5 Practices Firms Can Use to Fight Off Overworking

by Alice Cahill, Lawrence R. McEvoy II and Laura Quinn

Research has shown that working too much isn’t good for productivity. Here are five practices organizations can use to get employees to work less and be more productive as a result.

  1. Educate employees about the importance of sleep and how to get more of it. Better sleep is one of the easiest and least used ways of improving productivity. Organizations can distribute sleep information to employees, provide flexibility in scheduling and discourage using communication devices late in the evening or in the middle of the night.
  2. Promote physical activity. Today the majority of corporate leaders are sedentary — sitting at computers, staring at devices and stuck in meetings. Exercise not only increases physical fitness but also boosts energy, mood and cognitive performance. Organizations have a variety of tools to encourage physical activity through wellness programs such as launching group exercise challenges and offering incentives to use corporate gyms. Getting up frequently to walk around during the day should also be encouraged as good practice.
  3. Introduce contemplative activities. A growing body of modern research confirms that contemplative practices improve mental capacity, outlook and attention. Mindfulness and meditative practices are ways to “press the pause button” during a busy day. Business and talent leaders can consider integrating mindfulness training into wellness programs and learning and development initiatives and provide online resources for employees to engage in wellness practices as they need them.
  4. Encourage social interaction. Spending quality time with others can lower stress levels and elevate mood, both of which are important aspects of recovery. Organizations can help employees build social connections in the workplace by fostering social interaction across business groups and by encouraging employees to do more than just be acquainted with one another.
  5. Express positive emotions. Psychologist Barbara Fredrickson has demonstrated that positive emotions increase energy, creativity and tenacity. The problem is that organizations tend to focus on the negative: groups that missed their goals, problematic negotiations, expense overruns and lost sales. Work cultures that identify and bring attention to successful performance and all the good and joyful moments at work are encouraging positive emotions, which fuels success. Don’t avoid negative realities and problems — just don’t make them the only news.