result of effort. Participation sets up a cycle of effort followed by the internal payoff of satisfaction.

How can managers unlock the power of intrinsic motivation and create more employee involvement and engagement? The answer lies in promoting more self-responsibility and self-assessment, including employees in on decisions, and providing feedback that satisfies the competence need. It’s not “great job,” but “I love how you did that project,” which plays to their effectiveness.

Allowing for more choice in how people do their work invites more involvement. We all have a job we have to do, but how we do it can tap the autonomy need as it creates a feeling of competence for doing tasks or projects in a smarter way.

MULTIPLY PROBLEM-SOLVERS

Managers don’t give up final decision-making power. They simply spread the wealth around to bring in contributions across the company that can help create better outcomes. How much better off, nimbler, and quicker, is a company with a highly skilled roster of people at all positions capable of making decisions, instead of having everything left to a handful of overstretched executives?

Every company’s main resource is its people. Unleashing them to participate to the fullest degree is the best long-term strategy for increasing productivity, sales, innovation, and retention. Otherwise, there’s a lot of money and effort left on the table. Gallup estimates American businesses drop $300 billion a year in lost productivity due to unengaged personnel.

If you would like to activate the untapped power of an engaged staff, click the button below for rates and details on our engagement programs. 

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Copyright © 2012, Joe Robinson

The 6 Skills You Can't Live Without

 
By Joe Robinson

A work life balance skills that activates life to the fullest

Despite all the classes we take, degrees we get, documentaries we watch, many of us never get the word about a remedy as key to health and happiness as watching cholesterol or eating the right food. It's the invisible cure for a host of our problems, from stress to obesity to loneliness: leisure skills.

What's that? Microwave popcorn popping? Isometric finger exercises for the remote? Actually, what we do with our time off-the-clock has a lot to do with our satisfaction with life and work, too, since life is the engine of our energy, creativity, and productivity. Knowing how to participate in engaged recreational activities is also one of the best stress management tools and guarantees we have work-life balance in our lives.

When we don't have leisure skills, what do we do? Flip on the TV. The average state of someone watching TV, though, is a mild depression, reports Mihaly Csikzentmihalyi, author of "Finding Flow" and the pioneering authority on optimal experience. Considering what's on the tube -- Dog the Bounty Hunter, Worst Tattoos -- that's no bulletin.

GET ON UP

A sedentary lifestyle is a major risk factor for heart disease and other serious health problems. A recent study in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise reported that men who spend 23 or more hours a week sitting, watching TV or glued to car seats, had a 64% greater chance of fatal heart disease than those who only logged 11 hours or less per week in seated mode.

That could well be a bigger problem, since some 78 percent of Americans over age 30 don't get any exercise, according to Census Bureau statistics and Seppo Iso-Ahola of the University of Maryland.

The root of the problem? Missing leisure skills, something we don't know we need. The assumption is that leisure is a vegetative condition, and therefore there are no requirements aside from batteries for the remote. But it's actually the exact opposite. As Aristotle saw it, the non-work arena is a realm of engagement, of self-fulfillment and learning. 

In one of the not-so-great ironies of the modern world, we are trained to make a living, but not how to do the living we're making. That's left to others -- the stars with the production values, the tabloid train-wreck of the moment. We wind up without the skills to do what is essential for physical and mental health -- participate in our lives through engaged experiences.

WORLD'S HAPPIEST PLACE

The link between active leisure and health is plenty clear to researchers. Of all the things on the planet, humans are at their happiest when they're involved in engaging leisure experiences, a study led by Princeton's Alan Krueger found. Leisure experiences have been found to reduce stress by buffering setbacks and building coping mechanisms. They also build self-esteem and confidence and improve mood through increased self-control and social support.

Aerobic exercise and vacations have both been shown to reduce depression. The more active leisure life you have, the higher your life satisfaction, says Iso Ahola.

Passions and the active leisure skills that create them work wonders for your health and outlook because they satisfy core psychological needs for autonomy, competence and connection with others. Yet this power of this health resource doesn't filter down to us because we are using the wrong skill-set to access it.

THE LIFE SKILL-SET

You can’t play hopscotch with a flowchart. The work skill-set is the opposite of what’s needed to activate your life. On the work side, the objective is results, output. On the life side, it’s about the experience itself, not where it’s going. On the work side, it’s about control and micromanaging; on the life side, risk-taking. On the work side, it’s about the familiar; on the life side novelty and challenge.

