A more productive worker is a rested worker

Posted in : HR Updates ROI on 16 March 2016
Peter Cosgrove
Issues covered:

Work is now busier than ever: it’s global not local, its 24/7, it’s moving faster than it has ever moved before. Our brains are under siege from information overload. We are always ‘on’. According to Dan Rose of Facebook, we are now consuming 7 hours of content in 5 hours. The reality is that if you are busy all the time, something is wrong with the way you are working and you need to step back and take an honest look at the things that are taking up your time.

How does any of this connect with having a rested worker? It is true that things are moving quicker than ever but we need to differentiate between a busy worker and a productive worker and really start to give our employees time to think.

Research has shown that you can lose up to 15 IQ points through just one night of no sleep. It has also been demonstrated that being sleep deprived is equivalent to being over the legal alcohol limit in terms of cognitive functions. Why would any company want their employees to be working at only a fraction of their potential and what can companies do to ensure they do not have a working population sleep-walking through the day?

Travel - Consider whether the benefits of taking a red-eye flight outweigh the fact that your executives are only getting 4 or 5 hours sleep before the day ahead. It may not suit everyone but perhaps have more flexibility around travel and not a pure focus on maximizing time or minimizing cost.

Emails - Volkswagen famously imposed blackout times on work emails to allow employees to switch off work emails automatically between 6 pm and 7 am. This will not work in all areas but  provided there are overrides, such a policy can send out a clear message about the values of the company.

Presenteeism Have a focus on getting things done, not working long hours. Most companies have a huge challenge with the culture of being seen to work long hours regardless of the output produced. McKinsey have coined the term that senior executives need to “leave by example” as many employees feel if their boss is working late then by default they need to also.

Utilising Technology - Companies should spend more time training their teams on how to use technology tools like Skype and so help lessen travel to and from different offices. Training should also be given on productivity around technology. Many employees are still being drowned by the number of emails they receive...the constant ping of new alerts. All of this can be managed through simple technology rules and shortcuts.

Work-free Holidays - While there is a certain amount of bravado in organizations with people checking in when on annual leave, companies should let employees take their break uninterrupted. Part of this comes from employees who now feel that they must stay in touch. The simplest way is to disconnect email but let them be contacted by phone if something is urgent. The employees will be surprised how few things they get called about as very little is actually urgent. This is a cultural shift for many companies and needs to start at the top. If senior executives are emailing all through their holiday they are letting others know that this is expected of them whether they mean to or not.

Sleep - One of the biggest challenges around sleep is the phone by the bedside. While many people feel they have to have it there (although we survived for years without a phone by the bed), even leaving their phone just outside the door out of eyesight could make a huge difference to their night sleep. Our brain after thousands of years is wired for distraction and with the unlimited information on a smartphone there is no end to how long one can spend surfing instead of sleeping. Studies have shown that our brains continue to learn and process while we're relaxing and that we are giving it less ability to do so if we are always checking the phone. There are also tools that can minimize the blue light on phone screens which can help also.

With a workplace full of new disruptive ideas, one of the key assets is having a creative and innovative worker as we need to remember that companies do not innovate, people do. So companies need to take care of their main competitive asset - their people.

This article is correct at 16/03/2016

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Peter Cosgrove

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