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Energy management serves both people and profit

With the business and economic landscape facing greater uncertainty and soon likely to be undergoing further change, organisations everywhere now, more than ever, need to work collaboratively, flexibly and fluidly in an increasingly complex, volatile, uncertain and ambiguous world.

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As ever, change in the work landscape presents both challenge and opportunity and businesses will require a more collaborative style of leadership and fresh management strategies if they are to create and uphold cultures in which both people and results can flourish sustainably.

Despite all of this change, the drive for results is ever present and realistically, business cannot hope to eliminate heavy workloads and the associated risks of stress and fatigue among workforces.  In a recent survey of over 20,000 people in 100 different countries, The Fika Effect Regus Group highlighted that more than half the global workforce (53%) believe they are closer to burnout than they were 5 years ago.

Given these statistics, what can organisations do to enable people to bring the best of themselves to work, day after day in an increasingly uncertain climate?

We know it’s not as simple as merely having the right person in the right job.  Health and safety has long been on the HR radar, but lately the interaction of health, energy and performance has become a topical source of strategies for all business leaders as they look for sustainable ways to achieve challenging objectives.

Energy either at an individual level or across a whole team, is drawn from a range of resources, which can either sustain people or limit their ability to perform depending upon how well they manage those resources.

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In this article we will explore how businesses can develop and sustain an organisational culture that helps people to build and maintain their energy levels.

Energy – the inner resources we draw upon

Viewed from a whole business perspective, collective energy is a valuable asset and a manageable ingredient of performance, which directly affects an organisation’s capacity to perform against challenging objectives.  Put simply, energy management serves both people and profit.

An article in the FT highlighted the risk of complacency when we hear terms such as “stress”, “burnout” or “sleeplessness”, as they can mask deep issues.  It’s also important to note that not all stress is negative – short-term stress can keep us focused and help us achieve our goals.  However, when the gap between stress and recovery becomes too great, then the risk of a cycle of diminishing energy levels and potential risk to health – physical or mental – are increased.

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Organisations worldwide are becoming even more mindful of the need to care for their people in terms of their mental and physical wellbeing, not just from the perspective of managing risk but also because they seek the competitive advantage offered by healthy and energised teams.  In an example from the world of asset management, one high performing European firm actively seeks to create a culture that supports the health and fitness of its team, both for its own sake and also as one contributory factor to overall business performance.

Creating a culture that manages energy well

Spotting the signs that your culture doesn’t manage energy well: By contrast, in organisations where energy is managed as a valued asset people tend to experience:
  •  Leaders demonstrate poor personal energy management themselves, e.g.

    •  Visibly stressed, or behaving in a way that impacts others, such as verbal outbursts

    •  Working excessive hours and not taking holidays

    •  Sending email late at night or at weekends

    •  Negative mindset

    •  Consistently poor diet and/or lack of exercise leading to ill health

  •  People lack connection to a unified business purpose

  •  Lack of responsibility accompanied by a ‘blame’ culture and team conflict

  •  People are “always on”, e.g. responding to emails late at night and heroics is celebrated

  •  Energy “props” such as caffeine, sugar and alcohol are used heavily

  •  People recover at weekends by “doing nothing”

  •  Presenteeism and absenteeism put people at risk of burnout

  •  Discussions around stress, health and fatigue may be taboo

  •  People don’t take their holiday allowance and/or become ill when they do take time off

  •  Incidences of burnout – through anxiety, depression or poor physical health

  • Leaders as positive role models, displaying personalised leadership

    • Leaders are equipped to address sensitive or emotive topics

  • Clear direction and purpose

    • An emotional connection to the business’ purpose and their manager

    • A sense of personal purpose from their day-to-day activities

  • A sense of thriving and feeling part of a high performing team

  • Planned opportunities for rest and recovery to offset a heavy workload, such as:

    • The Swedish concept of the Fika Effect

    • Secondment to new projects or different parts of the business

  • A culture where people are encouraged to make choices that support their physical and mental health and fitness:

    • Nutritious food is available on site or nearby

    • Movement is encouraged during the working day e.g. by holding walking meetings and avoiding over-reliance on email

    • People are encouraged to take their holiday allowance

  • Team events are part of the culture to help deepen relationships within teams and to support health and fitness within the business

In summary, building a business culture that supports a business’ varied objectives takes thought, time and persistence.  We know that a strong culture can be one of a business’ greatest assets and some organisations are now capitalising on the links between health, energy and performance.  One way to achieve this sustainably is to make effective energy management a key part of your talent strategy and culture.  In future, articles we will be examining the steps that leaders, teams and individuals can take to play their part in this, maximising the ROI from energy management.

This article was first published in The future of work hub, July 6, 2016.