Off To Work We Go!

“Heigh Ho! Heigh Ho!

…It’s Off to Work We Go”

By Kwame S. Salter

As dusk begins to fade into dawn, millions of people are rudely or gently awakened by the sounds coming out of either their alarm clocks or smartphones. These programmed noises represent a clarion call for us to get our butts up. To these devices, it doesn’t matter how well you slept. They are programmed to get our bodies out of bed or off the couch. Some leap up as though startled by an intruder. Others, after finding the snooze button, simply roll over and snatch another few minutes of ‘shut eye’. Regardless of our ritual, we roll out of bed—stretch, yawn and at a certain age clear every orifice in our body of the buildup of overnight fluids. It is time to go to work. The office, the hustle, the job awaits us. For many, the motto is “I may rise, but I refuse to shine.” And, it is this attitude that they bring to work.

According to the literature, today’s workplace is not a very energizing place to go every weekday. Social scientist report that conflict is on the rise; that communication is impersonal and mechanistic, relying almost exclusively on emails; that meetings, for the most part, are timewasters. An annual study by Workfront reveals the following:

  1. Workers spend less than half their time [45%] on their primary job duties. The other 55% of their time, according to this study is consumed by administrative tasks [12%], some useful meetings [9%], interruptions [8%], wasteful meetings [7%] and everything else [6%].
  2. When asked what keeps them from getting things done?, workers list the following: Wasteful Meetings [59%], Lack of Process [36%], Excessive Oversight [35%], Excessive Emails [43%], and Poor Prioritization [35%].

The above stats are even more disturbing when you realize, according to Workfront that “for full-time workers, the mean hours worked per week is 44.3 hours.” Think about this for a moment. Assuming we are ‘alert and about’ 8 hours per day for seven days, our time at work would constitute 78.5% of our ‘alert and about’ time. No wonder, for many, the weekend is a recurring holiday. Yet, even the weekend cannot protect us from the workplace. According to the survey, “Nearly three fourths (72%) log into work/work email on the weekend.” When asked why they work beyond their standard hours, they replied “to get ahead of their work (52%) or because they have too much work to do (39%).”

I believe we have been misled by the experts who promote the ‘flavor of the month’ tips and techniques’ strategy. We are lead to believe that if we implement the latest process improvement technique or the latest leadership style/strategy that we will improve the climate of the workplace. Ultimately, it is not about efficiencies and effectiveness. It is first about harnessing the creative energy of our employees—everything else follows. What we must do is look at how the energy of our workers is being drained. When energy is low, creativity is low. When creativity is low, profits are low. We must remove those people and processes that function as ‘energy vampires’. Ideally each morning, an employee can get out of bed singing the Dwarf’s Marching Song—Heigh Ho! Heigh Ho! It’s Off to Work We Go!