It takes another skill-set to create a fulfilling life outside the professional world. Here are some of the key leisure skills that get your life going:

1. Intrinsic motivation. Pursuing and enjoying experiences off the clock takes a different motivation: intrinsic motivation. You do it for the inherent interest, fun, learning or challenge. Research shows we enjoy what we're doing more when the goal is intrinsic. Expect no payoff, and you get a big one, internal gratification.

    2. Initiating. We have to break out of spectator mode and self-determine our lives to feel gratified. We need to research and plan activities and vacations, seek out and try new things, invite others to get out and participate -- and if they don't reciprocate, go alone.

      3. Risk-taking. The real risk is not risking. Security is a red flag for the brain, which is built to seek out novelty and challenge. Make the risk intrinsic (the result doesn't matter), and you're able to venture much more because, instead of having anything on the line, you're just exploring.

        4. Pursuit of competence. Since competence is one of your core needs, it's a handy thing to build and sublime to feel. The idea here is that you want to get better at something -- not to show off, not for anyone else but for your own gratification. Pursuing competence leads you to build your skills at an activity to the point where it can become a passion. It's a fabulous life-sustaining skill.

          5. Attention-directing and absorption. The key to optimal experiences is being 100 percent engaged in what you're doing now. That means losing the electronic devices and distractions and putting all your concentration on the activity at hand. The more absorbed you are, the more your thoughts and deeds are the same, and the happier you are.

            6. Going for the experience. Observation and hanging back don't satisfy the engagement mandate of your brain neurons. To activate a fulfilling life, we have to participate in the 40 percent of our potential happiness  we can actually do something about -- intentional activities. That's the realm of experience. Experiences make us happier than material things because they can't be compared with anyone else's experience. They don't lose value through social comparison. They are personal events that engage our self-determination needs.

            These skills take us inside the participant dynamic essential to a healthy and extraordinary life. They show us that the good life comes from a place quite a bit different than we thought, and only we can make it happen, nobody else.

            If you'd like to bring a better work-life balance to your life, click on the button below for a free consultation. Life's out there, if you are.

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            Tips and Tools to Make Work Work

            Copyright © 2012, Joe Robinson

            Managing Crazy-Busy Overload

             
            By Joe Robinson

             Managing productivity overload

            Since he lacks the android capabilities needed to answer the 250-plus emails he gets a day, Brian, a VP for a large tech firm in San Diego, gets up at 5 a.m. every morning and spends two hours plowing through messages at home before he goes to work. “It just seems futile some days,” he says. “Like I can never dig out.”

            It’s a feeling that cuts across many organizations today in a world of doing more with less. I heard a lot of similar stories from executives I met at the Supply Chain Leaders in Action conference in Scottsdale, Arizona, where I gave a workshop on how to deal with the central fact of work-life these days: Crazy-Busy Overload. The executives I spoke to, from Safeway to Starbucks, were drowning in email, interruptions, and trying to do multiple things simultaneously to get it all done.

            Crazy-Busy Overload isn’t just a problem for individuals, it’s a major productivity issue for organizations, since it drives disengagement, burnout, shrinking attention spans, poor decision-making, and creates a style work based on autopilot reflex, action before thought. When we operate in defensive mode, reacting to the incoming, instead of managing the practices that drive overload, it takes longer to get the work done and we make a lot of mistakes.

            DIGGING OUT

            The truth is, the way we work isn’t based on what the science says, or anything at all. Most of us are simply reacting to people and events all day. The number one productivity goal of every organization should be to use the data on what works to help teams dig out from under the siege of devices, interruptions and information overload.

            It may seem hopeless, but it’s not. A series of adjustments to work style and how we manage demands, from devices to multitasking and stress, can turn it around, so that we are less crazed and more productive. As the mariners say, we can’t control the wind, but we can adjust the sails.

            That’s the way out of an unbounded world, making tweaks to a counterproductive, retaliatory work style. Without adjustments, the default behavior is to the burnout treadmill, a pattern that undermines performance. The natural reflex to more to do is to do more, instead of developing strategies to qualify, manage and corral the overflow in a more efficient way.

