A New Way to Work

Success and change without burnout by Dr. Geri Puleo

Archive for the category “Work-Life Balance”

Will Flexible Work Schedules Benefit Your Organization? 10 Factors to Consider

Flexibility - 2 pulling 1

Workplace flexibility.  All employees want it…most employers say they provide it…but few fully harness its benefits.  Whether you’re seeking work-life balance, trying to reduce employee burnout, or responding to new paradigms at how work is done, you need to consider 10 critical factors before introducing flexible work arrangements in the workplace.

10 Factors to Consider BEFORE Introducing Flexible Work Arrangements

  1. Do you want to be known as a “family friendly” workplace that is committed to work-life balance? According to a 2014 report by The Council of Economic Advisers, 33% of employees overall – and 50% of working parents – have declined a job offer due to potential conflicts with family responsibilities.  As a result, corporations may lose considerable workforce talent if flexible work arrangements are not offered.  
  2. Is it getting increasingly more difficult to find qualified job candidates? In today’ global marketplace, flexible work arrangements allow employers to hire the most qualified candidates regardless of their geographic location.  This can also expand a company’s market by hiring sales representatives in locations outside of the company’s primary headquarters.
  3. Is employee absenteeism or turnover a problem? Time-based work-life conflicts (such as trying to be in two places at the same time!) increase tardiness and absenteeism – which can ultimately contribute to increased levels of voluntary or involuntary turnover.  Flexible work arrangements provide a win-win in overcoming these staffing challenges.
  4. Are overtime payments decreasing corporate profits? Mandatory overtime is a precursor to poor productivity, decreased quality, and increased levels of burnout.  Through the use of flex-time or shift work, employers can extend their hours of operation without incurring costly overtime payments to nonexempt workers.
  5. Are fixed operational costs skyrocketing? Office space and supplies are expensive.  Through location-based flexible work arrangements, organizations no longer need to provide office space for every employee – which can result in a significant decrease in overhead expenses.
  6. Are you searching for ways to increase revenue and/or profitability? Studies have shown that flexibility enhances employees’ feelings of control because their work arrangement aligns with their hours of peak productivity (the early bird and the night owl).  This greater efficiency and effectiveness can directly influence revenue and profitability.
  7. Is worker productivity hampering efforts to meet market demand? Studies have repeatedly shown that employees who work in a flexible work arrangement tend to be more efficient and productive.  Because workers choose the time and/or location when they work on projects, they can take advantage of the hours in which they are most productive – rather than being constricted to work during standard onsite office hours. Additionally, flexibility changes the way in which employees are managed, from a “face time” to an outcome basis; as a result, workers proactively improve their work habits in order to meet deadlines.
  8. Are your health care costs escalating? Over 90% of patient visits to primary care physicians are for stress-related illnesses or disease.  Flexible work arrangements can mitigate the stressors of fighting rush hour traffic or scrambling to balance work and family obligations.  When stress is decreased, there can be a corresponding decrease in physical ailments (e.g., headaches, compromised immune systems, heart disease, and gastrointestinal problems).
  9. Is compliance with ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) an issue? Telework can be a viable reasonable accommodation under the ADA.  NOTE:  Employers will be required to cover any work-related expenses that can result in the employee earning less than minimum wage (and overtime).
  10. Do you want to build employee commitment and loyalty? Even if an employee does not take advantage of a flexible work arrangement, the mere presence of this option has been correlated with higher levels of commitment and loyalty.  This may be due to the belief that the employer genuinely cares about the well-being of their workforce and trusts them to get the job done even if they’re not being “seen” doing their work.

Advantages and Disadvantages of 7 Flexible Work Arrangements

Once you’ve determined that flexible work arrangements can address challenges facing your organization, the next decision is to identify the type(s) of scheduling that will cost effectively achieve your objectives.

In general, workplace flexibility falls into two broad categories:  time-based and location-based.

Time-based flexibility focuses on choosing when you will be working.

  • For full-timers, flex-time gives employees flexibility in terms of their arrival and departure times – usually with a core period in which all employees must be on-site.
  • Compressed work weeks enable workers to complete a standard 40-hour work week in less than the standard 5 days.
  • For part-timers, reduced hour professionals can continue to grow in their careers but permanently reduce their weekly work hours – a distinct difference between temporary or seasonable work options.
  • A hybrid is job sharing, in which two employees divide the duties, responsibilities, and benefits of a single full-time position.

Location-based flexibility allows workers to choose where they will be working.

  • Telework (or telecommuting) is the most common option, allowing employees to work offsite through the use of computers and telecommunications technology. Not only does this expand the candidate pool for certain jobs, but it also allows employees to spend additional hours on time-intensive projects.  NOTE:  There are many legal requirements related to compensation and expense reimbursement for teleworkers, most notably under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) – so be sure to review your plan with an employment lawyer.
  • For road warriors, hoteling enables organizations to contract with vendors to provide locations in which their employees can meet with customers and/or conduct any other business function.
  • One of the newest location flexibility options is snowbirding. Given the harshness of many winters in the northern part of the U.S., some organizations (such as CVS Caremark) offer employees the option to temporarily relocate to a company location that is in a warmer region during the winter months.

For more information, download my free chart, FREE CHART: 7 Flexible Work Arrangements:  Advantages and Disadvantages — you’ll also receive access to my weekly eNewsletter, Success @ Work.  

