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Five Practical Tips for Developing a Sustainable Workplace for Employees

By Serena Claire Josephs

“What embodies a sustainable workplace?” Tony Schwartz, President and CEO of the Energy Project, an organization that helps people and companies perform more effectively over an extended period of time, rhetorically asked the Wisdom 2.0 conference participants in San Francisco on May 11, 2012.

Is endless work email killing high level performance?

Many of us drain ourselves at work and then remain connected to our colleagues and clients via e-mails until late at night. Tony argued that organizational pressure to respond to e-mails quickly at all hours stifles employee creativity and high level performance because employees tend to focus on short-term requests rather than long term needs of clients or the organization.

How does an organization foster high-level, sustainable performance?

How can an organization create a workplace that fosters creativity? Tony suggested that the answer is determined by the fact that creativity and growth happen during renewal. He asked the audience, “Where do you get your best ideas? The shower? During yoga? On a run? Where aren’t you when you get your good ideas? Your desk.” One way to get creative work done is to complement longer focused periods of work with short bursts of renewal. Renewal is anything that is rest from work from the employee’s point of view, e.g. working out in the gym or spending forty-five minutes reading a book for pleasure.

If being effective in the 2.0 workplace hinges on the worker’s ability to demonstrate intense effort and take real rest, then how can the organization help employees perform at a higher level that is more sustainable?

Five practical tips for developing a sustainable workplace

Here are five things Human Resources and Professional Development teams can do to create a culture that supports employees working in today’s fast-paced technological workplace:

  1. Create a competency framework for employees that values skills such as client service, e.g. responding to client e-mails promptly, AND agility, e.g. carving out time during the day for uninterrupted work.

  2. Assess an employee’s performance annually by having supervisors look at results achieved, complete review forms based on the skills in the aforementioned competency framework, and discuss the feedback in an in-person meeting.

  3. Offer time management training that showcases leaders from various departments in the organization, focusing on how they balance client needs, creative projects, and management responsibilities.

  4. Create a list of best practices for managing time within the particular organization and provide links to related applications and time management tools.

  5. Provide on-site gym facilities or offer a discount to a local gym to encourage employees to take time to rejuvenate.

Those organizations that help employees respond to short-term client needs without neglecting long-term projects and personal recovery will have a more sustainable workplace and a more competitive advantage in the marketplace.

image: Ed Yourdon via Flickr cc (some rights reserved)

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