Organizations today, whether starting up or long-lived, have mostly adapted to the dynamics of 21st century workplace culture. It’s a necessity, as the priorities of industries have changed to reflect the emergence of a global economy.
However, some things are harder to change than others. They remain as relics of a bygone era with different values from the industries of today. At times these practices and habits are mostly harmless, but the worst ones contradict everything that elevates the 21st century workplace. Each week, we’ll pick apart one of the five worst workplace culture relics, and detail why and how they should be phased out.
Sacrificing employees’ work-life balance for unrealistic targets
There is a close relationship between the welfare and the performance level of a professional. This is true for anyone, and that should make sense: we all have utmost limits, limits that we can no longer surpass through sheer determination, focus, or creativity. And when we go beyond these hard limits, certain aspects of our performance are likely to suffer.
It’s the existence of these limits – and the consequences of pushing them – that some organizations do not have a clear grasp of. The highest priority for these organizations is maximizing the hours worked by their employees. While that is a logical business priority, it can be counter-productive when taken to the extreme.
The most common and widespread way that organizations ignore the negative impacts of unrealistic minimum working hours is the requirement of employees to do overtime work. Today, working overtime is considered a normal part of being employed. But this way of thinking prevents us from seeing that overtime is not normal, that any organization that has to rely on overtime to get results is not really a role model for efficiency and productivity.
A related form of this disregard for the consequences of overloading is the assignment of weekend duties. Weekends were designated as rest days precisely because professionals are human beings who need rest. And while working Saturdays and Sundays is necessary for professions that are of paramount importance to society, such as those in security, public safety and healthcare, it is not a necessity in other sectors. Besides, shifting schedules are often implemented in these sectors that require 24-hour service.
Effective shifting schedules, of course, require an organization to have sufficient manpower. And various traditional organizations also fail in this respect. In the desire to reduce manpower costs, such organizations condense multiple job descriptions that can then be assigned to one position. They also often assign emerging duties to existing positions that are barely related. The result? Two more conditions that cause overwork, whether separately or combined: insufficient manpower to implement shifting schedules, and excessive roles assigned per employee.
Addressing these two concerns requires a thorough understanding and acceptance that there is only so much that human employees can take before succumbing to stress or burnout, with the consequence of such being decreased productivity.
Consider striking a balance between employee headcount, volume of responsibilities, and duration of working hours. When possible, increase the first or decrease the second and third. Yes, that entails expense for the organization. But this is the inescapable reality: healthily productive employees are an investment, and you can’t expect a return on something you never invested in.