Work smarter not harder

Traditional long held beliefs that to be successful at work one must hard are fast becoming redundant. The thought that being the first person to be at the office and being the last to leave may give rise to the perception that you are a hard worker but in reality does not mean you are the most productive employee.

When we take a look to the East we see the Japanese phenomena known as karōshi. This is translated as death from overwork. This term arose in the 1970s and is used to describe a death as a result of a heart attack, stroke due to stress, starvation diet or suicide all borne as a direct consequence of work stress and being overworked. This has historically been driven by working long hours, overtime of up to 80 hours a month, getting involved in after-hours work related activities such as having after work drinks with colleagues where the main topic of discussion is work, not taking leave days in order to have a mental break from work.

Long work hours unfortunately do not equate to high productivity. This is clear in analysing the G7 countries where amongst the countries Japan which has the longest work hours in fact has the lowest labour productivity. Japan produces an average of 45.5 Gross Domestic Product per hour worked whilst the United States of America with much more relaxed working hours produces 68.3 Gross Domestic Product per hour.

The fallacy of long hours and working hard result in success is quickly being dismissed. Quality of work versus quantity of working hours is what results in success. Productivity in employees is actually increased by having healthy employees. Employees who are well rested, have a healthy work life balance, are empowered and are allowed to think dynamically are proven to be more productive. Some of the best ways to increase productivity is by creating a work environment that is transparent and encourages feedback amongst colleagues. A work environment that gives people autonomy and freedom both liberates and empowers. It gives individuals the ability to execute the how of their given tasks. The most empowering work space is one where tasks are given, objectives outlined but the how is left to the creativity of those executing the work. Doing this allows for innovation, efficiency creation, camaraderie amongst colleagues, smart working and productive employees.

I encourage us all to be the kind of employees who may never suffer from karōshi but instead flourish in work you enjoy and life you love. May you be productive, working smart and strategically adding great value and not just sitting in the office working laborious hours with mundane impact.

Vumi Msweli is a South African born career coach, international speaker and the Chief Executive Officer of Hesed Consulting. Hesed is a consulting firm specializing in; career coaching; leadership acceleration, women empowerment; team dynamics; facilitation and training on the African continent. Vumile has worked in Europe; Asia and across the African continent.

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