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The real value of balance: how down time improves performance

Are your team running on empty? Do people have the energy needed to achieve at their best? Do people bring a balanced approach that allows them to maintain high standards of performance?

Real value of balance

For any human being to perform at his or her best 2 things matter most: talent and energy. The simple truth, however, is that talent adds little value if people lack the energy to effectively apply what they are capable of. Consider for a moment the impact that being drained of energy has on your own ability to think clearly, make sound decisions, or work well with other people.

Optimising the contribution, efficiency and productivity of people at work demands that leaders focus on managing the strength of their team’s energy reserves. We are all entirely more likely to think, feel and behave more successfully when energised. When drained even a typically high performer with deep desire to be successful, can struggle to muster the strength to keep striving.

According to a PricewaterhouseCoopers report ‘Workplace Wellness in Australia’ (2010) the cost of ‘presenteeism’ is nearly 4 times higher than absenteeism, a far more commonly observed measure of disengagement. Estimated at almost $26 billion in 2005–06, ‘presenteeism’ is the impact of people turning up for work but failing to contribute all that they are capable of. While ‘presenteeism’ can reflect a broad range of engagement challenges, the influence of low energy is key.

Enabling people to maintain a balanced approach to life that allows them to prioritise the health of their mind and body as well as their relationships, is essential. Creating a workplace culture that enables balance, demands that every leader of your business play a lead role. Among the most important priorities are these:

Top 6 priorities to improve workplace performance

  1. Focus on sustainable performance.
  2. Elite athletes understand the role both training and rest have on their ability to sustain optimal performance. In the business world however, it’s all too common for high achievers to be singularly focused on ‘competition day’, in other words getting the job done, with little priority placed on nurturing the strength of their mental and physical health, or spirit.

  3. Value contributions made, not time spent.
  4. An age old and still commonly held belief is that hard working people are productive people. An equally common view is that people who spend long hours working are working hard. Some leaders still measure success based on the number of hours people work or even ‘show their face’ around the office. While being present matters, more important is being engaged and delivering results.

  5. Value balance.
  6. Lead by example and demonstrate your own ability to deliver on your role while maintaining healthy balance in your life. Expect every member of your direct report team to do the same. Work hard to accommodate reasonable requests for leave and expect that people do take the leave available to them.

  7. Understand the issue.
  8. A common mistake leaders make is to assume people who lack energy simply have a poor work ethic or attitude. Others take an overly simplistic view and assume people lack the desire to make a fair contribution.

    Ensure leaders are committed and able to have greater appreciation for the things that impact upon their team’s level of engagement. Support leaders to recognise when people are running out of steam and lack the energy to perform well.

  9. Understand the link between mental health and performance.
  10. The extent to which people are able to focus their efforts, collaborate effectively, and make good decisions is unquestionably impacted by their mental health. Diminished work performance, low morale and engagement, high rates of absenteeism and lost productivity are common and costly consequences of mental illness for many businesses.

    Leaders can make a positive difference in 3 critical ways:

    • Protect people from mental and physical harm
    • Educate leaders and staff about how to recognise mental illness and where help is available
    • Support people to manage the impacts of mental illness and access the help they need

  11. Save people from themselves.
  12. Down time is essential for anyone, no matter the strength of our drive or passion for what we do. Many of the senior leaders I work with struggle to maintain balance, in most part due to their overwhelming desire to drive results and turn their vision into reality. Many fail to recognise the damaging impact their commitment to work is having on their wellbeing until they reach a point of burnout.

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