Dr. Geri Puleo, SPHR, is the President and CEO of Change Management Solutions, Inc., an eLearning company focused on techniques to eliminate the 5 workplace stressors that create and sustain burnout:  Job Change, Organizational Change, Work-Life Imbalance, Poor Leadership and Management, and Ineffective Human Resources.  An entrepreneur for over 25 years, author, blogger, career coach, university professor, and researcher, you can see her “in action,” watch her TEDx Talk on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hFkI69zJzLI.  To contact Dr. Puleo, please go to www.gapuleo.com

 

Paradigm Shifter #48 – Identify your life’s purpose

Paradigm Shift

You will always leave a legacy – whether you intend to or not. To intentionally leave a legacy, you must identify and act boldly based on your life’s PURPOSE.

This advice is perennial: success requires that you understand why you are here…at this time…in this place…with these specific talents.  Your legacy is, therefore, the result of the interplay between your internal talents and the external circumstances that create the fabric of your life.

It doesn’t matter whether you believe that this unique amalgamation is random or dictated by a higher power. What matters is that you identify for yourself the “why’s” of your life.

But it is often much easier said than done.

Boldly asserting your life’s “purpose” can be frightening:

  • Will I become so focused on a single goal that I miss out on all the other things that life has to offer?
  • Is it egotistical to believe that I am here for an important reason that can impact society – or even a small portion of it?
  • What if I want to achieve this purpose so badly and commit so many resources to it…then don’t achieve it?

Whether expressed out loud or just simmering in our subconscious, these fears powerfully sabotage our ability to really achieve success on our own terms.

The fear of “missing out”

I am adamantly against the idea that anyone can “have it all” – but I just as adamantly support that you can have what you want.

Several years ago, I was the keynote speaker at a university’s conference on women. My topic focused on transcending the guilt-inducing societal edict that we can – and should! – “have it all.”  Instead, I recommended that we focus on our personal priorities in order to achieve what’s most important to us.

While many of the women agreed with me, I was astounded at the anger and vehemence of a few of the women. In fact, one attendee said that the topic should have been that “Geri Puleo has it all.”

Why did this well-meant advice create such astonishingly diverse reactions?

Having the courage – and, yes, it takes courage – to proclaim what we want and then act accordingly holds a mirror up to our lives. Our actions reflect our priorities even if we profess something entirely different.

Realizing that we can’t “have it all” but that we can “have what we want” is profoundly life-changing.  It takes away the guilt if we don’t try to do everything…for everybody…but often not for ourselves.

This insight also might lead us to take actions that will upset or hurt other people because we may need to say “no” to their requests in order to say “yes” to what we need to do in order to achieve our life’s purpose.

But when we live our lives based on what we believe is our guiding PURPOSE to be here at this time, in this place, and with our unique talents, then saying “no” becomes much easier.

And the people who truly support us – our “tribe” – will embrace us along our journey.

The so-called “egotism” of a higher calling

When we finally muster the courage to define what we want (our life’s purpose) and decide to go for it, we must also let go of that which does not support that purpose.

And when that involves letting go of (or at least distancing ourselves from) certain people, it is far too common for them to demean us in order to assuage their feelings of rejection.

So they call us egotistical. A dreamer.  Unrealistic.  Even a braggart.

Striving for a higher goal, a noble purpose, is life-affirming – even if those who are currently around us try to belittle our ambitions.

Again, it takes courage to live based on a rock solid belief in the PURPOSE of our lives.  This has the effect of propelling us toward people who also live their lives based on a higher calling.

We generally are not “discarding” the people who are currently in our lives (but don’t necessarily support us). Instead we are shifting our relationships with them on a continuum traversing friends who have moved to the periphery of our relationships to those who are toxic and thus no longer a part of our lives.

But, even more importantly, living our lives based on PURPOSE makes us much more compassionate and empathetic toward others. In fact, we tend to be more open and give more of ourselves to those who also want to make a difference – and the probability of supportive reciprocation is vastly increased.

Defining the difference that we want to make – whether it is on a small familial level or on the greater world stage of society – is the essence of identifying the unique purpose of our individual lives.

And there is no egotism in wanting to achieve something that ultimately helps others.

The fear of failure

I really don’t believe that there is an objective difference between a “winner” and a “loser.” The truth as to who “wins” and who “loses” rests solely in the eye of the beholder.

Life is a journey. Anyone who has achieved greatness has also had the gnawing fear of “what’s next” and “how do I top this?”  You still have a life to live after you achieve the goal that you defined as identifying you as a “winner.”

Because life is a journey, living with PURPOSE creates a better sense of balance. Goals become benchmarks on the path to creating an intentional legacy.  If a particular tactic doesn’t achieve a goal related to the overall purpose of your life, then it is much easier to adapt and shift.

The biggest fear comes from not achieving the scope of your life’s purpose.  Maybe you won’t save the world, but your daily actions aligned with your purpose will undoubtedly create small successes and even joy.

There will be challenges, but your journey toward actualizing your PURPOSE will also be energizing and enjoyable – something that you don’t want to “miss out” on. When your purpose is based on a higher noble goal, it is the antithesis of egotism.  And, finally, recognizing that “failure” is really an opportunity to learn creates curiosity and commitment.

Living in alignment with the PURPOSE of your life transcends the siren call of society’s more mundane definition of “success.” Rather than living with fear and second-guessing, a life lived with purpose is a life well lived and produces a sustainable, intentional legacy.

Dr. Geri Puleo, SPHR, is a change management/HR expert whose goal is to eradicate burnout from the workplace. She is the President of Change Management Solutions, Inc. as well as a popular keynote speaker and trainer. To see her “in action,” watch her TEDx Talk on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hFkI69zJzLI. She can be reached at gpuleo@ChangeWithoutBurnout.com.

