Can we recover in time for the Recovery?

It seems that most of the expert sources are now in agreement that the recession has bottomed out, and that we’re moving into a period of recovery.  Thank goodness!  Now it’s time to really gear up and jump into the recovery in high gear – we’ve got a lot of ground to make up.

If you’re one of the lucky ones, you’re still working!  Obviously, the acts of becoming and remaining employed involve a great deal more than mere luck, so let’s say instead that you’re one of the fortunate ones.  (This is relevant, so please bear with me.)  Assuming that you’ve been working consistently during the last year or two, the chances are pretty good that your actual workload has  increased, and that the phrase “Do More With Less” has either passed through your lips, your ears or both.  It’s become a mantra, a battle cry and in some instances, a bleak joke. 

Your department just got downsized?  Ha-Ha, guess you’ll have to Do More With Less.  Already pushed to the limit?  Tough.  Suck it up and just Do More With Less!

Here’s the conundrum though: We’ve proven that we can all Do More With Less – but for how long?  Everyone can kick it up a notch in a pinch, somewhat like an athlete getting a “second wind”.  That act can even be exhilarating, especially when it’s teamed with learning new tasks/skills, and stepping outside of your normal duties for the good of the cause. At what point though, does our overall productivity begin to fade into Doing Less With Less?  When in this Do More With Less marathon do we hit the wall and stop being able to put one foot in front of the other through sheer force of will? 

I hope it’s not now ’cause there’s a Recovery looming ahead of us, and we’ve got work to do.

If we’re at a threshold at which job fatigue is about to replace job adrenaline, how do we maintain productivity while allowing for some type of downtime?  How do we recharge the batteries?

My belief is that the answer lies in some combination of 1) strategically adding people to provide some level of reinforcement, 2) temporarily relaxing quotas and/or goals, and 3) building in some type of “active” downtime.

1) People – if you’ve ever been involved in a picnic tug-of war, especially one that lasted for a while, you can picture the immense advantage that one side would have by just adding one more energetic tugger.  In some instances, well-thought out staff additions could provide momentum to help carry you strongly into the Recovery.

2) Quotas – while any organization needs to achieve growth-related goals, this may be the time to right-size those goals to today’s market realities and the fatigue described above.  Even a thoroughbred horse will only go so far so fast without a break, no matter how much you whip it.

3) Downtime – Remaining conscious not to inadvertently add to existing stress levels, team building or fun-themed events may be a way of allowing employees to catch their breath.  Rebuilding positive feelings about the workplace can help to return it to a more vibrant, interesting and socially fulfilling place, rather than it being a hellish sweatshop.

I’d love to go on, but I’ve got to take a break!

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