A re you crazy about your company? Or does it just drive you crazy? And if it’s the latter – what are you going to do about it?
Fortune magazine recently released its annual list of the 100 best companies to work for, with Google topping the rankings for the sixth year in a row. And it’s easy to see why, with its covetable combination of generous perks, employee-friendly policies and a safe, supportive work culture. As more and more organisations work to attract and retain the best people in their industries, it’s no wonder that prospective employees now join companies armed with some pretty high expectations.
Now, there’s nothing wrong with having high expectations of your workplace. And let’s face it, all of us (not just much-maligned millennials) tend to operate from a certain sense of entitlement. However, we think it’s time to acknowledge that even the most appealing perks and policies are pointless without employees’ buy-in. So let’s stop for a minute and challenge ourselves to look at this from a different perspective. Instead of asking what’s in it for us, let’s explore what we as individuals contribute to our company’s work culture instead. We’ve given you a few points to consider below:
G o on, admit it. We’ve all got something – a work project, a gym membership, occasionally our children – that we quietly fantasise about abandoning. And if one particular project doesn’t quite make it over the line, it doesn’t really matter, right?
Actually, it matters more than you’d think. A recent collection of studies performed by two professors at Northwestern University in the US piqued our interest. In one experiment, the professors gave participants ten minutes to come up with as many creative ideas as they could. They then surprised the participants with an extra ten minutes to finish the task. Before the additional ten minutes began, they asked the participants how many extra ideas they thought they could produce. On average, participants came up with 66% more ideas than they had predicted they would – and these ideas were even more creative than the ones produced during their first effort. In other words, they completely underestimated how persevering could power up their creative potential.
Now, as you know, we’re all about achieving your potential (creative or otherwise), not underrating it. But developing the ability to persevere is easier said than done when our society’s rapid turnover of ideas, products, projects and information makes moving on seem much more attractive than simply moving forward. So how do we counter this culture of easy surrender and push ourselves to press on when willpower starts to wane? Here are a few key tips:
D igital transformation. Artificial intelligence. A Bladerunner reboot. If you feel like you’re struggling to keep up, you’re not alone. So perhaps you shouldn’t.
Technology in various forms is rapidly changing the modern working landscape. PEPworldwide:nz managing director Kathryn Anda knows of at least two organisations that are planning to cut jobs in favour of automated technology. “However, until they fully understand how they will use the automation, they can’t be certain which jobs it will affect and how it will affect them,” she says. So the problem is this: how does an individual in this or any other organisation stay ahead of technology that no one yet understands?
Short answer? You can’t. But what you can do is work on staying relevant instead.
S o how’s the mood in your office right now?
Could you answer that straight away? If so, fantastic – we’re preaching to the converted. And if you had to stop and think a little, that’s ok too – we know how busy it gets. But we’re here to remind you that maintaining employee engagement is one of the hottest issues in the workplace at the moment. It’s certainly an issue that’s always on our radar: before undertaking our training, our clients on average rate engagement with their companies at only 6.5 out of 10*. Room for improvement? We think so. Read on, then, for our perspective on this topic – and a few pointers on powering up your employees’ performance.
The easiest way to diagnose the mood of your office – if it’s not immediately obvious – is simply to bring staff together, says Anda. “Work with your team to understand what they’re hearing, what they’re seeing, what challenges they’re facing. Ask them what motivates them and what doesn’t. Help them to understand the difference their roles make to the organisation – what impact they have as individuals. Don’t be afraid to have that conversation – it’s not a tough conversation to have.”
W e’re all pretty familiar with the importance of goal-setting, both in our personal and professional lives. But what if all the focus on a final result is actually causing us to under-achieve?
A recent post by American author James Clear piqued our interest. In it, he suggests that goals can actually “reduce your current happiness”. Now, as you know, at PEPworldwide:nz we’re pretty big on goal-setting – so we thought this warranted a little further investigation. Does this contradict those PEP principles we know and love?
Not at all, says PEPworldwide:nz managing director Kathryn Anda. Clear’s point is that we should take a step back and focus on the process, rather than agonising over the end result. “Sometimes something is so big we don’t even make a start, and then it hangs over us,” she explains. “How many times have you got to the stage where you’ve created a goal – and then you haven’t managed to progress it any further? The key is simply to initiate a process.”