Burnout: Causes and Cures (Interview with Dr. Geri Puleo, 2014 Kiss Burnout Goodbye Telesummit)

Last October, I was thrilled to be a keynote speaker in Jeanell Innerarity’s Kiss Burnout Goodbye Virtual Summit. I thought that you might want to listen to our interview: in it, we discuss how people burn out, how to overcome burnout, and even talk about “laughter yoga.” And, yes, there is a Q&A at the end!

I spoke with Jeanell this summer and am also pleased that we’ll be contributing content to each other’s blogs over the next few months. She is a practitioner, teacher, and researcher in the field of somatic and mind-body arts, as well as a yoga instructor and reflexologist. Our complementary practices strive to finally reduce the stress and eliminate burnout in today’s hyperactive, constantly changing world.

Please check out Jeanell’s website at www.jeanellinnerarity.com.

NOTE: There were a few audio problems in the middle of the broadcast, but they were quickly resolved. I’ve also provided the audio podcast if you’d like to listen without any visuals.

Dr. Geri Puleo, SPHR, is a change management/HR expert and the President of Change Management Solutions, Inc.  A popular speaker at regional and national conferences, she can be reached at gpuleo@ChangeWithoutBurnout.com.  You can watch her TEDx Talk on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hFkI69zJzLI

 

Forgetting How to Laugh: An Overlooked Sign of Burnout

Smiley laughingEver notice how much better you feel when you laugh out loud?  Scientific studies have shown that your belly laughs play a vital role in your overall health and well-being.

The Mayo Clinic found that laughing has an immediate effect on your stress response by stimulating circulation and relaxing your muscles.

Laughter enhances your intake of oxygen-rich air that stimulates your vital organs and triggers your brain to release those “feel good” endorphins throughout your body.  Laughter really is the best medicine.

So why do we “forget” to laugh when we’re burned out?

I first noticed this connection when one of the participants in my research on burnout during organizational change mentioned that one of her first signs of burnout was losing her sense of humor.

Think about the last time that you were stressed out:

  • Did it seem like it was just “too much work” to find the humor in a stressful situation?
  • Did you actually get angry when a coworker or family member kidded or teased you about something?
  • Did you even consciously try to prevent yourself from laughing at something that you would have normally found to be funny?
  • Were you afraid that if you did allow yourself to start laughing…you might end up crying instead?

One of the things that constantly surprises me is how many adults tend to snicker, giggle, or just smile rather than let themselves full out belly laugh. I’m not sure if it’s that laughing out loud is somehow “not cool” – or if we are simply taking ourselves too seriously.

Even worse, what if the lack of laughter or a sense of humor is directly proportionate to the level of burnout that someone is experiencing?

Whatever the reason, when was the last time that you actually laughed out loud?

How Laughter Reduces Stress

Although we intuitively know that we feel better after a good laugh, there has been a growing body of research investigating the physical changes that occur during and after laughter.

In addition to the short-term effects relating to endorphins, laughter stimulates your heart, lungs, and muscles. It also specifically targets your body’s stress response by initially increasing your heart rate and blood pressure, then “cooling down” that stress response. Stress and burnout usually manifest in tightened muscles – but a good laugh aids in muscle relaxation. The result: an immediate positive, relaxed feeling.

If you laugh frequently, you will also experience some substantial long-term benefits. Over time, stress compromises your immune system.  The positive feelings associated with laughter release neuropeptides that not only fight the stress, but also protect your body from more serious illnesses. Laughter even produces its own natural pain killers; for people with certain types of muscle disorders, a good laugh can actually break the pain-spasm cycle.

And people who laugh seem to be happier, more personally satisfied, and have better relationships with the people around them.

Learning How to Laugh Again

Laughing is closely linked to happiness – it’s difficult to feel burned out and stay burned out when you are happy and laughing.

But can you make someone laugh? Even master stand-up comics aren’t “funny” to everyone, so telling a joke might not work.

Here are two ways to reduce your stress by laughing – particularly when you’re too stressed out to think that anything is funny.

  • Anticipation…just THINKING about something funny can trigger the beneficial effects of laughter.

In a study conducted at Loma Linda University in California, researchers discovered that seeking out positive experiences that make you laugh can significantly impact your body’s ability to stay well.

Just anticipating “mirthful laughter” releases beta-endorphins (that alleviate depression) and human growth hormone (HGH, which support the immune system). Such anticipation also decreases levels of three important stress hormones (cortisol, epinephrine, and dopac).

As your stress levels decrease, your overall wellness increases – and laughter is a great way to reduce stress.

  • Laughing yoga.

Yes, there really is such a practice! Created by an Indian medical doctor, laughter yoga is usually conducted in groups and appears to tap into the joyful inner child that often lies dormant in all of us.

An interesting finding is that the body’s responses to the act of laughing are not based on whether the laughter is real or fake. In other words, simply laughing (even if you might not initially think that there is anything funny) generates the same physiological and psychological benefits.

Can’t laugh if you can’t find anything funny? Think again: have you ever noticed that when you force yourself to laugh…you tend to start finding your laughter funny…and then you laugh even more? If you’re in a group, the more you laugh, the more everyone around you will start laughing, too — and the overall stress levels in the group will decrease.  (My friends and I used to call this a “laugh attack.”)

Little children are great at making laughter contagious: when one starts laughing, suddenly all of them find it hysterically funny and keep on laughing…and laughing…and laughing.

Even though stressed out parents are creating stressed out kids, our innate inner child is curious, joyful, happy, and stress-free. No matter how old we are chronologically, that inner child wants to come out to play and laugh. Laughter can be a great way to tap into the creativity and joy in the child in all of us.

