Categories
Energy Focus Productivity Sleepiness Studying Tiredness

Protecting The Quality of Your Work

Protecting Your Quality of Life

Self first, then others

Working or studying for long hours goes hand in hand with working hard and being productive. I’ve worked at many firms that believe this to be true. If the business owners or senior management spend a lot of time at work the chances are that their employees and subordinates will do the same in order to be seen in a favourable light.

Unfortunately for many firms where this is the case, staff turnover is often high and morale isn’t as good as it could be. Eventually even the quality of work begins to suffer and productivity decreases. In an effort to reverse the trend, managers can demand more from their teams who already feel that they are giving all that they can.

Academics and students don’t do much better. As the pressure to compete with other departments and institutions for research bursaries increases, the need to produce favourable results can lead to people working extremely long days, seven days a week which eventually affects the quality of the research and study in a negative way.

Trying to suggest to such people to spend less time working is often met with derision or dismissed as not being realistic. “If I don’t put the hours in how will the work get done”, is a response I used to give back to anyone that dared mention cutting back on the hours spent at work, whilst having to do more tasks.

But what if our assumptions about putting more time in at work are wrong and may in fact be the reason why we have to put more hours in?

Protect Yourself
Photo by @AZ.BLT via Twenty20

Quantity and Effort

Let me start off by saying that I’m not opposed to working long hours per se, but my past experiences of working long hours and the results I achieved led me down the path of investigating if there was a better way of getting things done apart from spending all my waking hours trying to figure out how to finish my task on time.

In many professions long hours are a cultural norm (take junior doctors for example), and anyone challenging the status quo tend to be seen in an unfavourable manner that often can effect their career prospects. Those that complain can be made to seem weak and not up to the task of getting things done, which is all well and good, but can have a chilling effect on anyone who might have a better solution to just throwing more hours at a problem.

Another motivating tactic that is often used to get people to work longer and so increase productivity is to pay more money or overtime. This seems fair as your time and effort is being compensated for, but what about your health and family time? Again, there’s nothing wrong with working long hours but you have to take into account all aspects of your life (unless you live to work).

And full disclosure here, I regularly work long hours, but have found ways to manage that with my family and personal life. Working long hours from time to time I believe is acceptable, but what I don’t like is that it soon starts to be seen as the norm and exploited as such.

Grinding Ourselves Down

Perhaps a better question may be “What is the cost of working fatigued?” According to a fatigue cost estimator from the National Safety Council and Brigham and Women’s Sleep Matters Initiative, health-related cost of lost productivity is $136 billion a year. Further, a reported 70% of Americans regularly experience insufficient sleep. Sleep loss, especially in the presence of underlying sleep disorders, results in reduced workplace productivity and increased absenteeism, health care expenditures, workplace accidents and injuries, and motor vehicle accidents during commutes.

Alger, S., Brager, A., Capaldi, V., & , (2019). Challenging the stigma of workplace napping. SLEEP, 42(8),

When working long hours becomes the norm, that’s when the negative effects on work start to take hold. Working long hours for short periods of time is okay and is needed from time to time to get things done due to an unforeseen oversight or event.

Prolonged overworking leads to work fatigue and stress which can have negative effects on your health and wellbeing. Work fatigue is negative for both employee and employer or company.

Employees presenting high levels of work fatigue displayed lower job satisfaction, psychological health, physical health, and organisational commitment, coupled with accrued turnover intentions and difficulties to relax after work. Work fatigue is damaging both psychologically and physically, leading to less efficient work recovery, negative work attitudes and health-related difficulties.

Blais, A., Gillet, N., Houle, S., Comeau, C., & Morin, A. (2020). Work Fatigue Profiles: Nature, Implications, and Associations With Psychological Empowerment.Frontiers in Psychology,11,

So how do you know if you are suffering from work fatigue? Here’s a list of signs to lookout for:

  • Constantly yawning
  • Falling asleep when sitting still
  • Feeling tired throughout the day
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Irritability
  • Feeling tired when waking up in the morning
  • Unmotivated to go to work and/or finish tasks
  • Physical exhaustion
  • Dizziness
  • Headaches

Preventative Measures

I mentioned earlier that I also regularly work long hours and have found ways that help me reduce the effects of doing so on my health and personal life.

At first it may seem easier said than done, but by being consistent and working through these steps (and those that you find for yourself, that work for you) you’ll find that you’ll be able to maintain a high level of work whilst at the same time feeling like you have more energy.