What we propose then is not so much a paradigm shift in our approach to goal-setting as a slight readjustment of perspective. Clear uses a sporting analogy as an example: if you were a basketball coach and focused only on what your team did at practice each day, rather than focusing on winning the championship, would you still get results? He believes that you would. And we agree. Sure, we’re all about setting goals (realistic ones, remember!) – but we also encourage our clients to both carefully plan and successfully execute each step they will take towards achieving them.
A 30-hour working week? What’s not to like, right?
Sweden recently completed a two-year trial in which a handful of companies ranging from start-ups to nursing homes experimented with allowing workers to work six-hour days on full pay. And last year Amazon.com launched a trial of a 30-hour working week option for some teams of staff, offering those employees 75% of typical pay and full benefits.
While Amazon.com’s experiment is ongoing, Sweden’s trial clearly demonstrated improvements to both workers’ productivity and work/life balance. However, critics argued that the cost of such a scheme outweighed the benefits, with one of the trials – a 23-month study at an elderly care facility in Gothenburg – costing the city about 12 million kronor (around $NZ2 million). Yikes. So – game over?
Not necessarily. You don’t need an established 30-hour week scheme at your company, says PEPworldwide:nz managing director Kathryn Anda. The key is simply to work as if you do – and this means maximising your productivity. “It’s not about the hours you work – it’s what you do in the hours you work,” she says. She points out that the results of the 30-hour week experiment in Gothenburg demonstrate that it was quite feasible for the nurses to perform their roles in thirty hours rather than working their usual eight-hour shifts. Working fewer hours made them more efficient – and perhaps more importantly, it made them happier. “The extra ten hours a week that we usually work so often comprises work that isn’t important – work that, even if it’s not completed, is of little to no consequence,” she says.
T ime to ’fess up. Are you an after-hours email addict?
France’s new “right to disconnect” law has got us thinking. Isn’t it ironic that the country which gave us champagne and croissants has become a champion of moderation? But more importantly: is similar legislation necessary here? And if such legislation were implemented, would it be effective in banishing burnout?
Think about your after-hours email activity. Is checking and responding to emails outside your regular office hours a compulsory part of your job? Or is it just a compulsion? PEPworldwide:nz managing director Kathryn Anda contends that our modern culture’s “urgency addiction” undermines our efforts to maintain a work/life balance. She once worked with a senior executive whose wife would ban his mobile phone from the house when he arrived home at night. “He had to leave his phone in the car, so that he wasn’t distracted around his kids,” she says. “But his wife went looking for him once and found him sitting in his car in the garage checking his emails, simply because he couldn’t stop himself.” In other words, it’s going to take more than legislation to encourage email addicts into rehab.
Guilty as charged? Then let’s stage an intervention. We’ve listed a few pointers below about how to kick the habit of compulsive after-hours correspondence. (It’s not quite twelve steps, but it’s just as effective.)
W ork/life balance. Nailed it? Then you’re in the minority, because in our experience this particular productivity issue remains a constant challenge. And in everybody’s defence, the goal posts – particularly in our modern environment – are always shifting. So in this week’s post we asked our executives what they think are the biggest challenges for people in maintaining an effective work/life balance. Read on to see what key factors they identified:
W e launched our new blog series on workplace productivity with an interview with John Campbell, the Group Manager for Business Improvement and Innovation for the New Zealand Customs Service. As we continue our series, we’d like to explore each of the questions we put to John in a little more detail. So this week we asked other executives what issues have the biggest impact on their workplace productivity. Is there a common denominator? We’ve collated their observations below:
As promised, it’s time to get personal: we’d like to kick off our brand-new series of posts on workplace productivity with an interview with John Campbell, the Group Manager for Business Improvement and Innovation for the New Zealand Customs Service.
As someone who’s passionate about inspiring, motivating, training and maintaining enthusiastic and productive staff, John is perfectly placed to share his views on the issues affecting professionals in the modern workplace. Check out his thought-provoking responses to our questions below:
M any of our previous posts have discussed our take on – and solutions for – productivity issues affecting the modern workplace. However, in our next series of posts, we’d like to change the perspective.
We’re going to look at these issues from the inside out: we’ve interviewed a number of professionals in a variety of industries for their ideas and insights on workplace productivity – the trends they’ve observed, the challenges they’ve encountered and the strategies they’ve implemented or would like to implement to increase the success of their businesses.
