Most workers are no longer employed in the manufacturing sector, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics. Yet, we still follow productivity standards honed during an age when the majority of workers were employed in farming or manufacturing. Examples include measuring output, efficiency, mistake prevention and comparing one time period (or one company) with another.
We now work in a “knowledge economy”—in professional services like law, health, finance or tech, in which new ideas and creativity are prized and repetitive tasks can be outsourced to machines. But companies still urge workers to comply with metrics, objectives and key results (OKRs) and key performance indicators (KPIs) often tied to their productivity.
“How can we do more with less?” is often asked of us. It’s enough to put pressures on even the most productive knowledge workers.
The impact of this productivity-focused approach has shown up in research. A 2015 Deloitte Study discovered that 77 percent of respondents experienced burnout in their current positions (Deloitte 2015). Some clues you’re experiencing burnout include feeling depleted or exhausted much of the time, experiencing cynicism, having a quick anger fuse, and/or being less effective or more prone to depression symptoms at work.
When we do knowledge-based work—that is work based around ideas, creativity, focus, writing, or people—we need restorative time during and after our work day. When we don’t allow time to recharge and reflect in an unstructured way, it kills our drive and stifles our energy to move forward. Corporate life just isn’t designed for this type of recharge time and it’s not celebrated or cultivated enough. It’s not common to have “rest metrics,” only productivity metrics. Throw in constant strategy changes, reorganizations, and unclear communication from leadership and it’s a recipe for disaster for employees. Until these pressure-inducing work norms are addressed, burnout will continue to be a major issue in all sectors.
In my first book, “The Resiliency Effect,” I explored how the epidemic of workaholism and hustle culture keep us from the big things we want to do in life. Being busy and achievement focused is a coping mechanism. It can be a good way to maintain self esteem (or cope with other problem areas in our personal life) but unfortunately this road can lead us straight to overwork and suffering. That book further explores the root causes of some of these coping mechanisms and I share journal prompts and concepts to help facilitate change in yourself.
But I’ll be the first to admit, it’s hard to find to the time to do the necessary inner work to explore and remove these obstacles—which are often emotional in nature.
It definitely takes changing your values and priorities to do this hard work, as well as time. What greater time to do it than on a break or sabbatical from work?
We need to normalize work breaks! And people need to know *how* to take a fruitful break. My second book, The Art of the Sabbatical (working title) will tackle these things and more.
Extended work breaks seems like a dream! But nearly everyone thinks taking an extended break from work will be detrimental to their career, family, or financial lives. Based on my experience and research, extended work breaks (not just vacations) are the best catalyst to discover, learn and grow professionally and personally.
Stay tuned, there’s more to come.