There is no denying it, occasionally the need to work overtime is necessary to meet a deadline or deliver a project on time. But relying on a culture of overtime, is not sustainable. Working hard can be extremely rewarding; achieving success, self-improvement, development of self-discipline, improved energy levels. However, if the scales are tipped it is very easy for workloads to become overwhelming and unmanageable, increasing the possibility of unforced errors and a workforce that is burnt out and demotivated.
In many organisations especially in tech, marketing and finance industries, there is this notion that working long hours is evidence of dedication and a strong work ethic. A popular belief is that promotions are reached quicker, and positive employee recognition is only earned by hours worked. It is almost glorified. Companies often take advantage of ‘insecure achievers’ these are people who perform well, who are creative, ambitious and motivated, yet lacking confidence. This type of working environment, conditions and normalises unhealthy behaviours.
If an individual is stretched and overloaded, the primal system of the brain detects a threat. This triggers the ‘fight or flight’ response which is our bodies’ survival mechanism. This feeling of threat can make an individual be defensive, reactive and unable to see a clear path forward. Which can create a perpetual cycle. Leaders can support colleagues to break the cycle by sharing techniques on how to prioritise their work, set boundaries, set realistic goals, keep focused and create opportunities for holding dialogue which is meaningful and strengthens our sense of purpose.
An organisation that gives recognition for hard work, promotes positive energy, provides autonomy to individuals to work at a pace that suits them, encourages collaborative working and has a human-centric culture will benefit from a high-performance workforce, regardless of whether the workforce is based in the office or remotely.
COVID has brought opportunities to significantly change the way we work and make companies more agile. According to McKinsey research, 80 percent of people questioned report that they enjoy working from home. Forty-one percent say that they are more productive than they had been before and 28 percent that they are as productive. Working from home has saved valuable time, empowering people to manage their time differently by focusing more on personal wellbeing and having the freedom to choose the work hours that are best suited to them.
Although organisations and leaders have a responsibility to support, build and look after their workforces, ultimately what we must remember is that our own self-care, is down to ourselves. It is easier said than done to create the time and space needed to prioritise our self-care, but if we do, our energy and wellbeing will benefit significantly.
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