9th August 2018
Have you ever actually stopped to consider the definition of ‘working hard’? If you consult a dictionary, you will be told that hard work is ‘a great deal of effort and endurance’, with an in-context example that states ‘it takes hard work to be successful in business.’ This may well have once been the case; however, with so many technological advances and a greater understanding of what it takes to grow and nurture a successful business, we wonder if ‘hard work’ is only necessary in the absence of ‘smart work’.
Digital magazine and website, Computer Weekly, recently ran an article about a new Microsoft function called Teams, that nudges employees if they’re sending emails outside their usual working hours. It also reminds staff about tasks they need to tackle or complete, helping to prevent important assignments from being forgotten about or deadlines from being missed. Part of Microsoft’s 365 cloud services, Teams, is intended to improve efficiency and combat the stress that comes with consistently working passed your contracted hours.
Where are we Going Wrong?
Technology is fast becoming a weapon in the struggle for a healthy work-life balance as manufacturers of smartphones and tablets are under increasing pressure to address our compulsion to check our phones, tablets or e-readers (whether for work or play) last thing at night. It’s proven that the blue light that’s emitted from the screens of these devices are capable of disrupting sleep, and even delaying it by up to an hour as when it shines directly into your eyes, it suppresses the production of the hormone melatonin which maintains a proper circadian rhythm to promote deep, restorative sleep.
In addition, many companies have a culture of working late to contend with. Just one more thing that can lead to employee burnout. Time spent hanging around the office when you’ve completed your daily tasks or worked your hours just because others are still at their desks, are rarely productive either.
Often, working hard and putting in the hours to get critical work done comes down to sheer necessity. There’s nothing worse than having a sharp deadline encroaching all too fast with not enough time in the day to get everything done. It promotes stress and exhaustion, which will usually lead to the quality of work dropping to a lesser standard than you would expect or like to deliver.
How to Promote Smarter Work
Hard work aims to get a lot done, which can often become boring and monotonous; whereas smart work aims to achieve quality. This means that, while you get less done in terms of quantity, you will accomplish a greater calibre or work. In the long run, it’s likely that you will find that smart work produces both quality and quantity anyway, as less will need redoing, constituting for less time wasted.
Whether or not you implement Microsoft’s new feature, you may still want to take steps to ensure your employees are learning to work smarter not harder; especially if you find yourself struggling to meet deadlines or that the quality of work that your company is producing is not quite reaching the standard that you like to pride yourself on. Whatever your reason for wanting to promote smart work over hard work, here are just a few ideas you can implement to get you started.
Other Technology Solutions
If the software that you currently use is just not making the grade, don’t be afraid to take a look at other technology solutions that may help you run a tighter ship. Focus on tools for communication and productivity – there are plenty of programmes, software and apps that have been created to help your people organise their time more effectively. Alternatively, why not look into something that is completely bespoke and fit for your business needs?
Occasionally, your staff may seem a little slow off the mark in the mornings. They might even complain that they are unable to sleep at night as a result of always stressing over the things they need to do the following day to stay ahead (or even just to keep their heads above water). If this is the case, suggest that they write a to-do list before going to bed to unclutter their minds. Shifting that focus from to worry of all the things that need to be done to actually mapping out a constructive list of the things you will do in the following days to achieve those outcomes is more likely to relieve the associated stress, discourage compulsive before bed screentime and, ultimately, promote better sleeping habits.
Manage your Deadlines
Your deadlines should be strict, but achievable, and your staff should be given the legroom to manage their own schedule within the given timeframe. That way, they’ll be more likely to use their time productively rather than procrastinating and having to scramble at the last minute.
Other Technology Solutions
Consider adopting a more flexible approach to the working day if your business allows for it. Will parents of young children work more effectively if they can work around the school run and sick days? Will staff who have a lengthy commute be more engaged and efficient if they can work remotely a couple of days a week?
Encourage a Decent Work-Life Balance
Finally, back to that culture of working late: you need to lead by example and if you rarely leave the office until well past dinner time most evenings, no doubt your employees feel under pressure to do the same. Encourage a work-life balance and you’ll very likely see productivity and engagement increase while stress levels and resentment take a dive.
Clarisse works as the Lead of our Customer Support Team to provide all of our customers with the very best care and guidance when using their HR software.