How much work is too much work? Do workers reach a point when an excessive amount of work so fatigues them mentally and physically that their productivity takes a hit and their health declines?
The Draugiem Group conducted a study which tracked employees’ work habits. They discovered that employees that took short breaks of around fifteen minutes every hour were much more productive than those who tried to power through without stopping.
The brain operates in a high energy mode for about an hour and then in a low energy mode for fifteen to twenty minutes. For most, during these low energy periods, they are distracted and their productivity dips. By powering through this distracted period rather than taking a break and refueling, a lack of focus may continue even during the high energy period. The study found that those who took a break for fifteen minutes, and completely disengaged from work, could recommit 100% of their focus on their task once they re-engaged.
We see from a daily perspective how our minds and productivity are affected by too much continuous work but how about on a weekly basis? The Department of Health and Human Services, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, have researched the mental and physical effects of a forty plus hour work week. Below is a collection of their findings.
- Working more than 10 hours a day is associated with a 60 percent jump in risk of cardiovascular issues.
- Working more than 40 hours a week is associated with increased alcohol and tobacco consumption, as well as unhealthy weight gain in men and depression in women.
- Little productive work occurs after 50 hours per week.
- In companies with normal overtime, only 23 percent had absentee rates above 9 percent. In companies with high overtime, 54 percent had absentee rates above 9 percent.
- Individuals working 11 hours or more of overtime have an increased depression risk.
- Injury rates increase as work hours increase. Those who work 60 hours per week have a 23 percent higher injury hazard rate.
- In manufacturing industries, a 10 percent increase in overtime yields a 2.4 percent decrease in productivity.
- In white collar jobs, productivity declines by as much as 25 percent when workers put in 60 hours or more.
Working too much in one day and in one week can produce detrimental side effects to an individual’s productivity and physical well-being, but how about in a year?
The Bureau of Labor Statistics indicated that in 1976 more than 9 million Americans took vacation while in 2014 that number was down to only 7 million. According to research by the NY Times, taking a vacation every two years significantly reduces the risk of coronary heart disease as compared to taking a vacation once every six years. In addition the research suggests that workers are more productive after returning from vacation. Ernst & Young conducted a study of its employees and discovered their employees’ year-end performance ratings improved eight percent for each additional 10 hours of vacation they took and in addition those who took frequent vacations were less likely to leave the firm. Additional studies also suggest that frequent vacationers suffer less from depression and possess higher emotional levels.
For many taking a break whether it is every hour, every day, week or year, probably feels very counter- productive, but as you can see from the research above, taking one step back on the beach in your flip flops might enable you to take two steps forward in the office.
I won’t cop out and say that you need a little bit of both. Certainly you require talent to achieve success, and few people succeed long term without hard work, but which contributes the most?
A recent study published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin showed that when rated by a group of 383 participants, entrepreneurs who demonstrated greater talent were more favored over those perceived as hard working but with less talent. A follow-up study showed that in order to be as appealing as those with natural talent, the hard workers would require 28 more IQ points and an additional four and one-half years of leadership experience.
People appear to value talent far more than hard work. This idea could not be more obvious in the sports world. Every year the NBA and NFL drafts are broadcast so fans can see if their team will land the most coveted talent which will turn around the ailing fortunes of their franchise. More often than not however, the talented young athlete which so dominated in college, flames out in the pros. ESPN recently released a list called “The Could Have Beens” in which sixty of their experts chose the top 25 athletes who failed to live up to their potential. Ever heard of Sam Bowie? He has the dubious misfortune of being the guy selected number two in the 1984 NBA draft ahead of Michael Jordan. Few remember him. Though many athletes on the ESPN list succumbed to career shortening injuries, many simply did not put in the hard work and effort. Despite this, year after year franchises gamble large paychecks on top talent for a quick fix, not realizing that players willing to put in the hard work are every bit as rewarding and often last longer.
“Grit” a book by Angela Duckworth, a professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, suggests that a combination of passion and perseverance (grit) contributes more to success than intelligence or inherent talent. She provides a number of examples such as “gritty” children who studied and competed more in spelling bees, performed better in the Scripps National Spelling Bee. She also showed that West Point cadets who scored high on the grit scale were more able to endure the intensive seven week training program, Beast Barracks, through which they were put. Grit, in this instance, was a better predictor than SAT scores or athletic ability.
There are of course other contributors to success like a great coach or teacher Duckworth points out but effort is the key. She writes, “Our potential is one thing. What we do with it is quite another.”
Michael Phelps is the most decorated athlete in Olympic history. He is 6’4” with a 6’7” reach. His knees are double-jointed and his feet can rotate 15 degrees more than average which allow his feet to act more like flippers. His body is built for speed in the water! However his success is obtained through effort. In peak training mode Phelps swims 50 miles a week. He trains 5-6 hours a day, six days a week!
If you focus 30-35 hours a week on improving any skill whether it is writing, playing the piano, or giving presentations, your chances of succeeding improve exponentially.
Undoubtedly you recall the show, “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?” but in our society or really any, the more appropriate question might be, “Who Doesn’t Want to Be a Millionaire?” Below are several facts and insights gathered together by individuals who have studied and found commonalities among the rich.
Thomas Corley spent five years studying the rich and in his book, “Rich Habits: The Daily Success Habits of Wealthy Individuals” points out eight daily rituals the rich share:
- They have a daily must-do list
- They don’t watch TV
- They read the financial times
- They are healthy eaters
- They never stop learning
- They rise early
- They prioritize self-improvement
- They exercise
Steve Siebold interviewed over 1,200 of the world’s wealthiest people and in his book, “How Rich People Think” he details seven truths that millionaires hold about money.
- Money can solve most problems
- Your level of education is not the key to getting rich
- Do what you love and the money tends to follow
- You don’t need money to make money
- If you want money, you have to go after it
- Self-employed people determine the size of their own paycheck
- They start thinking like a rich person
In his book, “Change Your Habits, Change Your Life”, Thomas Corley points out that rich people make a daily choice not to follow the herd. Corley suggests, “failure to separate yourself from the herd is why most people never achieve success. You want to separate yourself from the herd, create your own herd and then get others to join it.”
Steve Siebold seems to echo this belief by suggesting the average person has trouble breaking free from their comfort zone. “Physical, psychological and emotional comfort is the primary goal of the middle class mindset,” but he says that world class thinkers, “…learn to be comfortable while operating in a state of ongoing uncertainty.”
Perhaps the most significant trait that the wealthy share in common according to Corley is positivity. “Long term success is only possible when you have a positive mental outlook.” The majority of the people in Corley’s study limited their contact with pessimistic individuals while eighty-six percent regularly associated with success-minded individuals.
As journalist Napoleon Hill put it, “There is no hope of success for the person who repels people through a negative personality.”
So, who wants to be a millionaire? Everyone? Who really has the will and discipline to become rich? Very few!
Job seekers will get rejected for many things. Their lack of skills, their lack of experience, their height, weight, gender, race and so on. I have blogged on these items extensively but here are a few items not often considered that affect a job candidate’s chances. Some are within their control while others are not.
The time of your interview – When scheduling an interview avoid the lunch hour. A pre-lunch interview could be cut short while a post lunch interview could delay you as you wait for your interviewer to return. Also the last interview of the day is not a prime choice as your interviewer may be distracted by their evening plans.
Rainy days – If you can change the weather patterns try interviewing on a sunny day. You may be rated more favorably.
Early, on time or late – Showing up late for an interviewer is obviously a negative and you can never go wrong with being on time but showing up early isn’t necessarily a plus. Lynn Taylor, a national workplace expert says that arriving too early can make you appear too anxious and put pressure on the interviewer.
How you treat staff – Be good to those around you! The CEO of Panera bread once rejected a candidate because they were rude to a worker cleaning nearby tables. Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos, will ask the airport shuttle driver if his job candidates were rude or impolite. “If our shuttle driver wasn’t treated well, then we won’t hire that person,” Hsieh remarked.
Sitting too early – Stand until your interviewer sits or offers you a seat!
Looking at your cell phone or watch – The hiring manager deserves your attention! Don’t be rude!
Where you grew up – Interviewers are often sub-consciously biased but sometimes in a positive way. If the job seeker shares similarities with the interviewer such as in where they both grew up, this may benefit the candidate. The similarity attraction hypothesis suggests that people are drawn to those who are similar to them in some aspect.
Smiling – Smiling people are more engaging and approachable but according to one study, excessive smiling does not benefit all professions. Most notably manager candidates were less likely to get the job.
A foreign accent – Another item about which candidates have no control is a foreign accent and for executive positions employers are seemingly biased against it. According to research, employers believe foreign speaking candidates have less political skill.
Obesity – A study found that candidates were rated as less competent when photos of their non-obese bodies were compared with digitally altered photos that made them look obese. Is this discrimination? Of course it is and unless you live in Michigan, there is no law to protect you.
Your handshake – This one is perhaps more spoken of than the others but an issue people may commonly neglect. Strong handshakes usually indicate confidence while weak handshakes, according to one study, indicate shyness and neuroticism.
As a job seeker, if you can eliminate all the potential resume pitfalls, and get past the computer gatekeeper, your chances will improve drastically if you heed the data above.
Last year the national average for filling an open position reached 29 days which was a record. Believing that recruiters are simply dragging their feet and waiting for a purple squirrel is a common assumption and true to some extent. To be fair though to recruiters and hiring managers, the number of measures that must be taken the moment a position becomes vacant needs to be considered.
- Advertise the position
- Identify acceptable candidates
- Conduct interviews
- Complete background and reference checks
- Extend an offer
- Wait for the candidate to accept the offer
When you consider all of this, 29 days doesn’t seem so long but it is! According to some statistics, top talent remains on the market for only 10 days! Additionally, during that 29 days, as the position remains open, productivity, revenue and morale drops among your employees. The solution seems simple. Speed up the hiring process! Weed out candidates with an ATS. Conduct more interviews in less time with video interviewing! Even with those measures in place, is ten days to fill a realistic goal?
Recruiting in the business world isn’t like recruiting in the sports or entertainment industry. My team has an open position at quarterback and Cam Newton is available? You’d better believe we are going after him! He’s a proven star! Carmello Anthony is a free agent and I need a forward? My VP of People Operations is calling up Carmello’s agent. My movie’s director just dropped out? Let’s see, is Scorsese Spielberg or Christopher Nolan available? No? What about Alejandro Inarritu? He’s been nominated twice in the last two years.
Within these fields top talent can easily be identified. Right from the start a short list of stars to fill the open position is formed. In the corporate world unless you are poaching executives at the “C” level from high profile companies such as Amazon, Apple or Google, most top talent is relatively unknown. You don’t know that you have a potential Steph Curry, Odell Beckham Jr., or Cate Blanchett applying for your open position. At least not from the start.
Though your job candidate’s resume may scream success up front, you certainly want more than a few days to determine the validity of their credentials. Assuming an organization is lucky enough to find their dream candidate within seven days of posting a job, recruiters are left with only three days to interview the candidate, verify references and negotiate an offer before the candidate accepts another. Careerbuilder released a survey a few years ago and the results showed that 41% of employers believed a bad hiring decision cost them upwards of $25,000 and 43% of them blamed their bad hires on a rushed hiring decision.
Organizations face a problem. Move too quickly during the hiring process and they risk hiring the wrong candidate. Move too slowly and they risk a great candidate getting away. Move slower still, 29 days slow, and they risk losing not only the good candidates but all of the rest. Hiring managers can ill afford to hold out and wait for a Steph Curry or an Adrian Peterson. As Dr. John Sullivan points out, “…it’s mostly luck if the most desirable candidates decide to enter the job market precisely when you coincidentally have a job opening.”
So can you hire a great candidate in ten days? Yes, but only if luck is on your side. Generally you shouldn’t try because your rushed hiring decision could produce a bad hire. However if you drag your feet too long waiting for the perfect candidate, your luck will turn to misfortune. That is if you believe losing revenue is unfortunate.
I recently read through two lists regarding how to raise children. “Science say parents of successful kids have these 11 things in common” and “How to Raise Happy Kids: 10 Steps Backed by Science.” “Science” was the word that most drew my attention because obviously science implies that these tips are more than just suggestions, they are backed by research.
As I scanned the list I contemplated how many of these could be applied to how we should raise our employees in the workplace. Here are a few of the following traits that parents of successful children have in common.
- They have high expectations. The Pygmalion effect states “that what one person expects of another can come to serve as a self-fulfilling prophecy.” Parents who expected more of their kids had children who showed greater success on standardized testing. Could we not expect the same results when expecting more from our employees?
- They have healthy relationships with each other. Children with parents who maintain a great relationship with one another whether intact or divorced fare better than those surrounded by high conflict relationships. Managing our employees in an atmosphere of minimal conflict should produce the same effects.
- They develop a relationship with their kids. Why not reach out to your employees?
- They’re less stressed. Emotional contagion is a psychological phenomenon where feelings spread from one person to another like a cold. Stressed out managers, especially in cube farms common in many office spaces, will spread their stress like the plague.
- They value effort over avoiding failure. I once worked with a company whose owner would frequently say, “Don’t confuse effort with results!” He lost a lot of good employees! Science backs up the suggestion that we should focus on effort. Telling your employees they succeeded because of their effort teaches a “growth” mindset and as a result your workers will accept more challenges and will embrace failure as an opportunity to improve.
Happier kids are more likely to grow into successful adults and so common sense suggests that happy employees too should be more primed for success. Here are a few of the suggestions on how to raise happy kids from the article mentioned above.
- Get happy yourself! As discussed above, feelings spread. As a manager you can choose to spread good will or bad will.
- Teach them to build relationships. Your employees aren’t too old to be taught how to better interact with and encourage one another. Lead by example!
- Expect effort, not perfection. From the book, Raising Happiness: 10 Simple Steps for More Joyful Kids and Happier Parents, “Parents who overemphasize achievement are more likely to have kids with high levels of depression, anxiety, and substance abuse compared to other kids.” Depression causes 200 million lost workdays and billions in lost productivity according to the CDC. As noted in the first set of bullet points, focusing on an employee’s efforts allows them to better embrace failure and can reduce depression.
- Teach optimism. Optimists are more successful at work, healthier and have fewer bouts of depression. Teach it and live it!
- Teach emotional intelligence. Read my post “Emotional Intelligence: Why it Trumps all other traits” and you will learn why this is the one trait to rule them all.
- Eat dinner together. Eating dinner together is great for families but while I’m not suggesting you invite your employees to your home for taco Tuesday, joining them at lunch or in the cafeteria if you have one, will help you establish healthier relationships with them.
We place a lot of emphasis on raising successful children but perhaps not enough on raising successful adults. Why not, when our success greatly hinges on the success of the people with whom we spend as much time as our children?
More and more I see articles and posts adorned with pictures of the Terminator, sans flesh, with titles half-jokingly warning us of the day that robots will take our jobs away, as though robots are angry and want our menial jobs. Should we be concerned? Here are a few of the numbers for you to decide.
- In February White House economists warned us that low-wage workers, those making less than $20 per hour, are at an 83% risk of losing their job to a robot in the “years ahead”. How far away “years ahead” is, I am not certain.
- According to a study by Deloitte, eleven million jobs in the UK are in danger of being automated by 2036.
- The World Economic Forum predicts that robots will steal over 5 million jobs globally over the next five years. This survey was based on 371 global companies with a total of more than thirteen million employees.
- One out of every four full-time workers in an Amazon warehouse is a robot.
- Gartner predicts that by 2025, one-third of all jobs will be replaced by software or machines.
- University of Oxford researchers released a report in 2013 suggesting that 47 percent of U.S. jobs could be automated by 2033.
Most of the jobs seized by robots will be in the office and administrative sector which will greatly affect women. Though this coming storm of automation will create jobs, women will lose far more than will be created. Five jobs will be lost for women for every one gained while for men the ratio is three jobs lost for every one gained.
The news doesn’t look good especially for those in lower paying jobs. Workers complaining about their minimum wage salaries may not have any salary at all in the coming years. So should we go “Sarah Conner” on the factories churning out these automated machines and robots?
Put away your M-16 and plasma rifle for now. The VDMA Robotics and Automation Association released an interesting study that demonstrated increased usage of automation in the German automotive industry coincided with employment increases. According to the CEO of VDMA’s robotics arm, “New approaches at smart factories actually look into using human strengths and the machine’s strengths in an intelligent combination, so it doesn’t look like we are running into a situation where we will massively lose jobs.”
Sadly though if the robots do want to launch a revolution, we humans are primed for an overthrow. A recent study by Pew Research Center revealed that 80% of Americans believe their job will exist in 50 years. This belief does not jive with the predictions above. Is the human race in denial or even worse….in jeopardy?
Hasta la vista, humans!
As we likely all know, U.S. workers have not been enjoying much in the way of rising wages for some time. The economy’s health as far as bringing workers ever increasing prosperity is a function of ever increasing worker productivity.
Labor productivity is defined as the amount of output produced per hour of labor. Productivity is affected by new technology, capital investment, the organization of production, managerial skill, and the characteristics and effort of the work force. The more you produce per hour the more your employer profits. The employer hopefully shares the profits of your labor with you, the worker, through higher wages.
But productivity growth has been lagging. During America’s post World War II boom years of 1947 through 1973, productivity enjoyed a 2.8% annual growth rate. This sharply contrasts with 2007 through 2015 when productivity grew just 1.2% per year, a drop of almost 60%.
So why is productivity not increasing faster?
First of all, we’re all busier than ever but are we getting more work done? The problem is the things we’re busy at are not necessarily resulting in higher productivity. For example, just think about how much time you spend cleaning up your email box every day. Sure, email has made communication more efficient, but has it made it more effective? We don’t have to play phone tag so much anymore, but email has also brought us spam. But it’s not just email. Think how Facebook and Twitter and Snap Chat and Instagram and Youtube, etc., all take their toll on productivity.
Economists are arguing over whether succeeding waves of new technology necessarily deliver less and less in the way of productivity gains. I’d argue that some technology gains deliver productivity loss.
Second, the gig economy and the celebration of entrepreneurship means many workers, and in particular millennials, are working on their own projects even if they have a fulltime job, and often while they’re at that fulltime job. As a manager I’m astounded at how much time millennials at work spend not working on their employer’s agenda, but rather on their own. In a discussion with a high level corporate executive, he told me that their company was formulating a policy that their workers would be required to spend at least 75% of their time on the job working on the employer’s assigned tasks, allowing them to work 25% of the time on their own projects. Say what? His rationale was that their millennial workers would just quit otherwise. This is a clear case of corporate insanity sabotaging the company’s own productivity growth.
Finally, the baby boomers aren’t capable of delivering strong productivity growth. Research shows that worker productivity slows down after age 45, at least in some industries. Forty-five plus old individuals make up about 44% of all employed workers, and of course most of these are baby boomers, the youngest of whom are now 53 years old. I’m not saying baby boomers don’t contribute. Science says our analytical skills continue to develop as we age, even if our memories degrade. But baby boomers are not going to be delivering the productivity gains needed to fuel significantly growing worker incomes.
The best hope is the millennial generation, which is even larger than the baby boom. But unless they get focused on being more productive for their employers than they have been we may have many more years of sub-standard productivity and wages.
Emotional intelligence (EQ) is a person’s ability to be aware of and monitor their own behaviors and emotions. Individuals with high EQs better understand their strengths and weaknesses, have more self-control and exhibit more initiative.
In a previous post, “Skills vs. Attitude: What Lands the Job?” I noted that cosmetics giant, L’Oreal found that their sales people with a high emotional intelligence score outsold their peers by $90,000 per year. Further corroborating the benefit of emotional intelligence, at least among sales people, a study of over 40 Fortune 500 companies indicated that sales people with high EQs performed better than those with medium to low EQs by 50%. The same study showed that technical programmers with EQs in the top 10% produced software three times faster than those outside this range.
The benefits of high EQ are not limited to increased productivity. Studies have shown that workplaces with lower average EQs, in addition to experiencing lower productivity, also report higher rates of burnout and turnover.
The vast benefits of high EQs don’t end with high productivity and lower turnover. Studies also show that those with lower EQ scores experience twice the rate of anxiety, depression and substance abuse all of which lead to increased absenteeism from work. Individuals suffering from depression are better than twice as likely to take sick days. Lost productivity and increased medical expenses as a result of depression costs businesses more than $83 billion dollars each year and these expenses occur year after year.
Depression aside, stress and anxiety suppress the immune system making one vulnerable to illness which of course leads to increased absenteeism. Since high EQ individuals are less prone to bouts of stress and anxiety, their ability to better fight off infection and remain at work is superior. Even more impressive is the research that suggests emotional intelligence can speed up the recovery of major illnesses such as cancer and heart disease. Studies have shown that men and women recovering from cancer or heart attacks were able to reduce their levels of stress, keep a better diet and build a stronger immune system when developing emotional intelligence skills during recovery.
In short, employees with high emotional intelligence produce more, handle stressful situations better and work more often than their low EQ counterparts. I suggest you hire them!
If you are a high EQ employee, don’t worry, there are benefits for you too. Since individuals with higher EQs are more productive they naturally make more money. Studies show that every extra point of emotional intelligence adds $1,300 to an individual’s annual salary. This is true in any part of the world, in any industry and at any level!
The bottom line is that cultivating emotional intelligence is good for your business, good for your health and even good for your wallet!
Looking for a new job can be a daunting, draining, soul crushing experience. However if you establish realistic expectations you can approach the rejection and struggle philosophically rather than personally and hopefully not succumb to depression.
Please consider the following before you start pounding the pavement so that you don’t start pounding your head against it.
You might suffer through a long application process – So you’ve just found a great job online you feel is perfect for you? You apply and find that you’ve entered an arduous process that little helps your job seeking fatigue. Fifty-four percent of HR professionals report that their organization’s application process takes over 20 minutes to complete! Keep in mind that on average every online job posting receives about 200 resumes. Before you enter into 20 minutes of online hell and compete with 200 other blokes, ask yourself, “Do I really want this job?” and “Am I really qualified for this job?” If you can’t answer “yes” to either of those, then don’t waste your time.
You probably won’t find a job online – The majority of open positions aren’t advertised online and according to a 2014 survey by CareerXroads, only 15 percent of jobs were filled through job boards. Most candidates are sourced from within or from referrals. Networking therefore may be a better use of your time.
You probably won’t hear back from the employer – A Careerbuilder survey suggests that three-fourths of job candidates never hear back from the employer after applying or they receive no more than an automated response after hitting “submit”. Yes, though this lack of employer action may be unprofessional, you should not take it personally. If you are holding your breath with crossed fingers and refreshing your inbox repeatedly, you will be disappointed if not frustrated.
You weren’t rejected because of who you are – Automated systems often filter out about 75% of the candidates who apply through them and much of this rejection is based solely on the lack of keywords in your resume. If a company shows no interest in your online application, don’t take it personally. Chances are a human never saw your resume to begin with and even if they did, they spent on average only six seconds getting to know it.
You may not have been rejected for lack of skill – You may have all the skills in the world but today, as unfair as this sounds, cultural fit is given more consideration during the hiring process. A study of 500 organizations found that 82% felt cultural fit was an important measure in the hiring process while seventy-five percent of respondents believed cultural fit was a good predictor of success. Understand though that fit is a two-way street. If they don’t feel you are a fit for them, they may not be a fit for you either. Learning that up front is perhaps best for your career.
Hiring managers barely look at your resume – Hiring managers and recruiters look at your resume, as mentioned above, for a mere six seconds. During that time they only look at your name, current position, previous position and education. Make sure your resume is formatted in such a way that this information can be accessed quickly to best maximize the time they spend on you.
You may be requested to take a video interview – Dozens of video interviewing providers now litter the hiring landscape as employers seek to hire more efficiently and effectively. If you are invited to take a video interview, do not panic and certainly do not feel slighted you weren’t immediately invited into the office. You have been invited because your resume interests them. You have passed the skills audition and the video interview is your chance to let your personality shine. Read, “4 Reasons Why Job Candidates Should be All Over Video Interviewing.”
A job search is more a marathon than a sprint. Understand these six points and you just may have the endurance to make it to the finish line.