Over the next few posts, we’ll share their opinions, ideas and observations with you to create a snapshot of the modern workplace in New Zealand. As you read their responses, be sure to send us your own opinions too: we’d love to know how you identify with the issues raised. Are we all encountering the same difficulties, or do productivity issues vary across industries? Let’s generate some discussion. After all, everyone benefits from a little shared inspiration.
C ome across the term “paper independence” yet? If you haven’t, you will soon. And since we’re here to keep you informed about the latest workplace trends, let’s explore this concept a bit further:
You’ll notice we don’t use the term “paperless”. “Companies make the decision to ‘go paperless’, but this is very difficult to achieve when you have potentially four generations working in one workplace – people who have only ever worked with paper and others who barely know what paper is unless they have to scan it to put it into their systems. So we are loath to use the word ‘paperless’, because for some it is neither practical nor productive,” says PEPworldwide:nz managing director Kathryn Anda.
PEPworldwide:nz advocates paper independence instead: “Paper independence means it’s ok if you want to print something – for example, a contract or proposal – to read it,” explains Anda. “Some of us still find it easier to read on paper rather than electronically. The key to paper independence, however, is what we do with it when we’re finished with it. You don’t need to keep it because you have an electronic version. Challenge yourself to ask, ”Have I finished with this piece of paper? Am I ready to recycle?’ with everything you deal with.”
H ave our posts inspired you with what Outlook has to offer? Been motivated to conduct an email overhaul? Great! So now that you’re on a roll, what’s next? In this, our final post on PEP participants’ favourite time-saving Outlook features, we’ll explore Outlook’s Calendar and Tasks functions. Here are the key tips that our clients tell us have made the biggest difference to their working lives:
In our previous post, we provided strategies to help you clear your email backlog and set yourself up for efficient mail management. Did you take on this challenge over Easter? Fantastic – because now we’re taking it a step further. In this post, we’re going to identify and explain the specific Outlook features our clients love the most (in other words, the ones we all wish we’d known about years ago).
L iving in your inbox? We hear this complaint so often we thought we’d provide some more specific strategies on using Outlook to manage your mail. In this post we’re going to focus on clearing any backlog and setting the right systems in place to prevent any future pile-ups. The upcoming Easter break provides the perfect opportunity to show that inbox a bit of tough love. Up for the challenge? Read on:
O ur previous posts for this month discussed both the essential strategies every manager needs to know and the best ways for managers to motivate their teams. Well, now it’s time to put those theories into the context of real life situations: thank you to all subscribers who have shared their experiences with us. Read on, then, to see what challenges other managers regularly face and what strategies we’ve recommended to overcome them.
In our previous post, we discussed two key strategies that enable managers to perform their roles more effectively. This time round, we’re going to explore the best ways that managers can motivate their team members to succeed (and remember, we’d love to hear your stories for inclusion in our final March post). Once again, we’re taking a PEP less-is-more approach: four key strategies are all that’s required for you to engage, support and motivate each member of your team.
At PEPworldwide we’ve observed that managers often struggle to, well, manage – to balance the diverse needs of their teams with the specific requirements of their own roles. So this month’s posts will focus on the key strategies that help managers both boost their individual performances and maximise the performance of their teams. We thought we’d kick off the month by sharing what, in our experience, are the two most important ways to improve your ability to manage effectively and ensure you are maximising your company’s biggest asset: your people.
We’d love to hear from you, too: what are the biggest challenges you face as a manager, team leader or decision-maker? Tell us your stories and we’ll explore these experiences and more in our final March post.
T he working year (and, typically, the glorious summer weather) is now well underway for most of us, so we thought the time was right to check in, review our previous posts and ensure that our suggestions are proving useful. So please take a few minutes to think about what challenges you face in the workplace and what sort of posts would provide the most value for you – and then drop us a quick message. Now’s a great time to join our online community of like-minded professionals who are all sharing their advice, challenges and successes: everyone who fires through a bit of feedback goes in the draw to win an elegant glass carafe set and a copy of Personal Efficiency Program founder Kerry Gleeson’s definitive book on productivity, The Personal Efficiency Program: How to Stop Feeling Overwhelmed and Win Back Control of Your Work.
W e see it time and time again, at every level of an organisation and in every industry: employees who are overwhelmed by the volume of email they receive and stressed about their inability to process it. And the ramifications of an overflowing inbox go beyond increased stress on individuals: any issue which affects an employee’s efficiency has an impact on the productivity of the entire company. So if you’re inundated with email, have a read of our suggestions below. Not only is it possible to regain control, it’s easier than you think.
