How to optimise performance at work and maintain job quality

Optimise individual and Team performance

Has employee performance been affected by working from home? Research is showing that honestly, it’s too early to know whether working from home has positive or negative impacts on productivity and performance. There are contradicting statistics being reported that support both of those notions.

However, the CIPD has stated that “poor job quality is causing significant problems in the UK, such as a lack of work-life balance, stress, discrimination and an absence of meaningful voice at work”. They have also stated that “maintaining a healthy work–life balance has becoming increasingly challenging, with 3 in 10 finding it hard to fulfil commitments outside of work due to time spent on their job. This figure increases to 4 in 10 for those who are juggling increased caring responsibilities with work.”

My experience with my clients, most of whom work within financial services and consulting, is that
they are currently experiencing a general tendency to work excessively long hours to meet the
current demands brought on by the pandemic. So much so, that the challenge of working these long
hours, whilst juggling home and childcare responsibilities is leading to increased anxiety, stress, and
potential burnout.

The recent CIPD ‘Good Work Index’ report states that:
• More than half of UK workers (54%) work flexibly in some way, … and long hours remain a problem for many,
• 35% of employees surveyed indicated that their general physical health has become worse, and,
• 28% said that work had a negative impact on their mental health.

There is obviously an issue of balance which companies must be aware of and manage.

However, if you are realistic, you know there are limits to what the organisation can do to help you, as a team leader, to maintain the job quality at work. Here are five things you can and should aim to do yourself.

5 ways to maintain high performance while retaining job quality, which includes maintaining your work-life balance and minimising burnout:
1) Think Ahead: To continue to optimise your performance and that of your team, try to start to think like your manager. What are the questions around output that they may be receiving from their manager? Where does your team fit in that and what solutions can you offer to the challenge? What questions should you be asking your line manager that will allow you to see the bigger picture, so your contributions are more valuable? The time you take to do this, will save you hours in follow-up work, corrections of misdirected work, etc.

2) Articulate your wants clearly: You’ve all had that situation where you’ve delegated in the past, the work wasn’t right, you got frustrated and decided to do it yourself, right? The issue here may not be your delegation skills, or even your team’s knowledge and skills. It could be that you’re not communicating your asks clearly. Good communication takes time. It requires you to think about the outcome you want, share your vision and request that an individual, or team, take responsibility to bring that vision to life. Note: I am not encouraging micro-management – telling your team ‘how’ to do things. Rather I’m saying tell them more precisely what you want and allow them the space to creatively deliver the output.

3) Manage Expectations Upwards: Most of the stress and anxiety you feel at work comes from the fact that you are probably not managing your managers expectations as well as you could be. Leaders will ask for the stars; push back and offer the moon. It is more productive and valuable to indicate early on to your line manager what the reality is rather than agree to deliver and fail to produce. By doing this, you help your manager in turn manage the expectations of their boss, as well as protect your team from falling into a cycle of continuously working insane hours in order to meet these unattainable goals.

4) Hold others as accountable as you hold yourself: If you’re reading this article, then you are, or are at least aiming to be, a high performer. As such, you usually will hold yourself accountable where things haven’t gone quite as planned and seek solutions. It is essential that you hold others in your team just as accountable. Build a culture where your people can speak up when there’s a problem with no fear of repercussions and also encourage them to own and meet their responsibilities. You can do this by being transparent about what everyone in the team is working on, who has capacity and who is swamped, recognising and rewarding individual contributions to the team’s success, etc.

5) Set healthy boundaries: It’s easy to fall into the trap of presenteeism, even when it’s not required of you. Your health, wellbeing and personal relationships are your responsibility, and you shouldn’t feel guilty about setting time aside for activities to enhance/look after these things. Setting reasonable boundaries, firmly and respectfully helps to manage the expectations of those you work with and protects what we all need as humans to maintain a high quality of life.

Action list to improve your performance during lockdown:
• Personal development is professional development. Understand your own strengths and weaknesses; how you deal with conflict; and how you show up to your direct reports and line managers. What should you be working on? Understanding these will improve your performance, as well as your relationships with others.
• Set time aside to plan and figure things out – cramming your day full of meetings and tasks will not optimise your output or results.

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