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Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Burning the Midnight Oil

Employees are working longer hours. And I have no doubt that most senior leaders are doing the same. According to MetLife Inc., many companies have increased employees’ workloads and put a higher priority on productivity since the recession. Our own research confirms this is the case. Three-quarters of employees say they now work more than 40 hours a week.

The findings reflect the pressures people are under to do more with less and shoulder heavier workloads in today’s workplace. Is pace sustainable, or even desirable? Companies run the risk of burnout and turnover.

And consider the impact on you and your peers. As BusinessWeek reports, fully 25% of executives at large companies say their communications -- voice mail, e-mail, and meetings -- are nearly or completely unmanageable. So, employees working longer hours, doing more work, while at the same time leaders are finding it more difficult to keep up with communications? Sounds like a recipe for disaster if left unattended.

Wireless technology and smart phones most certainly are factors contributing to both longer work hours and the unmanageable communications overload experienced by leaders. We have created a 24/7 workplace, with managers and employees always plugged in. Today, many employees stay connected and plugged in -- accessible all the time and available at a moment's notice.

Managers need to take the lead to ensure employees are managing their time effectively, as well as find ways to better manage their own overloaded schedules and inboxes. Technology affords a new flexibility by allowing individuals to work wherever and whenever, but it may also become a "collar", making it more difficult to assess appropriate workloads and work/life balance. Take time to regularly talk with your employees to review project lists, priorities, deadlines and role expectations. Seek input on improving efficiencies that can help reduce excessively long hours. Adopt best practices for time management and communications prioritization demanded by the new “always on” technologies.

Workloads are increasing and employees are working longer hours. Acknowledging and addressing this reality will go a long way to building a strong manager-employee relationship. Managing one’s own time as a leader can provide the model for others to follow.

Is it time to address your workload and help your employees to do the same?

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