Laughter may truly be the best medicine to reduce the stress in our lives. It’s free, feels good, and has long-lasting benefits.

So, in addition to eating that apple a day to keep the doctor away, let’s all try to have a good belly laugh every day to keep burnout away!  Ho, ho, ho!  🙂

Dr. Geri Puleo, SPHR, is a change management/HR expert and the President of Change Management Solutions, Inc.  A popular speaker at regional and national conferences, she can be reached at gpuleo@ChangeWithoutBurnout.com.  You can watch her TEDx Talk on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hFkI69zJzLI

The Tiny Little Word That Stops Burnout

Words hurt or healNo one would argue that words can be very powerful.  Not only do they convey our feelings and beliefs, but they can also motivate or demotivate not only ourselves but also others around us.

But a strange phenomenon sometimes happens when we talk to ourselves.

While self-talk can be used as a way to empower and motivate ourselves to go after that which we want in life, it is an empowering way of talking to ourselves that (for some equally strange reason) must often be learned.

In sharp contrast is the negative self-talk that operates unconsciously deep in our psyches. This endless loop of guilt, condemnation, resentment, and anger is a powerful influence on the actions we take (or don’t take), as well as our feelings about the resulting outcomes (either positive or negative).

Ironically, the types of comments and opinions that would enrage us if said to us by someone else are often repeated in our private negative self-talk loops. Although frequently not acknowledged in our conscious minds, these comments continue unabated as absolute truths as to who we are, what we do, and what we want.

While we can learn to ignore unwarranted criticism from others, our unconscious negative self-talk is even more damaging to our psyches. Why? Because the reality that we experience is colored by our perceptions – if our self-talk is negative, then our perception of the world and our role within it will also be negative.

More powerful than the words spoken to us by others, negative self-talk internally motivates us to act in either proactive or reactive ways. As Earl Nightingale said, “We are what we think about.”  But the behavioral impact of our words is often ignored, diminished, or accepted as undeniable truths that define who we are even if it is not who we want to be.

Consider these examples:

  • We tell ourselves what we should do (even though it might not even be something that we are interested in doing) – then berate ourselves when we don’t do it.
  • We second-guess our choices and decisions – then imagine a more perfect world if we had taken another course of action.
  • We “make nice” by doing things that we really don’t want to do (or even have the time to do) – then feel guilty or angry because we have no time to do the things that we really want to do.
  • We take on too many responsibilities as well as the problems of others – then wonder why we are so exhausted and burned out.

The more negative our self-talk, the more harshly we judge the difference that we perceive between where we are and where we want to be (or where we told ourselves we should have been). The damage to our psyches can be chronic, acute, and difficult to overcome.

Our negative self-talk is a powerful contributor to not only burning out, but also to staying burned out.

The One Syllable Mantra to Combat Burnout

The negative self-talk specifically associated with burnout focuses on four issues:

  1. The difference between our expectations and our perceptions of the current reality
  2. Anger, guilt, and self-doubt associated with the “should’s” of perfectionism
  3. Our attempts to change or blame others (often to overcome our feelings of being victimized)
  4. Ineffective attempts to deny our frustration, anger, and apathy associated with being burned out

Because these negative self-talk loops frequently exist on the subconscious level, we must actively attempt to bring them to the conscious level – their power over us grows in proportion to our attempts to ignore them.

But, once these statements are expressed, we are rightly shocked by the venom in the words that we have used to identify and define ourselves.

By acknowledging and verbalizing these negative subconscious judgments, we can consciously begin to exchange them for proactive alternatives: words expressing acceptance, kindness, and compassion toward ourselves.

But how do we start?

By saying one tiny little word every time our negative self-talk rears its ugly head: “NO.”

  • Say “NO” to condemning ourselves if our current situation is not what we had expected. Instead, replace it by accepting that what we previously wanted has changed OR that our mistakes have simply shown us what didn’t work (thus giving us a new launching point for future action).
  • Say “NO” to the unrelenting “should’s” of perfectionism. Instead, replace it by acknowledging that we are doing the best that we can with the resources that we have OR that our goals may have been unrealistic given the circumstances (thus helping us to better learn how to set realistic yet inspirational stretch goals).
  • Say “NO” to misguided attempts at trying to change others. Instead, replace it by remembering that we only have the responsibility to change ourselves OR by being grateful for the positive qualities of those who we are trying to change (no matter how badly they treated us, every human being has something about them that is positive).
  • Say “NO” to our barely controlled feelings of burnout-related frustration, anger, and apathy. Instead, replace it by finding safe ways to express, vent, and release these feelings AND develop new phrases that are proactive and nurturing.

Saying “NO” to our negative self-talk is both an acknowledgement and a choice. Saying “NO” helps us to reclaim our power. Saying “NO” can truly be a positive expression of our own self-worth.

“NO” is one of the tiniest words in the English language – yet our ability to say “NO” to negative self-talk can transform our lives. Saying “NO” enables us to say “YES” to being kind to ourselves. Isn’t it time that we start treating ourselves the way that we would want others to treat us?

P.S.:  To learn more about the self-talk of burnout, please watch my mini-webinar by clicking here.

Dr. Geri Puleo, SPHR, is a change management/HR expert and the President of Change Management Solutions, Inc.  A popular speaker at regional and national conferences, she can be reached at gpuleo@ChangeWithoutBurnout.com.  You can watch her TEDx Talk on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hFkI69zJzLI

Is the 40-Hour Work Week a Distant Memory?

