Recently I have had a surge of adults in my office who are struggling with increased demands for their productivity in the workplace without increase in compensation. Workers are now required to do the work of two or three people. When someone is fired or leaves corporations will often just assign their job responsibilities to someone else without ever hiring to replace the person ( offloading). Interestingly enough, productivity has continued to increase due to these kinds of cooperate speedup strategies. The companies continue to profit at the expense of the employees health.
Unfortunately , many successful and highly motivated people are vulnerable to the belief that they are somehow defective if they can't keep up with the demands of the workplace, and are fearful in this economy to challenge these expectations. Companies no longer seem to value investing in their employees. If you are an employee this means that you can be easily replaced by someone less qualified or experienced who is willing to worker harder and longer hours. Your health is not a real concern in the corporate world.
Successful and driven people will often sacrifice time during the evenings and weekend in order to meet these increased demands for productivity, at the expense of their mental health, their family and their marriages.
Another way employees try meet increased productivity demands is to increase multitasking. Multitasking is the attempt to perform multiple tasks at the same time. There is, in fact, no such thing as multitasking. What you are actually doing is serial tasking , or switching back and forth between two tasks.
People think multitasking is a helpful and useful way to meet increased productivity requirements, however, research consistently shows that attempts to multitask decrease your effectiveness across the board. When you juggle between tasks, you actually lose time shifting your focus and reorienting yourself.
Multitasking increases your stress level, impairs your ability to focus and pay attention, and seems to negatively impact memory. People who multitask actually take longer to do tasks and do all of the tasks less effectively . Research now suggests that heavy multitaskers may permanently damage their ability to concentrate and focus, as well as their memory. They also seem less capable of differentiating between important and frivolous information. This leads to decreased decision making skills.
Check out a monotasking fact sheet here.
What is the solution?
Corporate speedup itself is a larger issue. It may take much more than simply increasing mindfulness to help employees meet unrealistic expectations, however, one thing that we do know is that multitasking is not the solution.
Eckhardt Tolle says if you find yourself in a situation that makes you unhappy, you can either change it, leave it, or decide to stay and accept exactly as it is. This may be good advice for a worker who is the victim of corporate speedup.
Working on changing it may consist of setting boundaries, practicing mindfulness or speaking to your boss. Although corporations are to blame for much of the overwork and overwhelm, often I find in my clients that they are so vulnerable to feeling unsuccessful that they drive themselves even harder than is expected. Taking stock of what you may be doing to exacerbate this problem due to your own belief systems may be a good strategy. If you are a perfectionist , for example, you may be particularly vulnerable to expectations that are unreasonable. You may feel that you must succeed and carry an unrealistic workload or you are a failure. This is not true if you are doing the job of three people.
If you practice doing one thing at a time, some of the inefficiency and stress in your life will decrease. If you find yourself in a situation where the expectations in your job are unrealistic, first stop multitasking. Schedule breaks to reset your mind and increase your effectiveness when you are working and practice doing one thing at a time.
Leaving your job may consist of sacrificing the salary you are making for one that doesn't afford you the same luxuries that you currently have. For some people, they are already struggling to make ends meet and this may not be an option. For others, they have become stuck in the cycle of buying and spending. In this case stepping back to look at the cost of this to your health and family may be advisable.
For more on corporate speedup click the news interview link on the right. Also more on stress and it's effects below.