A COUNTERINTUITIVE APPROACH TO BOOSTING PRODUCTIVITY: MORE REST, DAYS OFF


By James D’Ambrosio

JamesProfile1TwitterIn the February 10 Sunday New York Times, Tony Schwartz, CEO of The Energy Project,  a company helping people and organizations perform better and more sustainably, wrote an interesting article about increasing productivity that I believe could help nonprofits and their employees. Titled “Relax! You’ll be More Productive,” the author’s premise is that “Paradoxically, the best way to get more done may be to spend more time doing less.”

MULTIDISCIPLINARY SUPPORTING RESEARCH

Schwartz, author of several books and a frequent contributor to the Harvard Business Review, supports his claim with research: a) a study of nearly 400 employees published last year found that sleeping less than six hours a night was one of the best predictors of on-the-job burnout; b) a recent Harvard study showing that sleep deprivation costs U.S. companies $63.2 billion in lost productivity each year; and c) an internal 2006 study of employees at the accounting firm Ernst & Young finding that workers taking frequent vacations were much less likely to leave the firm and “for each additional 10 hours of vacation employees took, their year-end performance ratings from supervisors (on a scale of one to five) improved by 8 percent.”

REST & RENEWAL AS CATALYST FOR INCREASED ENERGY, HIGHER PERFORMANCE

Noting that employees with heavy workloads often compensate with longer hours, he suggests the opposite. Because time is finite, many people become frazzled spending too much time at work, diminishing work-life balance. BUT ENERGY, WHILE FINITE, IS ALSO RENEWABLE, UNLIKE TIME. Having more energy — resulting in greater productivity — while working is what counts, not the number of hours. Schwartz says restoration is part of human physiology: “Human beings aren’t designed to expend energy continuously. Rather, we’re meant to pulse between spending and recovering energy.”

Convinced of the power of renewal, Schwartz created his company around the concept and applies these principles to his employees: a “renewal” room to nap or meditate; a spacious lounge to socialize and eat healthy snacks he provides; encouraging renewal breaks; leaving the office for lunch; and not expecting people to answer e-mails during evenings and weekends. Further, office hours end at 6 p.m., workers get four weeks vacation their first year and can telecommute several days a week, avoiding stressful rush-hour commutes. In 10 years, nobody has willingly left his company, serving clients such as Google, Coca-Cola, Green Mountain Coffee, the Los Angeles Police Department, Cleveland Clinic and Genentech.

NONPROFIT APPLICATIONS

Many agencies with limited resources/manpower have committed volunteers helping offset demands on paid staff and fulfill their mission(s). While this longstanding approach does help, nonprofits might want to consider Mr. Schwartz’s humanistic approach to productivity that could help reduce burnout. During my career in nonprofit and the public sector, I’ve seen first-hand what can happen when people push too hard for too long: often, it doesn’t end well.

CLICK HERE TO READ THE FULL ARTICLE

CLICK HERE TO LEARN MORE ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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QUESTIONS TO READERS:

A) What do you think of this management approach?

B) Are you inclined to incorporate some of these ideas?

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