Cats before + after work - CartoonA full-time job in the U.S. traditionally consisted of a 40-hour work week and (with the exception of certain industries) working 9-to-5, Monday through Friday.  Weekends were then free for us to do whatever we wanted – generally things that were not work-related.

As we all know, things have changed…drastically.

According to a Gallup report released in Fall 2014, the average number of hours worked by full-time employees in the U.S. is now 47 hours.  In essence, we’ve expanded our 5-day work week into the equivalent of a 6-day week.

According to Gallup:

  • Only 8% of full-time employees work less than 40 hours
  • 42% work the traditional 40-hour work week
  • 11% work 41 to 49 hours
  • 21% work 50 to 59 hours
  • 18% work a whopping 60+ hours per week – that’s 1 out of every 5 employees!

Half of all full-time employees work over 40 hours each and every week.  Could this be a contributing factor to the high rate of burnout in the workplace?

Is There a Link Between Long Work Hours and Burnout?

Abraham Maslow explored the relationship between long work hours and the individual’s ability to self-actualize (or become the best that he or she could possibly be).  Although we traditionally think that the longer we work, the more likely we are to experience burnout, Maslow argued that this is not always the case.

Maslow found that our level of work-related enjoyment or job satisfaction is significantly related to feelings of happiness, esteem, and the ability to self-actualize.  In other words, if we love what we’re doing, then we don’t mind – and actually enjoy! – the number of hours that we spend doing that job.

Don’t believe me?  Think back to a time when you were fully engaged in an activity and time seemed to “fly by.”  It’s the same experience for people who love their work.

Although the 60-hour work week has long been correlated with a higher propensity to burnout, a new breed of professional seems to dispute this.  This “extreme job holder” is a high achieving, Type A personality who works outrageously long hours and is highly compensated – receiving “over the top” rewards for his or her efforts.  These workers are found in the top 6% of earners.

According to studies by the Center for Work-Life Policy and the Hidden Brain Drain Task Force, 56% of “extreme job holders” work 70 or more hours per week and 9% routinely work over 100 hours per week.

To be considered “extreme,” the job must require working more than 60 hours per week and also meet at least 5 of the following 10 criteria:

  1. Unpredictable flow of work
  2. Fast-paced work under tight deadlines
  3. Inordinate scope of responsibility that amounts to more than one job
  4. Work-related events outside regular work hours
  5. Availability to clients 24/7
  6. Responsibility for profit and loss
  7. Responsibility for mentoring and recruiting
  8. Large amount of travel
  9. Large number of direct reports
  10. Physical presence at workplace at least 10 hours per day

An interesting fact about “extreme job holders” is that they are not forced to work these outrageous hours.  In fact, 66% in the U.S. and 76% internationally work these long hours because they love what they are doing.

But this is definitely not the norm for most workers.  According to Gallup, only 13% of U.S. employees actually enjoys their work!

When you combine long hours spent on duties and responsibilities that you don’t enjoy, then this is a de facto recipe for burnout.

Should U.S. Companies Limit Employee Work Hours (or at Least Give More Paid Time Off)? 

Although extreme job holders seem to reflect Maslow’s concept of self-actualization, many workers are unwilling to sacrifice all other aspects of their lives to a job – especially if it’s a job that they don’t enjoy or one in which they are disrespected, demeaned, or demoralized.

Particularly for these individuals, a cap on the maximum number of hours that their employer can require them to work might be a way to help them avoid burnout.

As many as 134 countries currently have laws stipulating statutory maximum work weeks.  For example, the European Union recommends a 48-hour maximum work week and a minimum daily rest period of 11 hours.  France, Greece, Italy, U.K., the Netherlands, and others subscribe to this 48-hour maximum.

Some countries decreased this maximum even more.  The maximum work week statutes in Austria, Finland, Norway, Poland, and Portugal reduced the week to just 40 hours, while Belgium reduced its maximum work week to just 38 hours.

In marked contrast, the 40-hour work week typical in the U.S. relates only to the number of hours worked before overtime payments kick in for non-exempt workers.  However, there is no federal maximum on the number of hours that a company can require its employees to work.  In many cases, overtime is no longer optional, but mandatory.

In addition, the U.S. is the only developed nation that does not federally mandate paid vacations or even holidays for its workers.  While the average paid time off is only 2 weeks (or 10 work days) in the U.S., this number skyrockets to 20 to 30 days for most other countries.

Paid Vacation Bar Chart - International

Puleo’s Pointers:  Give Employees Time to Re-Energize

With burnout in epidemic proportions, it might be time for companies to take a hard look at the workloads that they are heaping on their employees.

Try putting a cap on the permitted number of hours that an employee (particularly those in the exempt salaried category) can work.  Also, require workers to take the paid time off that is due to them each year.  These can be valuable first steps to overcoming and eventually eradicating burnout in the workplace.

Dr. Geri Puleo, SPHR, is a change management/HR expert and the President of Change Management Solutions, Inc.  A popular speaker at regional and national conferences, she can be reached at gpuleo@ChangeWithoutBurnout.com.  You can watch her TEDx Talk on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hFkI69zJzLI

Paradigm Shifter #32: When you say “yes” to one thing, you have to say “no” to something else

Paradigm ShiftOne of the most important paradigm shifts that I have ever made is related to the idea that we can “have it all.”  What I’ve discovered is…we can’t.

Whenever we say “yes” to one thing, we simply have to say “no” to something else.

If we don’t, we are over-extending our resources – physically, emotionally, mentally, and even financially.  As a result, we are much more likely to be unhappy and burned out.