            THE BURNOUT TREADMILL

            Unconscious action minus thought puts teams on the treadmill scenario we all know too well. With too much to do, you speed up to catch up. That brings on time urgency, a false belief that every minute is an emergency, and that drives stress. That triggers rushing to catch  up, and the rushing fuels stress.

            We wind up with the “I’m too busy” blinders on, so there’s no time to step back to think and devise a better approach, so the false beliefs of the stress response become entrenched, health and vitality weaken, and we have to work longer to get the same amount of work done as before we got on the treadmill.

            If your organization would like to rein in Crazy-Busy Overload and the reduction in productivity that comes with it, here are five keys to getting it under control:

            1. Control Time Urgency.  The unconscious habit of rushing is the “Crazy” in Crazy-Busy. It drives frenzy and false emergency, making your team think every minute of the day is an emergency. It has been shown by researchers to be a heart attack and burnout risk even for people in their thirties. Speed isn't the key factor; velocity is, conscious movement in the right direction.

            Nonstop motion makes everything appear urgent when we haven’t taken the time to think about what is urgent and what isn’t. It’s a speed trap easy to get caught up in, since time panic and the stress it sets off is very contagious. We are hardwired to pick up on the emotions, facial expressions, and tone of voice of others. It’s part of our social bonding equipment, but it’s destructive in this case. We have to opt out of the frenzy, and ask when we’re rushing, is it an emergency or is it a speed trap?

            2. Set the Terms of Engagement with Devices. An unbounded approach to devices, allowing messages to avalanche in at any time, is not sustainable. Every email results in six emails, three going, three coming back. The average corporate user today gets 133 emails and 77 Instant Messages per day.

            The solution lies in adjusting how we respond to email. Instead of allowing devices to set the terms of engagement, we have to do it, by checking email at designated times and keeping mail software and noisemakers turned off unless they're in use, and by doing what some leading companies are—mandating less email and more phone messaging. An email etiquette handbook or norm guide is a great way to make sure that humans are setting the terms of engagement.

            3. Increase Attention. The chief productivity tool, attention, is under siege these days from interruptions, devices, and multitasking, which researcher David Meyer at the University of Michigan says, slows you down. The result is shrinking attention spans that can’t find the space to concentrate. That means it takes longer to the get the job done, and there’s more sense of overwhelm as the devices and their “bottom-up” attention make our days feel out of control.

            The more you check email, the more you have to check it. Impulse control is eroded by interruptions and the increased stress they trigger (up to 105% more annoyance, a study by Bailey and Konston showed). Strategies to build attention and manage interruptions are essential to keep fractured brains focused on task.

            4. Set Boundaries. Technology has blurred perimeters and boundaries and created the illusion that we can do it all because we have our digital friends at our side. The reality is that this is an illusion. Brains go down well before the body does, brain scientists tell me, and take the work down with them.

            We are not hard drives with hair, and when we try to be, productivity and health suffers. Harvard researchers Nash and Stevenson say that boundaries are a success tool, something we can all get better at. What boundaries does your team need, and how can they make them more effective? Our productivity program gives you a batch of tools to choose from.

            5. Refuel Energy. Contrary to what most of us would like to believe, humans need to be refueled on a regular basis. In fact, the source of productivity in the knowledge economy is not who is the most worn out, but who has the freshest brain. When we pay attention to the brain’s natural 90-minute alertness cycle, the need for cells to refuel after activation through oxygen and glucose, and the power of energy-creating breaks during the day, productivity soars.

            Your organization can put an end to the siege of Crazy-Busy Overload by reining in devices, interruptions, multitasking, and information overload. The research shows that productivity is not a function of how fast you can go or how many things you're doing at one time. It’s about informed performance, thinking before we act, and managing demands, instead of being managed by them. 

            If you would like more details and pricing information on our productivity program, "Managing Crazy-Busy Overload," click the button below.

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            Tips and Tools to Make Work Work

            Copyright © 2012, Joe Robinson

            Guilt and Perfectionism: Opting Out of Burnout for Engagement

             
            By Joe Robinson

             Driven by guilt to overdo it

            As if there aren’t enough stressors in the workday, here’s one more you may not have been aware of that is a very effective driver of pulse rates: guilt. Specifically, work guilt, a condition that drives perfectionism, employee friction, low job satisfaction, and bad work-life balance. It makes people do more than they can do well, put their health at risk, and undermine productivity. 