IN our previous post, we discussed five of the best ways to set realistic, relevant goals. But that’s only half the story – because how you set about accomplishing those goals now is just as important as how you clarified them in the first place. Once again, a well thought-out approach is essential. So this time, let’s take a look at five ways to set yourself up for success:
E asing yourself out of that recliner and back into work? Simply sitting back down at your desk can feel like an accomplishment (bonus points if you’re not holding a cocktail). However, since you no doubt followed our advice on pre-Christmas planning, hopefully you’ve enjoyed a stress-free start to the working year and are already thinking about exactly what you want to achieve over the coming months. But before you get too far ahead, remember that effective goal-setting does require a bit of careful thought. Let’s take a look at five of the best ways to ensure your goals are the right combination of aspirational and attainable:
B ringing your work home with you is never a good idea and, if you’ve completed PEP, this won’t be an issue for you anyway. But if you haven’t already, do consider bringing home the PEP strategies you use at the office – because as our suggestions below demonstrate, PEP’s principles for increasing efficiency go well beyond the workplace. Let’s explore a few ways these strategies can transform your home life, too.
T ough day at the office? Working remotely is becoming increasingly popular and for many, working in a traditional office environment is a thing of the past. In fact for some, remote working becomes a necessity rather than a choice: with the news that a number of office buildings in Wellington remain closed after the November 14 earthquake, now seems a good time for us at PEPworldwide to share our tips on how to stay just as productive when you work out of the office as when you work in it.
T oday is Thanksgiving Day in the States – although it’s possible that the widespread unrest following the US presidential election will continue to blight celebrations for our American friends. While Thanksgiving is not typically a holiday that New Zealanders recognise, perhaps this is a good time for us too to be thankful that – at the moment at least – we live in a country of comparative political stability.
Most New Zealanders, however, will now be looking forward to Christmas. And as the year draws to a close, we tend to start thinking about family. At PEPworldwide, we like to think of all our clients and past participants as part of our extended PEP family – so we thought this would be a good opportunity to share a little family history with you. We’d like to think that providing a brief backstory – how PEP evolved from one man’s practical suggestions into a global network of businesses in over thirty countries – will help to put our commitment to our company into context. Read on, then, for the story of PEP:
It may seem early to be thinking about Christmas, but look around: chocolate Santas are already tempting us in supermarkets, save-the-dates are filling your in-box and the usual suspects are releasing Christmas albums (Neil Diamond, we’re looking at you). Don’t leave it until twelve days before Christmas to plan your work calendar around your holiday: now is the perfect time to be thinking ahead. So with this in mind, we’ve collated the top suggestions from our own facilitators, from outside the productivity industry and from the Internet about how to successfully manage your Christmas deadlines. At PEP we’re all about achieving what matters – and in this case, it’s a well-earned break from work concerns
H alloween’s just round the corner, but forget creepy clowns and sugar-crazed kids: sometimes nothing’s more frightening than a growing pile of tasks you’ve been putting off. Time is arguably our most precious commodity – so why are we so good at wasting it? Because this is what procrastination does: it robs us of the opportunity to achieve something meaningful. It undermines our efficiency, decreases our productivity and increases our stress. And let’s face it: these consequences are unlikely to have a positive effect on your work or personal life.
There’s a substantial quantity of research into the psychological origins of this universal human trait. And one of the biggest causes? Fear of failure. At its most basic level, fear is designed to protect us from pain – including emotional pain. We cling to the hope that if we procrastinate long enough, we will feel more confident, be better prepared or a difficult situation will improve. Unfortunately, more often than not, the reverse is true.
So how do we counteract this unhelpful instinct?
P erhaps we should begin by saying that we know that the Internet is already crammed with blogs on procrastination, time-saving strategies, tips on email management and more.
Obviously, as productivity specialists, we don’t want to contribute to this clutter. But as leaders in our industry, we do feel that we’re in a unique position to provide valuable commentary on the varied issues confronting executives in the modern workplace. And so what we intend to do with our blog is act as your filter: we’re going to sort through the latest research on boosting business performance, we’ll identify workplace trends and we’ll collate the newest and most effective ideas in maximising efficiency – so that you don’t have to. Think of us as quality control. After all, this is what we do best: help people to regain control by identifying what matters most.
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