This idea of saying “no” to something because we have already said “yes” to something else is nothing new.  There are many things in life that inherently require us to say “no” to people, activities, or belief systems that are not aligned with what we want.  For example:

  • When we say “yes” to getting married, we (hopefully) say “no” to dating other people.
  • When we say “yes” to losing weight, we say “no” to decadent desserts.
  • When we say “yes” to going back to school, we will find many times when we have to say “no” to going out with friends or having our weekends “free.”
  • When we say “yes” to purchasing a large ticket item, we usually also need to say “no” to spending money on unnecessary “splurges.”
  • When we say “yes” to living a well-balanced life, we have to say “no” to anyone or anything that contributes to a sense of imbalance or dissatisfaction.

It’s all about our priorities.  There are only a limited number of hours in each day.  Each of us has different biorhythms that reflect our “peak” times for getting work done.  We also have a very real, unconditional need for restful sleep so that we can recharge for the coming day.

This balance of work and rest has to be completed every 24 hours each and every day.

In other words, we can’t (and shouldn’t) over-extend ourselves by trying to “do it all.”

By living our priorities, it is much easier to say “yes” to the things that really matter to us – those things that reflect what we want, who we are, and what we believe in.

Saying “Yes” to Everything Actually Means Saying “Maybe” to Most Things

The realization that we can’t “do it all” often invokes fear in many of us.  But fear is not the problem that prevents us from “doing it all.”  The real problem lies in our unrealistic expectations of what we are humanly capable of doing.

High standards are great.  But we can’t – and shouldn’t – try to be superhumans by saying “yes” to everything that comes our way in our personal and professional lives.

By saying “yes” to everything, we are unable to commit fully to any of the things that we said “yes” to.  When we are over-extended, it is highly unlikely that we will sufficiently follow through with any of these commitments.

Life is full of trade-offs.  Living a more well-balanced life is a choice.  It requires us to recognize, respect, and adapt to the fact that we can’t “do it all” and (probably more importantly) don’t try to “do it all.”  Although we can do a lot of things well – we can’t (and shouldn’t) strive for “perfection” in every aspect of our lives.

By saying “yes” to everything, we are actually saying “maybe” to most things.  Instead of being able to commit to excellence in the things that we choose to say “yes” to, we actually commit to mediocrity because our energy and resources are stretched to their limits.  Instead of creating excellence, we succumb to mediocrity by our inability to say “no” to the things that conflict with our priorities.

The power and courage necessary to determine what we choose to say “yes” to comes from identifying and committing to the priorities that are important to us.  It then becomes much easier to say “no” to anything that conflicts with our self-identified priorities.

Saying “no” doesn’t mean that we are “missing out” or short-changing ourselves.  Paradoxically, the more comfortable we are in saying “no” to things, ideas, and people that do not reflect our priorities, the richer, fuller, and more satisfying our lives ultimately become.

Dr. Geri Puleo, SPHR, is a change management/HR expert and the President of Change Management Solutions, Inc.  A popular speaker at regional and national conferences, she can be reached at gpuleo@ChangeWithoutBurnout.com.  You can watch her TEDx Talk on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hFkI69zJzLI

Paradigm Shifter #40: You can’t do it all (so don’t apologize)

Paradigm ShiftDoes “having it all” necessary mean “doing it all?”

In today’s fast-paced, chaotic world, we’ve developed a strong tendency to “go for the gold” in everything that we do.  While excellence is a worthwhile goal, I’ve come to believe that we can’t necessarily be “the best” at everything that we do.

The problem is that we apologize for our perceived lack of “perfection” and forget to relish those things that we actually do well.

Another problem is that there are only 24 hours in a day – and we have to sleep at least some of those hours.  But few of us get the recommended 7-8 hours of sleep per night, so our energy falters even though we insist on continuing to do “everything.” The result is higher stress and an even more insurmountable “to do” list.

Why do many high achievers believe that it is imperative that we “do it all?”

Even more important:  why do so many high achievers apologize when we CAN’T “do it all?”

Delving into a sociological and psychological study into this problem is far beyond the scope of this article.  However, creating a new way to work requires that we prioritize what’s important to us.  When everything is important, then nothing is really important.

The simple truth (albeit a hard one for many of us to accept) is that we can’t “do it all.”  But we can do the important things well.   These important things represent our true priorities.  “Doing it all” inherently draws us off course as we attempt to also do the unimportant things in our lives.

“Unimportant,” however, doesn’t mean “unnecessary.”  Unimportant tasks are those activities that might need to be done – but don’t necessarily have to be done by us.

Therein lies the challenge:  when we admit that a task that we have traditionally accomplished can be done by someone else, it often causes our ego to question our “value.”  Nowhere is this more evident than in the workplace.

  • Managers who believe that they have to “do it all” are micromanagers that are rarely appreciated (or respected) by their subordinates.
  • Employees who try to “do it all” generally tend to miss deadlines because their focus is shifted to the unimportant, lower priority tasks.
  • Trying to “do it all” simultaneously at work and at home is a recipe for job dissatisfaction, relationship problems, and burnout.

One of the most valuable lessons that I have learned is to accept the fact that I am a human – not a superhero who doesn’t need sleep, rest, and relaxation.  It also means that I can’t do everything “perfectly.”

But admitting that I can’t do it all was and, to a certain extent, continues to be a challenge.

The problem is that trying to do it all leads to feelings of being overwhelmed.  Failing in our attempts to do it all leads to frustration and a diminished sense of self-worth.  Yet we continue in our misguided efforts to go beyond our very human limitations.

