Brett Kirby, a human performance scientist at the Nike Research Lab, recently declared that improving and increasing sleep might be one of the most significant trigger points to improving elite sports people’s performance. In a world of encouraging athletes to push their bodies harder, it’s amazing to think that working less could be the secret to achieving more.
While you may not be asking your technology teams to try and break a two-hour marathon, there is a definite crossover between a rested body and improved performance that can be applied in many ways beyond just sleep. It might sound counter-intuitive, but if you feel like you aren’t getting enough out of your people, you might want to think about asking them to do less.
One long-held belief is that making your bed is a great way to increase your productivity during the daytime. As Navy Admiral William McRaven put it during a 2014 commencement speech at the University of Texas: “If you make your bed every morning you will have accomplished the first task of the day. It will give you a small sense of pride and it will encourage you to do another task and another and another. By the end of the day, that one task completed will have turned into many tasks completed.”
I’m not advising you to carry out house inspections with your team, but how can we apply this to a working environment? As your people trickle into the office in a morning, bleary-eyed, clutching their coffee, wondering how the day will pan out, why not ease into it? Decide what you want to achieve today. Pick the smaller tasks out and make sure the day starts with success, and many items checked off the ‘to do’ list. That first hour of the day where people are transitioning from a home mindset to one of work will be made much easier for them, rather than something they dread even on the commute. You want your employees to arrive fresh-faced and relaxed, not anxious and dreading what may lie ahead. Start the day with a smile, not a problem.
It’s easy to offer theories to improve team morale and positivity with nothing to back it up, but one good reference point for ways to improve the work-life balance within your team is the Jefferson Frank Salary Survey. The biggest independent survey for those working within AWS, it gives a good idea of where the industry lies and how professionals feel about their current working environment.
For example, do your employees need to be in the office as often? Working from home is listed as the most common employee benefit, with two days a week being spent away from the office on average. There are times that having everyone in a war room situation forging a siege mentality will help as a big deadline approaches, but otherwise is it essential to have your entire team on site at all times? The easiest way to inject energy into a working day is with a change of scenery, and that’s far easier to do outside of the office. It also saves people the dreaded commute, which will automatically ensure their day starts on a much more positive—and, more importantly to you, productive—note.
As technology evolves, the gap between work and home life narrows and it’s vital to acknowledge that as an employer. Survey respondents ranked flexible working ahead of a retirement savings plan in a list of reasons they’d accept a new job. That’s how important it is. And no matter how many quirks you can think of to make your office a more welcoming place to be, it won’t win. A game of ping-pong over lunch or a fancy coffee machine or cycle scheme is nice, but it won’t win out against an employee being able to leave early to help them with childcare commitments. They’d sacrifice a pension ahead of that!
As the work-life balance improves, so does the morale of your people and a positive work environment will also have some perhaps unexpected benefits to you. That contractor who you’d love to make a permanent addition to your team—want to know what might tempt them to join you as an employee? I know, you didn’t think they could be, but 92% of contractors that responded to the survey admitted that they’d switch to full-time employment if the right offer came along. Sure, they want to be financially rewarded, but a positive working environment is very high up on the list of reasons contractors would consider joining you on a permanent basis. Happy employees is the easiest way to achieve this, so making sure their work-life balance is catered for is vital if you want to attract fantastic new talent as well.
The survey provides further food for thought as to how you can potentially improve productivity, too. Over half of its participants revealed that they weren’t AWS certified before taking up their role, but 49% of them had the cost of their exams paid for by their employer, with a further 11% having the fee covered in part. It’s certainly worth considering a pro-active approach to certifications if you haven’t already. That investment will put you in the top half of employers as well as you having the benefit of a more qualified team.
Despite all of this, communication is still key. Maybe your team want to be able to check in from home, or want to get the big tasks out of the way first then ease their way through the afternoon. Perhaps they’d happily pay for their AWS certs but expect to be remunerated for this via a salary increase. Maybe they’d love to play ping pong at lunch? Only they can give you the answer – be open to suggestions and flexible enough to try and accommodate them. You don’t always know best!