Let’s get to it, in no particular order, here are some tips that you may find helpful in reducing the effects of working long hours over a prolonged period of time.

Give Purpose or Meaning to What You Do

  • Where does your current profession fit into the bigger plan for your life? Does it align with your life’s goals?
  • Figure out what are the implications of your current task for you, your team and/or company.
  • Figure out which is more important to you, your life or your work life and reorganise as needed (I’m not suggesting that you walk out of your job because the quality of your life is more important! For example if your home life is more important, then start to organise your work life around your personal life if that is possible. If not, then figure out how to make it so).

Look After Your Health

  • Although your employer (even if you are self employed) may try to make things at work as comfortable as they can for you, don’t neglect your own health.
  • Take regular breaks whilst at work (every 25 – 30 mins) where you get up and walk around.
  • If your job permits, after lunch have a 10 – 20 minute nap to help refocus your mind, relieve any tiredness and give you a quick boost in your energy levels without having to resort to caffeine.
  • Take regular exercise
  • Get outside more (maybe during one of your scheduled breaks throughout the day). Getting daylight to your skin and eyes helps regulate your circadian rhythm which in turn will help improve the quality and quantity of your sleep.
  • Avoid caffeine, alcohol, heavy meals and smoking before going to bed.
  • Go to bed at regular times and get between 7 – 10 hours of sleep per night (even on weekends and holidays).

Review

There is constant pressure to perform well at work and whilst studying. Some people assume that spending many hours working or studying is time well spent. Unfortunately due to no fault of their own, they are ignorant to the fact that it doesn’t work.

Schools, workplaces and cultural norms reinforce this misguided path as the logical common sense way to achieve great results. It is further reinforced by the “Captains of Industry” who often are cited as having little time for sleep.

Scientific studies are continually updating their findings regarding work fatigue and it currently seems to be clear that working long hours over a long period of time increases the chances of suffering from work fatigue and stress which can negatively affect health and quality of work.

Afterword

Sleep deprivation, in some populations, is still considered a point of pride and a reflection of toughness. However, this argument is based largely in ignorance and companies are beginning a movement to counteract it. Along with recommendations to sleep 7-9 hours at night, daytime naps are being integrated into workplace culture in the world’s largest grossing tech, consulting, media, and retail companies.

Alger, S., Brager, A., Capaldi, V., & , (2019). Challenging the stigma of workplace napping. SLEEP, 42(8),
Categories
Energy Focus Productivity Staying Awake Tiredness

Be Productive, Give Up Workaholism!

Be Productive, Give Up Workaholism!

Love Working, Hate Workaholism

It’s easily done. You have a tight deadline, the works not finished but you reckon if you put the extra time in now, you can salvage your reputation and get everything done.

There are times when you just have to burn the midnight oil to get things done and it’s understandable. But recently I’ve been noticing that people seem to think that this type of effort is normal if you want to get things done and get ahead.

Officially corporations, government bodies and global institutions talk a good talk about work life balance, but honestly, does that ring true with your everyday experiences?

Are over worked and over stressed employees really as productive as those in charge think?

Be Productive, Give Up Workaholism!
Photo by Tim Gou @punttim on Unsplash, Gastown, Vancouver, Canada, Busy people at a coffee shop

Feeling Compelled

Have you ever found yourself staying at work for longer than you needed? That includes skipping lunch, coming in early and staying late and cancelling holidays.

Or how about agreeing to an unreasonable deadline and not having a plan outside of working long hours until the work is done, to meet it?

During these difficult economic times it can be challenging to say no to the impossible deadlines; or working within your limits instead of the arbitrary hours of what the workplace culture dictates (outside of your contracted hours, of course).

If you are either one of the lucky few that like your work so much that you just can’t tear yourself away, or if you feel that you must be seen to be a ‘good worker’, workaholism can be very destructive.

What’s The Cost?

Compulsion is a horrible condition to have. It robs you of your self esteem and makes you feel like a hostage to your own life.

The time that you spend doing work related tasks is time taken away from:

  • Doing the things that can enhance your life
  • Time taken away from loved ones
  • And time stollen from your self worth.

Everyone who can work should work, but as with the case with most things in life, balance is key. An unbalanced work life often leads to:

  • Increased stress
  • Sleep disorders
  • Depression
  • Low productivity
  • Relationship breakdowns

Balance cannot be achieved through a dictate from up on high, but must be actively pursued. What that means is that you must make more balanced choices in order to improve your quality of life.

But How Can I Change?

