When it comes to incentivising people to go to work, paradoxically the latest trend seems to be giving them time away from work. Perpetual Guardian made headlines in 2018 by adopting a four-day working week, and more recently Vodafone introduced ‘Summer Hours’, giving staff early exits on Fridays.
New Zealand has consistently had a progressive approach to work-life balance with Petone carpenter Samuel Parnell winning the right to an eight-hour day in 1840, compared with the US, which took another century before the 40-hour working week become law in 1940.
Improvements in technology, communications and business systems mean that expectations on our outputs have increased exponentially. How do we accurately measure every worker's productivity while ensuring we keep them motivated and positive about their workload and place of work?
Being able to measure, manage and maintain productivity seems to be the key to providing flexibility with working hours, but taking time off work to improve work-life balance is not possible for every industry or a requirement for every person.
With the emergence of portable computers and ubiquitous broadband over the past decade, remote working looked like becoming the new normal. Surely this was to become the utopia for the ultimate work-life balance - avoiding traffic, enabling more time with family and less corporate rigour - yet we still commute to office blocks and, by majority, maintain set working hours.
As a mentoring service that matches experienced business people - the mentors - with the owners of existing and emerging businesses, we hear all too often that one of the most significant challenges faced by the self-employed is isolation – where they feel lonely, disconnected from other people, and feeling like they can never leave work.
Despite already having a high percentage of self-employment in New Zealand, the Gig Economy is creating even more new-age remote workers who themselves face productivity and motivation challenges. So, if freedom from the workplace and less time working is not the answer to job satisfaction, what is?
Fundamentally, our motivation is linked to our values system. (Read work by Elias Porter for insight). People are complex and have differing life influencers, goals, experiences, educational opportunities and expectations, so no one-size-fits-all staff management system will ever work. Helping each person in the workplace understand and align their values with their work creates a sense of purpose and with this purpose and knowledge, comes a sense of pride and self-worth. Once this is accomplished, we gain better insights into how we can communicate and engage with people more effectively, which improves teams and, ultimately, the elusive but much sought-after positive workplace culture.
In the perfect world, dynamic teams and a positive work culture would equate to lower staff turnover and higher productivity. However, this would require resourcing and skills that are often beyond the reach of small business, so, while it is a great concept, it will not necessarily be attainable.
Invoking change should start simply:
- Communicate: Give staff a chance to discuss their place of work. All ideas have merit and sometimes small changes can make a significant impact.
- Create Structure: Workers, managers and employers’ roles often evolve to the point where they are unrecognisable from their original job description - assuming they have a job description. The adage “if you can’t measure, you can’t manage” applies. Give them a chance to offer their input to strategic planning so they can share in the company direction and gain a sense of belonging.
- Create a Learning Environment: Personal and professional development is fundamental to business improvement and dealing with change. Find out what staff members are keen to learn and create a learning environment for all staff.
- Be Flexible with Time: Most staff are genuinely motivated about doing a good job and will be more productive if they feel valued. If they need to attend an appointment, want to work from home, or take a day’s leave, then be as flexible as possible. If a manager can’t trust in their workers, perhaps the issue of better management should be the learning priority.
- Recognition: We all value a bit of appreciation. If being thanked is genuine and deserved, it goes a long way to improving self-esteem and job satisfaction.
If you are a small business owner and feel overwhelmed, challenged with your workload or isolated, then a Business Mentor can help. Our service will match you with a person who has experience and knowledge that they are motivated to share with you. Your biggest challenge is seeking that help – visit our website today.