            Unlike engaged employees, who willingly bring extra effort to the job, with vigor, absorption, and dedication, people driven by guilt do the work unwillingly, because they “should,” not because they want to. They bring resignation, resentment, and self-defeating heroics to the task and cause others to do the same, setting off conflicts with colleagues who feel they have to go beyond what’s productive to keep up. These are not hallmarks of engagement, which is characterized by self-driven, self-propelled effort.

            Perfectionists spend longer than they have to on a given task, reducing performance, and have a hard time delegating, because no one can do the job as well as them. Not trusting others results in slower turnarounds, more burnout, and resentment.

            UNREAL GUILT

            Work guilt falls into the category of what psychologists call “unreal” guilt. You haven’t punched anyone in the face or slashed their tires, committing real harm. Like the imagined dreads of a blind date, unreal guilt is an anticipatory anxiety.

            “Most of our guilt is a result not of fear but anxiety,” say Lucy Freeman and Herbert Strean in Guilt: Letting Go. “No one menaces your life when you feel anxious. There is only ephemeral danger, one that does not exist in the real world but in your fantasy.”

            We wind up at the mercy of unreal guilt because we get it confused with the other brand of guilt, “real” guilt, which forms the basis of the conscience we need to be able to function in society, something selected out by nature to prevent us from making mistakes. Real guilt helps you to be trustworthy and not strangle parking ticket officers.

            But unreal guilt is a pretender, passing itself off as bona fide as it inflicts your life with needless and time-consuming agonizing. The guilt feels like it’s coming from your true inner compass, but it’s actually a composite of the nags in your life commanding that you “should” or “should not” do a given thing and that, if you don’t follow the badgering then you’ve committed an infraction.

            PRODUCTIVITY IS THE LOSER

            Bosses get it as bad as employees. One CEO of a major media firm told me that at the end of the day he’s waiting for his staff to leave so he can leave, and they’re waiting for him to leave, so they can leave. It’s a standoff. And productivity is the loser.

            Guilt can drive people to go beyond the usual cues of mental and physical fatigue, increasing stress, myopic decision-making, and heath problems, such as burnout, which is seven times more costly to treat than the average workplace malady.

            These are a few of the reasons smart managers have told me they don’t want their talent flaming out from guilt-driven overperformance or driving colleagues bonkers. The most effective approach with staff is to encourage quality and excellence for its own sake, for intrinsic goals, not for the external goal of perfection, which fuels insecurity, dissatisfaction, and low work-life balance survey scores.

            THE THOUGHT-AS-DEED WHAMMY

            To understand how unreal most guilt is, it helps to know the bizarre way some of these bouts of optional angst come to us. One of the quirks of the way the mind works is that it interprets thoughts or wishes as if they were deeds. As far as your brain is concerned, if you think it, it happened.

            This comes from way back on the human tree before the species had rational thought. For the earliest humans, action immediately followed thought. Random thoughts—eat acorn, kill stranger—became instant deeds. Though evolution moved on, one corner of our minds didn’t, leaving us with the thought-equals-action, guilt hangover. We feel as guilty at the wish to do what we shouldn’t than if we actually did the deed.

            Most of the guilt we lug around is not based on what we’ve done, but what we wish. We are being manipulated by a mind that thinks it’s the year 150,000 BC. A more up-to-date and engaged employee actually wishes to do the work.

            INHERENT INTEREST BEATS PERFECTIONISM

            There are two ingredients in getting the guilt down and the quality of engagement up: intrinsic motivation and choice. A study by Harackiewicz and Eliot found that intrinsically motivated employees are continuously interested in the work that they are doing. People whose goals are the inherent interest of the work itself—or excellence, challenge, craft—are absorbed in what they’re doing, like it more, and remember it better, the research shows.

            Those who are driven by external approval are in it to please someone else, not to have 100% attention on what it is they’re doing.

            The guilt that drives burnout and non-awareness of healthy limits is fueled by decisions made by others. The voice in our head we think is ours telling us we have to keep at something well beyond the point of the task being finished is actually somebody else’s. It’s a byproduct of the “shoulds” that have come our way via parents, bosses, teachers, peers, coaches, and culture over the years.

