It used to be that we sought having efficient workplaces through systems and organization of workload. That’s not so true anymore. We’ve come to recognize that what we do outside of the workplace and the environment of our workspace can also have a considerable impact on our efficiency at work.
Here’s what the Alberta Primetime Lifestyle Panel had to say about a few related topics.
Yes, these spaces are more expensive per square-foot than if you took a bigger space for a longer term. But that’s the payoff for the service the operator provides; you don’t have to risk the long-term overhead and liability of a lease, equipment, furnishings, or insurance. Tyler Waye, a workforce strategist, says that 40 percent of people surveyed said that their earnings increased and 75 percent said their productivity increased. Plus you can rent only what you need for as long as you need it. It provides a great opportunity for the person just starting out to have a place to meet clients and to get out of their own home. They also do get the advantage of being with other people in a work environment which is very valuable for your emotional well-being and for business-networking.
As Wendy Giuffre says, it can be helpful to be in a setting where you have someone to bounce ideas off of. There is also something valuable about having a dedicated space to work from. A dedicated work space encourages you to channel your energy into a certain amount of time. Your mind and body get in work mode much more easily when you’re not working out of your kitchen or your side of the bed.
Open concept seems like a great idea for employers: maximize your usable space and less cost on the build-out. There is also the idea of easy collaboration. The problem is that not having your own dedicated work space can be extremely stressful. Humans need a sense of containment and solitude to stay balanced and function at their best. There is also the distraction factor; it takes a lot of energy to stay focused (or worse, re-focus) when there are multiple on-going distractions.
It increases your stress in imperceptible ways but you end up going home feeling more exhausted than you would if you had your own space. By the way, offices are far better than cubicles. Just trying to concentrate while hearing another person’s phone conversation takes a huge amount of energy—the worker’s productivity and their level of enjoyment of the job goes way down. Privacy is whole other issue as well, but burnout potential is huge.
Should employers encourage time off for volunteering?
Volunteering via work—great idea! This gives back and helps employees feel like they are part of something bigger—we all need that feeling. This helps you feel better about working for the company and can serve as team-building. Doing community service together or even sharing with each other what different projects you all do.
The company benefits by a raised profile and being a good corporate citizen. Some question whether or not this can hurt productivity and the bottom-line, but—like Waye says—every company is able to offer a day or a week—it is short-sighted to think otherwise. By giving employees time to do this, you are able to tap into discretionary effort to a greater degree. There is also much higher morale, less turnover, and fewer sick days—happier and more engaged employees; all this lead to greater productivity and better bottom line.
Also, Giuffre suggests that competition against another company or within a charitable nature can help boost morale even more. Mandatory vacations in Japan “Death by work” (‘karoshi;) is not just a Japanese invention—lots of us in North America are susceptible to this as well. It’s too bad that we may have to enforce healthy practices, but we’ve seen it before with other issues like seatbelts and drugs/alcohol.
The benefits are huge for the employee, but also for the employer and society as a whole. This is a managerial responsibility, Giuffre says. Managers need to encourage an environment where employees will take their vacation time otherwise liability will build. When people take breaks they are healthier and more productive. It’s a case of working smart and effectively versus working hard and long.
The “Law of Diminishing Returns” is something everyone (not just economists) should be familiar with—I teach this to my clients and in the speaking I do. It states that for every unit of time worked without taking a break, your efficiency (or return) is reduced. When you do take regular breaks, your efficiency returns to the original level. So you get more out of working four 45-minute sessions with 15-minute breaks than you do working four hours straight without breaks! You will also be happier in the first scenario.
By the way, this doesn’t just work for your job; your emotions and your biology also follow the same law. So take frequent breaks and take your vacation time! You’ll be happier, healthier, and more productive.
Until the next time, see you soon and feel better. —Dr. Ganz
Dr. Ganz Ferrance - holds a Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology and an M.A. in Developmental and Educational Psychology from Andrews University in Michigan. He is the former Public Education Coordinator as well as the former Vice-President of the Psychologist’s Association of Alberta. Dr. Ganz enjoys sharing how people can get more “mileage” from their lives. For more information about Dr. Ganz click here.