Posts Tagged "energy at work’

5 Steps to Get the Most Out of Your Day

by Derek Irvine

Coworkers walking outsideRecognize This! – Regulating your energy, rather than clocking extra hours, enables you to get more work done and done well.

Through his Energy Project Tony Schwartz has long been an innovator and instigator in the realm of how we can bring our best selves to work and sustain that level of great effort throughout the days, weeks, months and years. In light of our discussions around creating more WorkHuman cultures, it’s important to me to highlight his work.

For example, this article is powerful for framing how you can produce more and get better results at work by focusing on your “energy renewal.” Humans work on 90 minute cycles of energy, after which our energy and productivity drops. Schwartz explains that time is a finite resource, but energy can be renewed and expanded through specific rituals. We can’t get more time in the day, but we actually don’t need it.  By renewing our energy through specific techniques, we can remain at our highest level of both productivity and happiness.

Here are five techniques that will keep you at your peak productivity:

1. Take effective breaks

60% of Americans don’t take time in their day to recharge.  Taking a break every 90 minutes sounds unproductive, but even a few minutes of effective rest can elevate energy levels.  Cyberloafing, (such as checking social media or personal email) does not relax and recharge you as much as 6 to 10-minute power naps, breathing exercises, or walking outside.  When your brain is not focused on a particular task and you change your environment, you can solve problems and get your most innovative ideas.

2. Sleep more at night

A Harvard study revealed US companies are losing $63.2 billion on lost productivity due to workers’ sleep deprivation. 61% of Americans often get less than 7-8 hours of sleep at night and wake up feeling tired.  Sleep affects irritability. One study included a story of Gary Faro, a VP at Wachovia, who saw his “energy levels soar” (and weight drop 50 pounds) when he started sleeping more and taking regular breaks away from his desk. Another Schwartz study showed the same results for Steve Wanner, a partner at Ernst & Young, who changed his habits and was able to enjoy more time with his family andhavehigher productivity in his job.

3. Identify your priorities

Sit down and map out your goals. Then track how much time you spend doing each activity. At the end of the day look at how much of your time you spent on meaningful tasks that worked towards meeting your goals.  How can you modify your work flow to focus on your work habits?

4. Spend your most productive hours working on your priorities

Spend your most productive hours of your day working on priority goals rather than administrative or reactive activities. Take a rest or social break during the mid-afternoon when humans are least energetic.

5. Stop multitasking 

Multitasking is the activity of switching, not being productive.  “Switching time” increases the time it takes to complete your primary task by 25%.  See if any of the distractions are avoidable for all or a few hours of your day (such as switching off the notifications for new emails or logging out of personal social media).

When you are happy and passionate about something, you are more driven and creative. Schwartz explains, “Without intermittent recovery, we’re not physiologically capable of sustaining highly positive emotions for long periods [and] most people perform best when they’re feeling positive energy.”  So, take time for breaks and come back happier and energized.

Energy is the catalyst for creativity and the fuel powering hard work.  When was the last time you worked extra hours?  When was the last time you took a break to reenergize?  When was the last time you were at your peak performance?

How to Love Work Again

Hands in the shape of a heartRecognize This! – We all want to do good work and also do right by ourselves and our families. Balancing these “energy” needs is the path to success – at work and at home.

“How’s your energy level?” can sound a bit too new-age for the numbers-minded business world. Yet “energy” is one of the (if not the primary) indicators of performance, productivity and results in the workplace. Tony Schwartz and his Energy Project are at the vanguard of this movement as illustrated in Sunday’s New York Times article “Why You Hate Work” (by Tony and Christine Porath) on the results of a study of more than 12,000 mostly white-collar employees across companies and industries.

Overwhelmingly, the study showed employees are far more productive when four core needs are met (quoting):

  1. Physical, through opportunities to regularly renew and recharge at work
  2. Emotional, by feeling valued and appreciated for their contributions
  3. Mental, when they have the opportunity to focus in an absorbed way on their most important tasks and define when and where they get their work done
  4. Spiritual, by doing more of what they do best and enjoy most, and by feeling connected to a higher purpose at work.

Schwartz and Porath go on to comment:

“The more effectively leaders and organizations support employees in meeting these core needs, the more likely the employees are to experience engagement, loyalty, job satisfaction and positive energy at work, and the lower their perceived levels of stress. When employees have one need met, compared with none, all of their performance variables improve. The more needs met, the more positive the impact.”

Meeting these needs goes far beyond the employee’s paycheck, their annual performance review, or even the annual bonus.

How much do you invest in “energy”?

The authors don’t recommend a specific amount or percentage of payroll to invest in energy efforts, but they do offer several ideas.

  1. Limit meetings to no more than 90 minutes.
  2. Set expectations for when and how quickly emails are addressed (so employee don’t feel compelled to answer within minutes an email received at 9:00 pm on Saturday, for example).
  3. Offer health and wellness options such as nap rooms, gyms, healthy food, etc.
  4. Reward the behaviors you want to see!