            Download Free Report: "Stress Is Optional"

            THE POWER OF CHOICE

            When we go along with this pass-along guilt without making a decision of our own, we agree to be manipulated by the guilt-inflictor. The way out of the cycle is to make the decision you want to make. You do it or not because you consciously choose to.

            This shift in thinking puts you in control of your decisions. You opt out of the guilt-resentment cycle with choice. 

            If a friend invites you to a party, and you don’t want to go but you show up, you’re going to feel resentful being there because it’s something you were commanded that you “should” do. However, if you make the decision, tell yourself out loud I’m going to that party to support my friend even though I would prefer not to, you’re not going to feel resentful. You made the decision.

            If you stay home from that party, the “shoulds” will make you guilty as charged. If you say, ‘I’m staying home because I’m exhausted, went to a party of hers recently, or just prefer not to for this reason,' you won’t feel the automatic guilt, and the stress that comes from it.

            Choice destroys guilt. It says, “I choose,” instead of “I lose” with the decisions of others. Making sure employees are working for the right reasons is not something a lot of management is concerned with. But they should be, because the difference between engaged and unengaged and/or burned-out staff is at least 28% more effort, according to a Gallup survey. Not getting that kind of effort is something to, well, feel guilty about.

            Tips and Tools to Make Work Work

            Copyright © 2012, Joe Robinson

            Work Overload: Speaking Up about Boundaries

             
            By Joe Robinson

            Boundaries are key to work-life balance

            Alarmed that marathon workweeks were driving out too many talented people, the Boston Consulting Group created a program to head off the problem. Called the Red Zone, it flags employees who log more than 60 hours a week for five weeks, citing their exploits on reports seen by partners and managers. “A hero is not someone whose light is on at 10 at night,” says Kermit King, the firm’s head of recruiting for the Americas.

            A Red Zone event triggers a meeting with a Career Development Committee sponsor to find out what’s causing the pattern. The manager reviews the project to see where adjustments can be made to prevent an expensive burnout.

            Solutions can range from reprioritizing duties, to adding more resources, to changing the timeline and better time management. The program lays down a marker that pushing to the brink isn’t a smart way to work. The Red Zone has increased the number of consultants who feel their job is manageable and, as a result, boosted the number of people who say they want to stay at the company and improved work-life balance. 

            THE GREAT UNMENTIONABLE

            Unfortunately, few organizations are aware of the importance of clear boundaries on their bottom lines or talent. One tech firm bases promotions on how much weekend time you work—while struggling with a growing retention problem.

            A Red Zone program could have saved Karen Walker, a marketing exec for a large Silicon Valley firm, from herself. An intense case of workaholism drove her to 90-hour weeks, as well as chronic hives, hair loss, and thyroid medication. “I will work something till I feel it’s worthy of the company’s name,” she told me, a dictum that overtook her health.

            A few sensible boundaries can save a lot of turnover and medical bills. There’s a reluctance to go there, though, because a very powerful myth makes us think that success requires going to the absolute breaking point. Yet the research and case studies are unequivocal: success depends on boundaries.

            Researchers at Harvard Business School found that the key component for successful business executives that gave them true satisfaction was “the deliberate imposition of limits.”

            AVOIDING THE INFINITE MORE

            “It allows them to say I don’t need to work away at this particular thing until I’m satiated and hate the very sight of it,” said Laura Nash and Howard Stevenson, authors of "Just Engough," in the Harvard Business Review. “This is ‘just enough.’ They recognize the importance of setting their own standards for ‘enough.’ And not falling prey to the lure of the infinite ‘more’.”

            That’s what Susan, a Denver financial advisor I coached, discovered when she got to the end of her rope with 70-hour weeks. “I was hating work that I love and, by driving myself harder and harder, I had started to hate myself and my life,” she says. “My productivity was at a standstill, and I was always angry at myself for not accomplishing more."

            The problem, she came to see, was that she was trying to be the best, an external goal, instead of focusing on doing her best, which is where the more important internal rewards come from. After shifting her outlook and revamping her schedule, she was able to set boundaries and improve her performance at the same time.

            When a client recently asked her to do another loan report after she’d just finished one for this customer, she did something she never did. She said No. “I knew I had done enough,” she says. The client was initially unhappy, but called back the next day and apologized for being out of line.

            “It feels great to know you can say you’ve done enough,” says Susan.

