How Energy Management Boosts Workplace Productivity?

May 30, 2024 thehrobserver-hrobserver-productivity

Energy management is becoming a more frequently used concept than time management, but are they the same concept with different titles? The answer is “no”. While the expected outcomes may be similar, the purpose and methods may differ.

There is a common perception that time management is about fitting all tasks into a specific period (i.e., doing things quicker). However, this isn’t the same as energy management, which involves focusing more effort on specific activities and being mindful of how and when this can be achieved.

While effective time management is often a desired outcome, it’s crucial to recognise its limitations. The belief that working harder or smarter can solve all issues is a common misconception. In fact, research suggests that organisations promoting long working hours may actually experience a decline in productivity.

Organisations are beginning to recognise the positive outcomes of energy management. These may include higher productivity, lower costs, increased satisfaction, and fewer errors. From an individual employee’s perspective, managing energy allows them to carry out their role in a way that plays to their strengths. It also reduces the need for long working hours and helps improve the work-life balance.

For employees to expend their available energy effectively, they need to be motivated in their roles. While every job has boring or repetitive aspects, having some autonomy can be motivating. If there is a mismatch between energy management and individual employees, it may be useful to consider whether they are in the right role.

As an academic, I always advise my students to think about which times of the day they are most productive, enabling them to plan when to carry out their work. For example, undertaking creative tasks in the afternoon and more boring admin tasks in the morning.

This principle also applies to the workforce. Employees should reflect on which tasks require certain conditions, such as focused work without interruptions or repetitive admin work, and structure their day accordingly to use their energy at the right times.

In a world where we can check our emails 24/7, it’s easy to deplete our energy before leaving the house in the morning. Some organisations have strict timings for when emails should be sent and replied to, but this can actually increase stress. Instead, individuals should focus on the best time for them to deal with messages.

Controversially, I suggest that the solution is not always multitasking. Certain activities may require different energy levels and total concentration, which can be facilitated through protected time, allowing individuals to work without interruptions. The ability to have physical energy should not be a requirement, as this may disadvantage certain groups of people.

As with nearly everything in HR, managers should lead by example, sending a strong message to their team. Agreeing on and living by established boundaries can support cultural change, reinforced through realistic goals and performance expectations.

Some practical tips:

  • Encourage colleagues to take real lunch breaks (e.g., not just sitting and eating while still working). Ideally, walking outside can help them recalibrate and boost their energy.
  • Traditional tools like prioritisation matrices can be a helpful starting point, focusing on energy rather than just time.
  • While employers can’t control employees’ energy management outside of work hours (e.g., regular alcohol consumption), they can share information about implications and sources of specialist support.
  • Ensure that employees have opportunities to recharge their energy, making sure they take their annual leave.
  • Use the ‘VIP’ function on email accounts to get alerts from critical people only, avoiding distractions from other messages.
  • Set realistic deadlines, ensuring that employees are not expected to work 12+ hours per day.
  • Encourage employees to engage in hobbies outside of work to switch off from work.

Recognising energy management as an effective way to improve performance benefits both organisations and employees. This approach may not suit every industry or organisation, but it provides valuable insights for consideration.

Professor Fiona Robson

Head of Edinburgh Business School and Social Sciences, Heriot-Watt University Dubai

Related Posts