On that last point, Schwartz and Porath point out:

“It also makes a big difference to explicitly reward leaders and managers who exhibit empathy, care and humility, and to hold them accountable for relying on anger or other demeaning emotions that may drive short-term results but also create a toxic climate of fear over time — with enormous costs.”

In this, as in anything else, you get what you pay for. If you want to increase employee energy and, consequently, long-term results, then you need to invest to free them from short-term thinking and excessive stress.

What’s the ROI?

This is usually the first question asked anytime an initiative such as this. For just two of the core needs defined by Schwartz and Porath, the ROI is rapid and significant (quoting):

  • Value: Feeling cared for by one’s supervisor has a more significant impact on people’s sense of trust and safety than any other behavior by a leader. Employees who say they have more supportive supervisors are 1.3 times as likely to stay with the organization and are 67 percent more engaged.
  • Purpose: Employees who derive meaning and significance from their work were more than three times as likely to stay with their organizations — the highest single impact of any variable in our survey. These employees also reported 1.7 times higher job satisfaction and they were 1.4 times more engaged at work.

We all know the ROI of lower turnover (anywhere from 50-200% of salary), and several studies point to the exponential ROI of increased employee engagement (Aon Hewitt’s is the most recent, showing 0.6% increase in sales growth for every percentage point increase in engagement). But how do help increase value and purpose? Simply taking the time to recognize and appreciate employees for their efforts is the first step. But to help employees realize purpose in their work, taking just a few minutes more to give context to your recognition – to tell an employee how their efforts specifically helped achieve a bigger goal or mission – delivers even greater impact.

What does this look like in the real world of business? Schwartz and Porath relate the below story from the CEO of multi-billion dollar chemical company, Albemarle:

“Mr. [Luke] Kissam, the Albemarle chief executive Tony first met more than a year ago, has taken up the challenge for himself and his employees…. ‘I can already see it’s working,’ Mr. Kissam told us. ‘Our safety record has improved significantly this year, because our people are more focused. We’re trusting them to do their jobs rather than telling them what to do, and then we’re appreciating them for their efforts. We’re also on the right path financially. A year from now it’s going to show up in our profitability. I saw what happened when I invested more in myself, and now we’re seeing what happens when we invest in our employees.’”

The emphasis is mine in the above quotation. That one statement is the crux of meeting all four core needs – trusting employees to do the job, getting out of their way so they can do it, then expressing your appreciation for work well done.

What Employee Engagement Looks Like

Recognize This! – Would you be willing to swim through flood waters to get to your job?

I talk and write about employee engagement a good deal. One comment I often get is: “Yeah, I understand why employee engagement is important, but what does it look like?”

I think Towers Watson’s new “Sustainable Engagement” approach, especially the “energy” component drives at what engagement looks like in the individual employee. More on Towers Watson’s “energy” concept was recently explained in Harvard Business Review:

“So what is energy, exactly? In physics, it’s simply the capacity to do work. In other words ‘energy’ and ‘capacity’ are essentially interchangeable. In simple terms, energy is the fuel in our tanks — what’s required to bring our skill and talent to life. Without sufficient energy, skill is rendered irrelevant. You can’t run on empty.”

So how do you feel employees’ “energy” tanks? Being sure employees understand the meaning and purpose of their work is foundational to inspiring the energy fueling employee engagement.

Just one incredibly powerful example of what employee engagement looks like comes to us from the tragedy of Hurricane Sandy that devastated parts of the Eastern U.S.:

“An emergency room technician was so determined to make her shift the day after Sandy hit that she swam part of the way there through the floodwaters.

“‘Can’t isn’t in my vocabulary, so I knew I was going to make it,’ said Marsha Hedgepeth of Toms River, N.J.

“Hedgepeth had to make her 3 p.m. shift at Community Medical Center the day after Sandy. But when she looked outside, her neighborhood was dark and flooded. The Barnegat Bay had poured 10-foot waves on to her street overnight, and the streetlights were out…

“Dressed in jeans and sneakers, Hedgepeth bundled up in a scarf, hat and mittens, and swam about 200 yards (the equivalent of swimming about 4 lengths of an Olympic-sized pool), navigating through the debris and carrying her scrubs in a grocery bag. When she finally made it to the highway, she hitched a ride with some utility workers and arrived to work six hours before her shift.

“Hospital administrators say it’s a testament to Hedgepeth’s hard work and resilience. ‘To suffer such a tragedy and have to endure the extreme weather we had experienced on the Jersey Shore that day — we can’t say enough of how proud we are of her and that she is safe,’ said Teri Kubiel, administrative director at Community Medical Center.

That’s a truly, deeply engaged employee. If you would like to help those in need to recover from the devastation of Hurricane Sandy, consider donating.

How full is your “energy” tank?