            Research by Stanford Medical School’s Mark Cullen has uncovered something very revealing about the impact of overperformance on job satisfaction. Even if you love your job, if you do too much of it, you’ll hate it. Overly tasked people, says Cullen, don’t like what they’ve done at the end of the day. It turns out that too much work strips all the accomplishment, and fun, from what you’re doing.

            THE SUCCESS TOOL

            Over the last couple decades we have become more and more hesitant to set boundaries, but that’s no longer tenable in a 24/7 world. It’s time to reclaim boundaries and see them for what they are, the most basic management tool, a key to work-life balance that allows us to work more effectively. They are also an essential stress management tool.

            A small but growing number of companies are recognizing that operating without limits is hurting bottom lines and retention. Two maladies associated with long-hours schedules, stress and depression, are five to seven times more costly to treat than other workplace illnesses. 

            We all work more productively when we have a chance to think, plan, and organize. We get that from boundaries. A report out of Harvard on speaking up in the workplace called the word No the “voice-oriented improvement system.” Things get better for employee and employer when we find out what's not working and don’t do more than we can do well.

            This same report said that people are speaking up at work—they tend to be extroverts—and there is not the negative repercussions to it that are feared. People live to talk about it.

            SPEAKING UP AND LIVING TO TELL ABOUT IT

            I do an exercise in my workshops where people who set boundaries share with those who don’t what happens when boundaries are verbalized. Sometimes nothing. Sometimes static, but often the boundary sticks and the person is actually respected more for it. They are not sent to the gulag.

            Oftentimes, managers don’t know how many things you’re working on. Clarifying with them the tasks you’re doing, your duties and schedules can help him/her see that it doesn’t make sense to have you do an excessive number of things poorly that don’t reflect the real priorities.

            Most people today are in retaliatory mode all day, simply reacting to devices and what comes at them. That drives a lot of action and assignments without thought. You can bring that thinking into the equation by asking questions and offering more productive solutions than the task or the schedule that takes you beyond the capacity of physiology and excellence.

            Boundaries give everyone a clear picture of where things stand, which is what you want to be able to do at the end of the day. 

            If you or your organization could use some adjustments in the area of boundaries, click the button below for more information on our stress management, work-life balance, and productivity development trainings.

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            Tips and Tools to Make Work Work

            Copyright © 2012, Joe Robinson

            How Coaching Cures Work, Life Obstacles

             
            By Joe Robinson

             Coaching can provide a new lease on work and life

            Maybe it happened on a flight, when you got into a deep conversation with the person sitting next to you. Or maybe on vacation, you met a fellow traveler and struck up an instant rapport, getting to know the person better in an hour than people you’ve worked with for years.

            It’s an exhilarating experience that almost never occurs at home. It’s known as the “stranger on the train effect,” a phenomenon that occurs when strangers open up about their lives without the usual inhibitions. 

            It’s a specialty of travel, a nonjudgmental realm where people tend to take each other at face value. Time is limited, and what you say can’t trip you up later, since you’ll never see the person again. 

            That’s not the way it goes at work, where we tightly guard what we say to whom, because it can come back to haunt you. In the competitive arena of the workplace, discretion is thought to be the better part of valor. There’s little communication on issues that are critical to work and life, from conflicts with colleagues or managers, to stress, to lack of time and resources.

            TREADMILL TO NOWHERE

            That leaves millions of people without an ear to turn to for advice on issues crucial to success, health, and growth. When challenges aren’t addressed, stress grows, as well as the potential for serious medical problems. More than two dozen studies show the connection between heart disease and job stress. There’s also no progress on professional goals when the default position is the status quo. It’s a treadmill to nowhere you want to go.

            There is a place to turn to, though, to tackle work issues as they come up: coaching. Just as it is for tennis or yoga, a coach or teacher for your professional side can dramatically improve performance and skills. 

            Outside advocates—whether you call them executive coaches or life coaches—can cut through the emotions and entrenched behaviors and provide fresh solutions. The best coaches are extremely effective at cutting stress, managing competing demands and difficult bosses, and improving time management.

            I’ve worked with thousands of professionals, from frontline staff to CEO’s, and I can tell you that having a coach on your side can be the difference between burnout and a healthy life, between hours without end and boundaries, between speaking up about workload and being saddled with more than you can do well, between stagnation and growth. 

