This title of a HBR article from 2000 seems again very relevant as we are experiencing a massive shift from office to the home office (Schwartz & McCarthy, February 2000).
Schwartz et al. argue that organisations are often pushing employees too hard to increase productivity, ignoring people’s need to replenish their physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual energy. Since the start of the Covid crisis organisations are seeing a significant increase in productivity (see my last blog: ’Working from anywhere: lessons learnt in 2020’; Fogelberg, December 2020) but this may be at the expense of worker’s mental and physical health. From my executive coaching practice, I experience that many ‘workers from home’ work 10-11-hour days with back-to-back (online) meetings, ignoring their physical needs, such as movement and nutrition. Managers are faced with a new and unfamiliar task of caring for their remote team members wellbeing, including ergonomic aspects such as the layout of the home office.
So, remote employees need to manage their energy more than just manage time. Classical time management is aimed at optimizing the use of time to be more productive. Managing energy is aimed at striking a good balance between productivity and replenishing energy sources.
Also, it considers that people have different circadian (24 hours) rhythms. Scheduling tasks based on high energy moments and lows makes sense but goes against common practice of everyone working the same day hours and rhythms.
Schwartz et al. mention the 4 sources of energy and make practical suggestions on how to take these into account. This can be a useful framework both for individuals and managers to look at how they organise their working days in the home office.
In the next blog, we will zoom in on what remote managers can do to help team members manage their energy better.
Enhance your sleep by setting an earlier bedtime and reducing alcohol use.
Reduce stress by engaging in cardiovascular activity at least three times a week and strength training at least once.
Eat small meals and light snacks every three hours.
Learn to notice signs of imminent energy flagging, including restlessness, yawning, hunger, and difficulty concentrating.
Take brief but regular breaks, away from your desk, at 90- to 120-minute intervals throughout the day.
Defuse negative emotions—irritability, impatience, anxiety, insecurity—through deep abdominal breathing.
Fuel positive emotions in yourself and others by regularly expressing appreciation to others in detailed, specific terms through notes, e-mails, calls, or conversations.
Look at upsetting situations through new lenses. Adopt a “reverse lens” to ask, “What would the other person in this conflict say, and how might he be right?” Use a “long lens” to ask, “How will I likely view this situation in six months?” Employ a “wide lens” to ask, “How can I grow and learn from this situation?”
Reduce interruptions by performing high concentration tasks away from phones and e-mail.
Respond to voice mails and e-mails at designated times during the day.
Every night, identify the most important challenge for the next day. Then make it your first priority when you arrive at work in the morning.
Identify your “sweet spot” activities—those that give you feelings of effectiveness, effortless absorption, and fulfilment. Find ways to do more of these.
Allocate time and energy to what you consider most important.
Live your core values. For instance, if consideration is important to you but you are perpetually late for meetings, practice intentionally showing up five minutes early for meetings.
Fredrik Fogelberg is a chartered Organisational Psychologist specializing in leadership development and team facilitation in international organizations. He has over 30 years of international experience in the corporate world and as a consultant.