The cure for trying to “do it all” is to prioritize what’s important to us – and then have the courage to focus our efforts on these important activities.  It means being able to say “no.”  It also means being sufficiently confident of our own unique value so that we can feel comfortable delegating the unimportant but necessary tasks to others.

Finally, it means that we need to stop apologizing when we can’t “do it all.”

Accepting that not only we personally but also everyone else CAN’T “do it all” changes our perspectives of what is important, what is feasible, and what is just additional “stuff” that has little if any true importance.

As corporate leaders, managers, and employees, this new perspective can radically change the work environment and reduce burnout.  Understanding that we can’t “do it all” might be the first step in creating a new, more productive, and more enjoyable way to work.

Dr. Geri Puleo, SPHR, is a change management/HR expert and the President of Change Management Solutions, Inc.  A popular speaker at regional and national conferences, she can be reached at gpuleo@ChangeWithoutBurnout.com.  You can watch her TEDx Talk on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hFkI69zJzLI

Paradigm Shifter #2: Live your life by YOUR priorities

Paradigm ShiftA few weeks ago, I posted Paradigm Shifter #30:  Believe what people do (not what they say)In that post, I mentioned that people’s actions are the only true reflection of their real priorities.  It’s just as true a reflection of you.

Today’s hyperactive pace often leads to many of us doing things because we think that we have to – even if they aren’t necessarily aligned with what we say is important to us.  But actions do speak louder than words.

Priorities are not the mind-numbing “to do” lists.  Nor are they the “have to’s” that other people demand of us.

Instead, priorities reflect our values, beliefs, and (when acted upon) our dreams, goals, and aspirations. Life is short and, without priorities, we tend to flounder and may never attain whatever it is that we deeply want.

When I was 27 years old, my mother was diagnosed with terminal cancer.  Two months later, Nana (my grandmother who lived with my family from the time I was a little girl) died.  Fifteen months later, my mother succumbed to cancer; she was not even 60 years old.

Because I didn’t have children, I knew then at the age of 28 that I was the final link in the lineage from my grandmother to my mother to me – and, from a generational perspective, I was “next.”  I faced these losses by making a concrete vow to NOT reach the end of my life saying, “Woulda, coulda, shoulda.”

This epiphany was a momentous turning point for me.  Too often we believe that we are invincible…that there is always a tomorrow.  While some people believe that this is the prescription for frenetic activity, I instead believed that workaholism (that compulsive commitment to work which is rampant in entrepreneurs) was not the answer.  (Ironically, many years later, I discovered that workaholism is actually one of many false cures used in attempts to overcome burnout.)

Life is many-faceted – all of which are clamoring for our attention.  We have the opportunity to choose at any given moment what is a priority and consequently on what we will focus our attention.

It was inevitable that my change in perception came with a major shift in priorities:

  • I chose not to be the workaholic business owner who never had time for friends or family.
  • But I also did not want to be unsuccessful in my business because I was too focused on “saving” the people in my life – even if they didn’t want to be “saved.”
  • I recognized that there usually always is another day – but that each moment is precious and should not be squandered.
  • What I choose to spend my time on in any given moment is a blatant reflection of what is important to me at that time.
  • Furthermore, if everything is important, then nothing is truly a priority – prioritization necessarily characterizes some things as more important than others.
  • Finally, the unique way in which we balance all these activities and situations is reflective of what we truly believe is important and worthwhile.

I would love to say that this perceptual shift was met with great enthusiasm and support by those around me.  It wasn’t.  Probably because when you say “yes” to one thing, you inevitably have to say “no” to something (or someone) else.

Because people change, it also means that people’s priorities will also change.  Sometimes they will still be in sync, but, other times, they may actually be counterproductive.

It takes courage to define exactly what it is that you want in your life…but it is only the first step.  The much more difficult challenge is to choose on what you will spend your time:  minute by minute, hour by hour, week by week, year by year.

A basic law of physics states that nothing is motionless:  so if you’re not moving forward, then you’re moving backward.  The biggest regrets that I’ve observed in family, friends, colleagues, and clients relate to never finding the time to do what it is that they say they really want to do.

Although it sounds cliché, we can’t please everyone – but, at the end of the day, we can please ourselves.

Living your life by your own priorities and having the courage to ensure that your actions align with those priorities is not selfish.  In fact, I’ve found that we are much better people to be around when we are genuinely happy with what we are doing in our lives.  In my own life, just a few of the times that I went against the advice of well-meaning friends and family in relation to my career include:

  • Going back to graduate school for two master’s degrees and a Ph.D. when many of my friends were looking to scale back toward retirement.  (One of the best decisions I ever made.)
  • Quitting a full-time faculty job due to an abusive dean when many people told me to “quit caring, do the bare minimum, and collect the paycheck.”  (To me, this was simply hypocritical and contradicted my deeply held beliefs about healthy human resources, effective workplaces and, of course, the important relationship between a professor and his/her students.)
  • Proselytizing the concept of humanism in the workplace at a time when many of my colleagues deemed this as naïve because “business is about bottom line results and not employees.”  (Glad to say that there is an increasingly large body of research to support the relationship between human resources and corporate sustainability.)

Earl Nightingale is often quoted as saying, “You are what you think about.”  What you think about is the catalyst for what you will act upon.  And what you act upon reflects your innermost decisions about what you believe is important in every moment.

Living your life by the priorities that you set for yourself is not just a guarantee that you will continue moving forward (despite the obstacles) on your path to the goal.  The added bonus?  The chance for regrets about “woulda, coulda, shoulda” is almost nil.

