Getting away from it all?

Getting away from it all?

New research is returning challenging findings that a 3-day working week offers increased productivity benefits. It’s official - we can achieve more by doing less…

This should not be news to seasoned OD professionals: after all, Senge told us categorically, eleven years ago, that “breakthroughs come when people learn how to take the time to stop…”; Boyatzis has spoken about the importance of hitting the pause button to overcome ‘sacrifice syndrome, and of how important periods of rest and renewal are in a leader’s cycles of activity; while darker evidence from Japan is showing that karoshi – death from overwork – is an escalating problem; in the West, the rising levels of work-related stress and burnout are described by The Work Foundation as being of epidemic proportions. I’m sure we all know of managers and consultants who take work on holiday!

However, common sense is not common practice. We’ve forgotten how important spaciousness is to our mental clarity, emotional health, creative expression and work productivity. If you don’t believe me, ask yourself when was the last time you told your team, or your clients, to stop and do nothing for a few days? I suspect that most OD professionals are probably so confluent with the prevailing work culture and organisations’ obsessive focus on cycles of ‘plan, do, review’ that we would not dare to consider it as a serious intervention!

Perhaps because I have just returned from ten days of solitude in the Scottish Highlands, and feel so re-energised, this issue is figural for me – I am asking myself why I do not seek downtime more frequently? Of course, it is not always possible to take off for ten days, yet there are simple adjustments we could all make to seek spaciousness: like arriving early for meetings so that we can settle and focus, or clearing our desks; even having a coaching conversation (that is not focused on performance improvement) would help…

In Your Brain at Work, David Rock points to research from London University that constant emailing and texting reduces our IQ by an average of 10 points – that’s greater than the effect of being stoned on cannabis. This is further evidence that our so-called ‘productivity’ culture and the tools we believe support productivity actually have a deleterious effect. Constant work forces us to be on alert for long periods, which is stressful. As Stone says, “This always on, anywhere, anytime, anyplace era has created an artificial sense of constant crisis. What happens to mammals in a state of constant crisis is the adrenalised fight-or-flight mechanism kicks in. It’s great when tigers are chasing us. How many of those five hundred emails a day is a tiger?”

Posted in Change Coaching on Thursday, Aug 18th, 2016

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