            Whether your issues are burnout, overwhelm, prickly colleagues, poor management, or something else, the fact is, everyone could use some guidance, since we are never taught the skills of sustainable working. We get the tools of our trade, but not what we need to work in the most effective way, based on what the science actually says. So the tendency is to default to retaliatory mode, reacting to devices and others, instead of managing them, which drives stress, crisis mentality, and exhaustion.

            WHAT IS COACHING, ANYWAY?

            So what is coaching, anyway, and what can it do for you? At its most basic, coaching is a process that identifies what’s not working in your work-life and then provides custom adjustments to turn it around. Human nature is averse to change, even change that’s good for us, so it’s difficult to embark on the right path on your own. Coaching provides an advocate dedicated to helping you solve the challenges holding back progress and satisfaction.

            A good coaching program should begin with goals and questions. Where do you want to go? What is standing in the way of those goals and progress? What needs to change? What should you be doing less of? What should you be doing differently? What’s making work and life difficult? What kind of work-life balance do I need? Balance means the important things in your life are not being neglected in a single-minded pursuit of the task side of your life.

            It’s easy to get so caught up in head-down mode that we wind up well off course from where we want to be. Coaching is an opportunity to pause, question what’s not working, and return armed with better strategies, instead of continuing with the default position that can threaten health or career.

            I see coaching as part-conversation and part-seminar, providing listening, instruction, exercises, and a road map to job and life satisfaction. Proven strategies are tailored to the specific circumstances of the work culture and team. There is a wealth of research to point us in the right direction when it comes to working in the most sustainable way.

            THE CYCLE OF INSOMNIA

            Like many people today, one of my clients was having a serious problem with insomnia, unable to sleep for more than a couple hours at a time. We dug deeper and discovered the source of the stress and panic attacks that triggered the cycle of sleeplessness. She was taught several stress reduction techniques, and how to speak up and communicate better with her manager. 

            People with severe overload and stress/burnout issues often feel they can’t possibly speak up about it, or they’ll get fired, so the problem gets worse. These people are often the most conscientious and hard-working people on the staff, so the manager is usually more than willing to make adjustments. Often the person is doing well more than the manager expects or even wants.

            PREVENTIVE MEDICINE

            We’re all raised to take a licking and keep on ticking, but, unlike for watches, that’s a mistake for humans, particularly when it comes to job stress and counterproductive behaviors that are a threat to health. I can’t tell you the number of people I’ve spoken to at workshops I’ve conducted who tick off a litany of meds they’re using to treat job stress-related disorders that a good coaching program could resolve.

            Others cite heart attacks. I've heard about colleagues who have died from heart attacks on the job. They didn't seek help. Reaching out isn’t a sign of weakness; it’s a sign of strength. You are taking back control of your life when you have the knowledge and tools to work in a sustainable way.

            Maybe you would just like to be more productive and organized. Coaching can help you there as well. You learn the difference between urgent and important, and reduce a lot of stress in the process.

            If you’re not happy with your work-life, if dysfunction, restructurings, workloads, or conflicts are showing up in the form of insomnia, digestion problems, or chronic stress, reach out today for a free consultation. The cost of coaching is a lot less than you think and most people are able to resolve even the most intractable issues in three one-hour sessions via phone or Skype.

            If you’d like more information and a price quote for my one-on-one coaching sessions, please click the button below.

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            Tips and Tools to Make Work Work

            Copyright © 2012, Joe Robinson

            7 Signs the Office Needs Stress Management

             
            By Joe Robinson

            Stress drains productivity

            You can’t see it or taste it, but chances are good your office is up to its workstations in it—the colorless, odorless toxin of stress. It’s so widespread a U.N. report called it the “21st century epidemic.” Yet stress is so invisible that most organizations have a hard time realizing the threat and may not know what and when to do something about it.

            The symptoms don’t manifest physically as with the hacking cough of a flu. Stress is a silent stalker, with employees and managers leery to speak its name. This is exactly what stress thrives on, adaptation to stressors that lead to stewing about, instead of resolving stress, with entrenched tension leading to chronic stress and very high costs for the company and individual.