Dr. Geri Puleo, SPHR, is a change management/HR expert and the President of Change Management Solutions, Inc.  A popular speaker at regional and national conferences, she can be reached at gpuleo@ChangeWithoutBurnout.com.  You can watch her TEDx Talk on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hFkI69zJzLI

Why Do YOU “Go to Work?”

Why Work - Stress Enjoy Boredom

Jobs and work:  mostly everyone wants one.  Mostly everyone needs one.  But not everyone is happy or productive in one.  In fact, job stress can be a leading cause of burnout.

In the graphic accompanying this article, a highly skilled individual who is in an unchallenging environment will be bored.

An employee who is challenged beyond his or her skill set (and, I might add, did not receive appropriate or adequate training) will be stressed.

But the worker who has found the perfect balance between his or her skills and the right degree of challenge on the job will most likely be happy and excel.

While I mostly agree with this somewhat simplistic approach to job satisfaction, there is a key consideration that is overlooked:  why exactly are you working in the first place?

The reasons why we go to work are as diverse as the individuals in the workplace.  While the relationship between our skills and the challenges of the job are important, our own personal reasons to “go to work” can have a powerful impact on not only our commitment and performance on the job, but also on our propensity to burnout.

Consider these reasons to “go to work”:

  • Simply to get a paycheck:  There is a strong likelihood that we will do the bare minimum that is required on the job – and we’ll probably be the first ones out the door at quitting time.
  • We “have to” (even though it bores us):  Boredom can arise because our skills are higher than what is needed on the job OR we view the work as comprised of routine, mind-numbing tasks.  It is almost inevitable that we will display “presenteeism” on the job – we’re at work, but we’re not really “there.”
  • We like our coworkers:  Because we are human beings, it is impossible to separate the relationships that we have with the people in our work environments from our satisfaction or dissatisfaction in the job.  But even though our relationships might be super, if the job itself doesn’t align with our career goals and aspirations, then we will ultimately have a nagging sense that “something is missing.”
  • Our job aligns with our professional goals BUT it is an unethical or poorly led company:  In this situation, we may simply be going to work in order to get the paycheck – but the building stress generally causes us to eventually believe that no amount of money is sufficient to keep us.  But until we find another employer, our stress levels build from the cognitive dissonance between what we believe is right and the environment that thwarts our good intentions.
  • We believe in the purpose and mission of the organization:  There is a greater tendency to commit more of ourselves to the job – in other words, the organizational vision is aligned with our personal values so we believe that our work has a meaning beyond a paycheck.

These are just a few examples of reasons why some of my clients have “gone to work” – as well as some reasons why they left their employers.

Understanding why you, your colleagues, or subordinates come to work each day provides a profound insight into the best ways to motivate and lead them to their fullest potential.  And when employees excel in their jobs, then the company overall reaps the rewards of higher productivity, better customer service, and greater employee commitment and loyalty.

Puleo’s Pointers:  Understanding the Reasons Why We Work 

As a career consultant for many years, I have often been surprised when I’ve asked clients about their career histories:  why they are in their current field, what they want to accomplish, and what they are willing to sacrifice in order to achieve their goals.

Their responses have often surprised me – primarily because many individuals (whether in entry-level or senior positions) often don’t have clear-cut answers to these questions.  They were quite capable of explaining their career history in terms of projects or events.  They could easily express aspirations about their futures in their fields.  But they were often stopped short when trying to identify what they were willing to sacrifice in order to reach those goals.

Once we understand the sacrifices necessary to achieve future goals, we get a better understanding of why we are working in the first place.

For example, let’s say that you aspire to a senior level position entailing extensive travel and long work hours BUT your reason for working is to provide a better life for your family.  The key is to understand specifically what “a better life” means to you:

  • If “a better life” solely means providing material comfort for your family, then you’ll probably do well in this type of position.
  • However, if “a better life” means spending quality time (i.e., fully present and engaged) with your family, then the demands of this job contradict your real reasons for working.
  • When the demands of your job contradict your real reasons for working, then stress and burnout are the likely results.

Finding a job and career that reflect your personal goals and values is critical in creating the life that you want – your job then becomes a powerful reflection of who you really are.  Unfortunately, far too many people are in jobs that frustrate, anger, or even demoralize them.  The only reason that they “go to work” is because they “have to” (usually for financial reasons).

A recent study revealed that 80% of people are dissatisfied with their jobs even though we spend an average of 90,000 hours “at work” during our lifetimes – that’s a lot of hours that cannot be replaced.  To avoid being part of this unhappy 80%, take the time to fully understand what you expect from a job and what you are willing to sacrifice in return:

  • Do the hours you spend at work reflect your own personal goals and ambitions – or is it time spent doing something that you hate in an uncomfortable environment?
  • Is work a “means to an end” – and is it really contributing to your desired end goal?
  • Finally, does your work make you feel good and proud at the end of the day?  If not, maybe it’s time to reflect on why you’re working in this particular job, in this particular company, and in this particular way – know when it’s time to move on.

Understanding and acting upon our answer as to why we go to work is fundamental to avoiding burnout.  Not only are we better able to create a new, more productive, and satisfying way to work, but also a richer, more enjoyable, and more fulfilling life as a whole.

Dr. Geri Puleo, SPHR, is a change management/HR expert and the President of Change Management Solutions, Inc.  A popular speaker at regional and national conferences, she can be reached at gpuleo@ChangeWithoutBurnout.com.  You can watch her TEDx Talk on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hFkI69zJzLI

Post Navigation

%d bloggers like this: