Are we actually busier or do we just feel busier? Has every generation of employees and managers felt the same way? By most measures, we are truly busier. We are being tasked with more variety, more thinking and more change as part of a macro trend in the developed world. As our business practices and organizational processes catch up with investments in IT, we are all faced with more cerebral, more taxing work. In very simple terms, as productivity continues to increase across the board, each of us is producing more. In fact, some of this catching up to technology is happening in a post-recession lump. As the economy recovered, many displaced employees were not hired back. The effect is a nice little bump in productivity metrics, better leverage of technology and ultimately more work for those of us who are still employed.
The use of technology and better processes make parts of our jobs easier, but no doubt make our overall work much different, if not harder. We are required to touch many things and effectively juggle extra balls. Some of those balls may be highly automated, but we still need to juggle them.
While technology and business practices are making organizations more productive, most of us are operating in a radically different operating environment using personal practices that worked for us in the past. This is a somewhat crude exercise, but look at the total revenues of your organization (not-for-profits and government agencies can try this exercise using total budget) divided by the total number of employees. Work out the ratio for 10 years ago compared to today.
Now think back to the changes you have personally seen, participated in and even led to make those improvements in your organization possible. Likely, the technology investments were followed by business practice and process changes to leverage those investments for productivity.
To ever have a hope of finding work-life balance, we need to find some work balance first. There are many contributors to the changing nature of work and most revolve around simply having more to balance. One of the critical balancing acts many of us face is finding equilibrium between our daily work and our project work. More than ever before, organizations of all types need employees to execute projects. Again, reflect on your own experience in project involvement today compared to just a few years ago. Engaging more managers and employees in project management is critical to success and organizational growth, because we almost exclusively use projects to execute our business strategies.
Ironically, being busy without accomplishing much is really hard work. We often poll clients about the cost of “chasing and being chased.” That is how much time, effort and goodwill is expended in your daily work chasing other people for things they have promised? Additionally, how much time do you waste giving other people the run-around for the things you owe them? Think about your daily work. How many extra hours would you have, how many less emails would you write if everyone did what they promised, when they promised it?
We work with corporations and associations around the world to help leaders, managers and employees modify practices to get more done with less stress and less drama. Like a new exercise program or other lifestyle change, people must borrow heavily from their willpower bank to get started and infuse new practices into your organization. We also help organizations of all types to improve overall processes, productivity and work quality at the same time.