            TENSION AND PANIC FOR ALL

            The reality is, stress is as contagious as any bug, spreading through pass-along strain and crisis mentality throughout the organization. Humans are born with an amazing capacity to mirror the emotions of those around them through what are known as mirror neurons, which mimic the facial expression and movements of others. We easily pick up on the emotions of others, and that translates into anxious, crisis-prone, unproductive organizations—not to mention, $407 billion a year in lost productivity, absenteeism, and medical costs, says U.C. Irvine’s Peter Schnall.

            Every organization can prevent huge hits to the budget each year by spotting the signs of stress and knowing when it’s time for a stress management program to get this hazard to critical thinking, rapport, and productivity under control. Despite the interior nature of stress, there are many signs that can tip off the problem. Let’s take a look at seven key indicators:

            1. Absenteeism and retention problems. Since discussing stress is seen as taboo or a sign of weakness, health problems set off by chronic stress, which suppresses the immune system, the tissue repair system, and digestion, multiply along with sick days and absenteeism. If employees know how to manage stress, and management understands what fuels it, absenteeism is no longer the only coping option. When employees feel there’s no possibility of stressors changing, and the health bills mount, they may decide to quit. Forty percent of employees leave because of stress. If your company is seeing more people heading for the exits, look closely, and stress may be the driver.

            2. High pressure and tension. Everyone can feel it when tensions are high. For certain deadlines and projects, pressure is a given, but when high tension is the normal day-to-day, it can overwhelm coping abilities and productive output, since relationships suffer, cynicism reigns, and exhaustion guts engagement. High demands can be handled with some control. Without it, chronic stress rules. Managers can measure stress levels with a cognitive survey that can be managed on Survey Monkey. Once the data is in, you can see the extent of the problem and have the evidence to bring a stress management program forward.

            3. Doing more with fewer resources. Almost every organization is having to make do with fewer resources today. At the same time, there are physiological limits to how much individuals can do. Are your troops maxed out? Is your top talent teetering on an exit strategy because there’s not enough support? High-demand workplaces more than most need to have their employees trained in stress management and sustainable performance practices.

            4. A recent merger or restructuring or preparation for one. The most stressful organizations today tend to be those that are getting ready for a sale and want to show off the highest profitability, but which don’t have the resources to get the outcome they want. That turns up the pressure on everyone. A stress management program is paramount in this situation, as well as in the aftermath of the restructuring, when insecurity, convulsive change, and a new culture create high stress loads. Don’t scrimp on staff development funds if your organization fits this bill.

            5. The word burnout is being tossed around. This is a red flag for high stress. The term “stress” is seen as a word to avoid, so often the problem will manifest with staff citing burnout, which tends to be more acceptable. Those mentioning “burnout” are usually are on target. The terminal fatigue and cynicism that comes with it allows them to surface the issue. Again, a survey can be a great way to measure the extent of the problem and arm managers with the data needed to bring in a stress management solution.

            6. Productivity is down. In the knowledge economy, the source of productivity is a refreshed and energized brain. Employees with high stress have an extremely limited cognitive function, with the brain constricted to a narrow field dominated by the perceived crisis of the moment. Rumination on the stressor distracts from attention on the task at hand, not to mention future planning. In addition to cognitive issues, chronic stress saps the physical vitality of employees, as stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline deplete the body’s energetic resources. It’s not working harder and longer that will pick up productivity (which plummets in hours beyond eight a day); it’s working smarter through programs that help employees control stress, recharge brains, and then get more done in less time.

            7Intense emotional pressures. Some professions by their very nature require a high level of involvement in intense emotional domains, such as caregiving, social work, community healthcare, and law enforcement. Employees in these arenas are particularly susceptible to burnout from lack of support and reward. If you’re a manager in these realms, you know that it is essential to have regular, comprehensive development programs to manage emotional pressures and tough workloads. The job of staff isn’t to take on all the stress and demands of clients and customers. It’s to show them a way out of intractable issues, which they can’t do convincingly if they themselves are caught up in a crisis. 

            Of course, there are many other signals and settings that translate into high stress levels, from intense deadlines to develop a new product, to global competition and/or offices across multiple time zones, to workaholic leadership. Whatever the cause, a solution is at hand: knowledge and strategies to handle stress and the autopilot behaviors that keep the dysfunction going.

            If you’d like to learn more about our stress management programs, click the button below. 

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            Tips and Tools to Make Work Work

            Copyright © 2012, Joe Robinson

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