Many professionals who didn’t lose their jobs during the economic downturn have been doing more with less for quite some time now. Recession layoffs led to work redistribution and frozen budgets. As the economy started picking up again, hours and expectations increased while manpower and resources remained the same. Maybe you were happy to have a job, so you gladly took on the additional hours and workload, but month after month they started to weigh on you. Then, just as you were preparing to tell your boss you needed a break, you heard that your company was preparing to give raises to the top performers.
In today’s workplace, no one wants to be seen as slacker, but research is showing that employees are being pushed to their max. USA Today reported that millions of workers are piling on the overtime or resuming full-time work as businesses need the extra hands to meet demand. And, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average weekly hours of private employees are on the rise. A recent survey by Express Employment Professionals showed that 49% of business leaders’ stress levels have increased in the last year, and 36% say their current stress level as very high or overwhelming. While some may see this as simply a streamlining of workplace efficiency and increasing productivity, there’s no disputing the negative effect this is having on employees.
Working smarter, not harder, has been a hot topic since before the 2009 recession, and its importance has only grown. There are books and blogs filled with advice, many of which contain good ideas, such as:
- Set times to check your emails
- Take 10-20 minute breaks every few hours
- Get away from your desk for your full lunch hour
- Take a power walk in the afternoon
- Focus on one task at a time
Unfortunately, no two workplaces are the same, and not every business leader is able to turn off his email or close her door for two-hour increments to shut out distraction. That being said, try to make it a personal goal to review your routine before the end of the month and set some guidelines to help make your second quarter more productive and less stressful than your first. You’d be amazed at the brilliant ideas that can come out of a five minute coffee break!