Overwork and burnout are real problems facing business owners, employees and Virtual Assistants alike. The push for ever-increasing productivity often results in basic human needs being neglected, just because they aren’t charted in an Excel spreadsheet. While there may be temporary benefits in this approach, overwork-induced fatigue will catch up and the losses end up outweighing any gains. The key is, as always, finding a balance so that entrepreneurs and employees stay healthy and happy, which in the long run is best for business and the bottomline. Here we’ll tackle the subject, go through the facts, and offer solutions to help both workers and the workplace.
Hard Truths About Overwork
According to Jeffrey Pfeffer, Stanford University professor and author of “Dying for a Paycheck,” surveys showed that in workplace across America 61% of employees experienced illness due to work-related stress. Seven percent ended up being hospitalized. In his estimate, this causes US employers more than $300 billion annually. Most alarmingly, it might be behind 120,000 excess deaths per year.
But it’s not all bad news. Researchers and organizations have noticed the consequences of this “overwork epidemic” and are trying to do something about it. Harvard Business Review reported that an energy management program by Wachovia Bank proved beneficial on an organizational level. Their test group that used said management skills significantly outperformed the control group. Sixty eight percent reported improving relationships with their client while 71% saw rising productivity and performance. So there are proven ways to beat overwork and maintain both health and efficiency!
Minding Your Own Busyness
Managing your energy level is the key and it requires you to be aware and mindful of your activities. So you have to find out which activities are particularly taxing and what you can do to decrease the burden. On the other hand, if there are things that can recharge or inspire you, then ideally you can find ways to give them a boost. If you are the employer, then you must also extend this perspective to your employees as well. These are the main things you have to mind to prevent overwork:
1.) Physical Energy Levels
The very basics yet most vital. These involve the body’s functions, how to maintain one’s health and avoiding things that will negatively affect these. Are you getting enough sleep? How is your diet? Do you have time to exercise? Which tasks are particularly tiresome? And how can you change your routine to get healthier outcomes.
Feeling under the weather, and throat getting scratchy? Go use your Sick Leaves, take the day off, recover and return to work when you’re well. Employers ought to encourage this. After all, coming in sick and potentially spreading a bug to the rest of the team isn’t exactly good for productivity.
Employers shouldn’t encourage excess overtime work, or should put a cap on how much OT each worker can get. Chronic overwork will be a detriment to both individual employees and the organization as a whole.
For the sleep-deprived: Consider structuring after-work activities so that you’ll have enough time for the proscribed 8 hours of shuteye. Don’t go overboard on the caffeine. Employers could allow naps during break hours and put cots in the breakroom.
Is the commute long and tiresome? You could adjust your schedule to beat the traffic or arrange for work-at-home options. Virtual Assistants aren’t the only ones who can work remotely.
Lack good eateries nearby? The pantry could get stocked with nutritious food.
For errands, staff could transit during low-traffic hours or when the weather is milder.
2.) Mental Energy Levels
Even if you’re physically good to go, you can still become fatigued on an intellectual level. Do certain tasks just bore you out? Then try getting them out of the way ahead of time so you can focus on more engaging activities. Or do the interesting tasks first if you prefer it this way, and chug away at the boring stuff during your remaining hours. Focus on what you’re good at and delegate less-specialized tasks to generalist employees and Virtual Assistants.
Maybe the office could use some sprucing up, with cool posters and artwork so the environment will be engaging rather than being a drab expanse of cubicles. Holding weekly games and trivia nights can help keep the mind sharp. Brainstorming sessions and Google-style periods where everyone can pursue their own personal projects could also help and possibly result in new business ventures.
3.) Emotional Energy Levels
Are you spending enough time with your loved ones? Be sure to be there for them especially during pivotal life moments. Let the Virtual Assistant fill in when you or your employees are out. For single parents, working remotely can allow them to fulfill their roles while they watch over the kiddos. Some companies even allow workers to bring their kids to work, even having daycare facilities – of course, this isn’t the cheapest option.
Are your colleagues sensitive to your emotional needs? Teamwork is vital for any organization, and it doesn’t just entail cooperating to fulfill tasks. It also involves providing each other with a positive environment and being there for each other when days get rough – while maintaining professionalism, of course.
Balancing work and fun matters. Having after-work hangouts to de-stress, celebrating a colleague’s birthday by having a nice big cake in the pantry, or being there for a colleague who is down or letting off some steam, these are crucial to a good team. This goes for employers and workers alike, since no one’s an island. An emotionally conducive workplace with sincere team members reduces fatigue, burnout and helps ensure that people come to the office with smiles on their faces.
4.) Fulfillment Levels
This pertains to the satisfaction one feels from work, and how it relates to and fulfills a sense of deeper purpose. Ideally entrepreneurs should feel connected to the organizations they are leading, believing in the goals and strategies they propose and implement. Employees should be there because they want to be there and ideally should believe that their work brings good to the world and must be done well.
Fulfillment intertwines with the emotional and mental categories. Even if the work itself isn’t exactly life-changing, if it is mentally engaging then it will still bring fulfillment. Or when you’re vacationing with your family, you can feel on an emotional level that your work provides for your loved ones.
Out-of-work activities like volunteering or community outreach, holding charity events, and such, also help give a sense of fulfillment. This is why at Virtual BizNest, VA doesn’t just mean Virtual Assistant, it also means Volunteering Awesomeness.
5.) Drop the “Busyness Theater”
Have you, or an employee or VA, accomplished the day’s tasks ahead of schedule? Then that’s great, you’re being more productive. And there’s nothing wrong spending remaining time getting some well-deserved R&R. Don’t worry, that’s not slacking. There’s no shame in not looking busy after doing everything you’re supposed to do. That’s not being lazy!
Bosses who reprimand someone for having idle time after getting the job done earlier are actually discouraging efficiency. So this results in people knowingly working slower to look busy, which isn’t productive! There’s less downtime and the tasks become less fulfilling as they’re stretched out, becoming protracted. Morale might also take a hit if workers feel like they’re being punished for doing their jobs quickly.
Recharge Your Batteries
As we like to say, real changes and improvements are made by working smarter – not harder. The same goes for maintaining energy levels and avoiding overwork. So try out this approach to restructuring your workflow and process to create a fresher, healthier and better-performing team. Take a holistic perspective and see what works, what’s good for you and your team, and what proves most efficient and productive. See what works and improve upon it, so you’ll end up with a workforce of unstoppable Energizer Bunnies!
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