Let's-Talk-Leadership. Help Your Employees Do More in Less Time
by Karla Brandau, CSP,
CEO of Workplace Power Institute
Because of thunder storms in Atlanta, the flight from Dallas to
Atlanta had been delayed twice. On the third attempt, we were boarding
and I felt hopeful of actually getting off the ground. My hopes faded
fast when the tired-looking flight attendant came down the aisle quietly
announcing that if we were not permitted to take off in the next 15
minutes, the crew would have exceeded their 16-hour work day and we
would have to taxi back to the terminal and await another flight.
We were not given permission to take off, the crew's time expired and
as we taxied back to the terminal I felt mixed emotions. I kept
thinking, "But we were right there ready to take off. How could 1-1/2
more hours matter?"
Just as airlines are concerned about overworked pilots and flight
attendants, employers should be concerned about overworked employees.
Why? Errors, accidents, and low productivity for a start.
My mixed emotions as we taxied back to the terminal are similar to
the signals our culture sends today about long work hours. In one breath
we agree with employees having a pity party about how hard they work and
with the other breath, we award employees a "red badge of courage" for
having the guts to go the extra mile.
A study by the Families and Work Institute concludes that overworked
employees should be taken seriously. Employees who are overworked are
more likely to exhibit anxiety, make mistakes at work, harbor angry
feelings about their employer for expecting them to be on the job for
long hours and resent coworkers who don't pull their share of the load.
The study documents that nearly half of employees who feel overworked
report that their health is poor and 8 percent of employees who are not
overworked experience symptoms of clinical depression compared with 21
percent of those who are highly overworked.
Helping Employees Feel Less Overwhelmed
What can the organization do to help employees feel less overworked
while still finishing their tasks in a given day? Using time efficiently
at work is an individual and an organizational issue. On the
organizational side, managers can help employees reduce the feeling of
being overwhelmed by:
- Training employees in time management principles
- Discouraging the practice of eating at the desk and working through
- Insisting employees taking vacation time
- Permitting flexible work hours when appropriate
- Encouraging non-interrupt zones in the day when workers can focus
on their tasks
- Assigning tasks well in advance of the drop dead date
- Helping Employees Be More Effective
A tried and true principle states that to be efficient, you must
first be effective. For instance, the maker of buggy whips might be
highly efficient in manufacturing techniques, but if no one buys the
buggy whips, the process is not effective.
To encourage efficiency and effectiveness, managers can:
- Have clearly stated goals with built in deadlines
- Insist employees make a daily "to do" list
- Make certain equipment works properly
- Supply the necessary materials for job completion
- Train employees on software packages that enable more efficient
Ensuring the above items are taken care of is essential to help
employees leverage their time while in the office and be more
Realizing a Productivity Culture Change
Managers should make a concerted effort to grease the wheels of
productivity, and not be the stick that gets caught in the tire spokes,
catapulting the rider from the trail. By attending to these issues,
managers can help workers feel less overwhelmed and enable them do more
in less time. You'll like the results.