Productivity, productivity, how staff must hate that word. Working longer, working harder, always going the extra mile. No easy way out.
Faster, faster! Seems there’s no escape from having to work MORE, just to stay in the same place.
Yeah sure, not so bad if there’s extra money and longer holidays up for grabs. Though neither can lessen the pain.
All those hours lost, families fragmented, personal life down the tubes – where’s the magic?
Enjoyment vs resentment
Carrot and stick, see? Working late like everybody else does.
Because that’s what it takes to still have a job. Nobody WANTS to slave. But everybody HAS to. With brooding resentment every step of the way.
Which is one hell of a way to run a railroad – or anything else for that matter. Nineteenth Century sweatshop thinking. Head-on into everything and coming unstuck.
Much simpler to go with the flow. Bending with challenges and shaping around them. Making them work FOR you and not AGAINST.
Working harder by taking it easy.
Advanced technology and AI (Artificial Intelligence), for instance. Finishing in seconds where us humans take days or weeks.
Fast, yes – but not necessarily smart. Great for industry and automated business. Not so hot in the real world, where the business is satisfying people. Customers of course – and those amazing people called staff. The ones who make it all happen.
The very same who are always working those extra hours.
And what do they get for it? Tired, worn-out, nervous, irritable and depressed.
The productivity puzzle
Unwell of course with it, but unable to stay away. Jobs are few, nobody gets paid sick leave, and there might not even be a job to come back to afterwards.
Exactly why British productivity is down the tubes. The productivity puzzle they call it, though a solution is within reach – just by taking it easy.
Experts agree the puzzle started in 2008, with the financial crash. Redundancies, cutbacks, firms going belly up – kind of inevitable productivity took a dip.
But surprise, surprise, absenteeism took a dip too. With jobs thin on the ground, it was not the time to stay away from work if you were sick. Ten to one if you did, there’d be a junior in your place at half the salary. Bargain basement work quality, but money was tight.
Check the records. From 163.2 million days lost in 2007 just before the recession, absenteeism plunged 20% to 132.4 million days lost in 2011 – with only marginal recovery since.
Loud warning bells, right there.
People don’t suddenly stop getting sick. And germs don’t suddenly stop attacking us – after four billion years as the most successful life forms, they’ve learned to never give up. Reality check: in the whole history of the world, there’s never been such a thing as a get-well epidemic.
So if they didn’t take off sick, what were these people doing?
Going to work unwell, of course. Toughing it out and pretending they were OK. And reality check again: hiding it as best they could from colleagues and employers. Whatever their numbers look like, the true picture is far worse.
And the truth is that since 2008, presenteeism – that’s people unwell at work – has increased steadily. There are no official figures, as the issue is largely invisible. But with the all-pervasive culture of long hours now firmly established, it’s not unreasonable to suggest they’ve doubled.
And productivity in the meantime?
Well, yes. For so many of us, it’s doing the job with one hand tied behind our backs.
Exactly what it’s like trying to work when you’re not well.
Hard to focus when your body’s out of balance. Just keeping your mind on the job becomes a mission. Mistakes get made, deadlines get missed, business flies out the window. Get really unlucky, and the whole company could crash.
OK, so in easy steps, how do we turn things around?
Prevention is better than cure
Prevention is better than cure – remember that one?
Eliminate germs that cause illness, and the problem turns around.
Because make no mistake, the germs are there – in their billions, just like normal. Too small to see so they’re not on our radar – but we are certainly on theirs. And because we not aware of them, we leave ourselves wide open to attack, particularly in the workplace.
For instance, as we’ve pointed out many times:
- The average desk has over 10 million unseen bacteria – 400 times more than a toilet.
- A typical keyboard may have 7,500 organisms hiding on it.
- Only one in five of us ever cleans our desk before eating.
- At least two in three of us always eat lunch there.
Again, because we can’t see germs, our personal hygiene is not much better.
- 62% of men and 40% of women NEVER wash their hands after going to the toilet.
- 95% of people don’t even wash their hands properly.
- Only 12% of people wash their hands before eating.
From germ-free to engagement
Getting rid of germs therefore is like saving us from ourselves.
And it’s easier than we might think. A nightly mist-up with ionised hydrogen peroxide takes out ALL germs in the air and across all surfaces to make the place sterile. As simple as pressing a button, it makes workplaces safe and secure for around £30 a day – probably less than the existing office cleaning bill.
It’s a proactive step too.
More positive than pretty well all staff wellness programmes. In their excellent Absence Management report, the CIPD list TWO PAGES of popular wellbeing options – from counselling, to gym membership, to healthcare packages – but not one addresses health protection.
But if there’s no germs, there are no illnesses to catch. A big impact from any staff point of view. Effectively demonstrating with actions not words that management is concerned for their welfare. That keeping them well and healthy is a top-level priority, and a major gesture at encouraging engagement. How’s that for effective motivation and retention?
A major boost to work quality too – without any demands on staff commitment. No longer hours to work, no extra mile to go, staff can give fully of themselves without being impeded by health issues.
So, with the ball rolling – and a boost to staff output capability now climbing by up to a third – productivity should be well on the upswing.
Productivity by involvement
Continuing staff engagement maintains this momentum. Dialogue to gain their involvement, listening sessions to ease their anguish. The easy but crucial step, from old-style Us & Them conflict, to useful two-way partnership.
Involvement, yes – because Beryl from Accounts knows more about VLookups in Excel than the IT consultant about to commit thousands on yet another system upgrade. The consultant might never touch Excel, but Beryl uses it daily.
And anguish, because everybody feels some – which could be stress, emotional strain, relationship issues or financial worries. Except a problem shared is a problem halved, especially if the boss is sympathetic – an engagement landmark and another notch up for recovering productivity.
On the road again
See? All of them easy steps, all of them key to everyone working better, enjoying what they do, feeling mutual respect and sharing their commitment to get on with the job.
A quantum leap from the Dark Ages of harder, faster, stronger.
So easy does it. Smarter, friendlier, healthier.
Productivity up and on the road again.
Picture Composite: Jordon Whitfield and Neonbrand on Unsplash