The first step to implementing any kind of long lasting valuable change is to truly acknowledge that a change is needed in the first place.

Without that, change can still be achieved but you risk making your task more difficult than it needs to be, and you can find yourself just going through the motions.

Still, sometimes going through the motions actually helps you to implement the change anyway, so above all just start.

Implement any of these points as you see fit to help you stay the course and become more productive.

  • Plan you work and break it down into manageable chunks.
  • Where possible aim for more reasonable deadlines.
  • Include down time in your work plans.
  • Prioritise getting enough good quality sleep.
  • Take regular breaks when working on your tasks. We created an Apple Watch app called V-CAF to help you with that. It alerts you when you start to feel tired reminding you to take a break and reenergise yourself before getting back to work.
  • Stay hydrated.
  • Set hard to break after work appointments with your family/friends and block the time in your work calendar.

A Brief Summary

We’ve gone over a lot so here’s the summary:

  • Workaholism reduces productivity and increases stress.
  • Time spent obsessing over work tasks is time taken away from other priorities in your life.
  • Make a commitment to change your work life balance and implement steps (like those listed above) that will help you stay the course.

Hope

Workaholism is a drain on your health, your personal life and work life!

To increase your productivity you may have to decrease the amount of work you do.

The choices you make regarding your work life affect all areas of your life. Hopefully you’ll choose a balanced life.

Categories
Caffeine Alternative Energy Fatigue Productivity Tiredness

How To Boost Your Energy

Energy Boosters

Lift off…

Feeling tired, fatigued or burnt out? You’re not alone. According to the National Safety Council more than 43% of workers are sleep-deprived.
Fatigue – You’re More Than Just Tired, NSC

The fact that tiredness is on the rise may account for the global demand for energy-boosting products being at an all time high. Caffeine consumption is on the rise and producers are capitalizing on the trend by providing more products that contain caffeine.

With all these products being put out in the market, it may make it easier to exceed recommended caffeine limits. 

So what are the alternatives to consuming caffeine to boost our energy levels?

Boost
Photo by dan carlson @dan_carl5on on Unsplash Full focus at a coffee shop

Why Are We So Tired?

Our modern lifestyles tend to encourage behaviors that as a whole can lead us to feeling tired. Demanding jobs, long shifts, long weeks, sleep loss, no rest breaks and long commutes are just a few of the ways that we may be contributing to our tired state of affairs.

Compounding the issue is our willingness to use stimulants such as caffeine to give us a boost of energy to get us through the day.

Does Caffeine Really Boost Our Energy Levels

Caffeine tricks our minds into releasing dopamine, which makes us feel alert, motivated and good about ourselves. This makes us feel as though we have more energy than we actually have.

Eventually, you’ll need ever increasing amounts of caffeine to achieve the same energy boosting effects. This can happen as soon as a week to 12 days.

When trying to give up caffeine, withdrawal symptoms can begin as fast as between 12 to 24 hours, explaining why some people need a coffee in the morning to feel as though they are awake.

Withdrawal symptoms include but are not limited to the following:

  • Fatigue
  • Depression
  • Lethargy
  • Vomiting

Alternative Boosters

Companies such as Bayer AG, PepsiCo, Boehringe Ingelheim GmbH and Sanofi are investigating using herbal and/or traditional medicines as alternatives to using caffeine.

As an individual you can use the following techniques and tips right away to help boost your energy:

  • Number one is to get more sleep.
    Although everyone is different, studies show that most people are most alert when they regularly get between 7 to 8 hours sleep.
  • If you are working on a tedious task, take regular breaks.
    Performance tends to decrease after 90 mins of continuously working.
  • Be alerted to when you are tired by using a tiredness alarm like V-CAF.
    V-CAF is an Apple Watch app that works by subtly notifying you when you are most likely to be drowsy and not focused on your current activity.
  • Eat whole foods and avoid foods containing processed sugar.
    This will help keep your energy levels balanced throughout the day.

Review

The best way to boost your energy is to make better lifestyle choices and avoid stimulants that trick your body into thinking it has more energy than it does.

Here are the takeaways:

  • Get more sleep
  • Whilst working or doing something that you need to focus on, take lots of breaks
  • Use tiredness alarms such as V-CAF
  • Eat whole foods, avoid processed foods

Conclusion

Tiredness is our body’s way telling us to slow down and take care of ourselves.

By trying to short circuit our body’s defense systems, we put ourselves and others at risk.

A few simple lifestyle changes can really improve our quality of life.