"Mhm." "Uh-huh…" "Okay."
These are my go-to responses when my husband tries to tell me about his day, upcoming travel, or pretty much anything really. I've even mastered the art of enthusiastically saying, "Oh, good!" when I can hear in his voice that he's happy about something, but I’m not paying enough attention to hear what exactly that is.
Does this sound like a familiar situation in your life?
If yes, then you may be like me in that I am only somewhat energized when it comes to my Emotional Energy.
I learned this about myself during an exercise at PwC's Focus Session at the 2019 GPTW For All Summit. DeAnne Aussem, Managing Director, and Carolyn Butcher, Senior Manager, shared how PwC rolled out a well-being program to their 50,000 partners and staff after learning that many of their people did not believe it was possible to live a healthy lifestyle while also being successful in the firm.
When PwC found out their people felt that working at the firm meant they had to neglect the other aspects of their lives, they launched a company-wide Energy Audit. This audit looked at the four dimensions of energy: Physical, Emotional, Mental, and Spiritual. During the Summit focus session, participants took this audit, which is how I found out that I was only somewhat energized in my Emotional Energy dimension. As DeAnne and Carolyn rightly pointed out, you can't change what you don't notice. Believe me, once I saw my audit results in front of me - I took notice!
At Great Place to Work, our research shows that people who bring their full selves to work are more productive and engaged on the job. However, PwC pointed out that we are distracted 47% of the time at any given moment. For me, these facts raised two crucial questions: are we all just a bunch of jerks who don't care enough to pay attention to what's going on in front of them? And how do we address this distraction issue so we can bring our full selves not just to work, but to all aspects of our lives?
Are we all just a bunch of jerks who don't care enough to pay attention to what's going on in front of them?
Thankfully, the answer to that question is, No! There are a couple things at play here when it comes to distractions. As a society, we're more connected than ever before and we're changing at a faster pace than ever before. We're getting notifications from every app we have around the clock. Even if we log off our computer for the day, we're still connected with our phones everywhere we go. How could anyone not be distracted with all the "pings" and pop-ups that inundate us every hour of every day?
Even if you do want to unplug for a while, it's not without the anxiety-inducing FOMO apprehension of wondering what emails you're missing, who are you letting down, and how far you're falling behind on your work and keeping up with your peers. And let's be honest, with the fast-paced exchange of information these days, if you miss a minute, you miss a lot. As Tony Schwartz explains in his book, The Way We're Working Isn't Working, this environment prompts "a sense of permanent urgency and endless distraction." Given this, it absolutely makes sense that we're distracted almost half the time we're doing anything. Which brings me to my next question…
How do we address this distraction issue so we can bring our full selves not just to work but to all aspects of our lives?
First, we need to break a couple established schemas in our society. The idea of "multi-tasking" has got to go. There have been countless articles that show over and over that not only is multi-tasking impossible, but it's also more destructive to any task at hand as opposed to if you had just taken the time to put your full focus on that one thing. I can't stand seeing multi-tasking listed as a required skill in job descriptions. As a job applicant, I am conflicted about what to say because I know they want me to say that I multi-task, however, I also want to convey that I care enough about the job and my responsibilities that I wouldn't do the company disservice by engaging in multi-tasking behaviors.
The other concept that needs to be broken is work-life balance. While work limitation restrictions were put into effect in the 1800s with manufacturing laws, the concept of work-life balance didn't emerge until the 1970s and 1980s. This concept emerged with good intentions - don't work yourself to death and make time to spend with family - but it also brought this incorrect notion that you are a different person at work than you are at home. As if you have one energy reservoir tank for work, and once you're done there, then you magically have a second separate reservoir tank of energy that you can spend with your family and hobbies.
In reality, when you have a bad day at work, that's probably going to carry over into your family life, just like if you got into an argument with your spouse, that's probably going to be on your mind while you're working. Think back before the industrial boom when people were living off the land and working for themselves. Farmers, for example, didn't identify as a farmer for eight hours a day and then forget about their farming while spending time with their families. Farming was part of their life and they tended to their farm when it needed attention. They didn't separate out and segment different aspects of their life - it was all one fluid continuum. That's the mentality we need to get back to today. Our research confirms that people who bring their full selves to work are more engaged and involved than if they were trying to suppress their "outside of work" personas.
If employees are able to integrate work and personal duties, there’s also a positive impact on innovation. Our data shows that when employees are encouraged to take time off from work when necessary, they are 34 percent more likely to report a high level of innovation activity. Integration gives people time to re-charge and clear their minds so they can be fully present at work.
Boosting my personal Energy Audit
Fortunately, the PwC team didn't leave us hanging at the 2019 Summit. DeAnne and Carolyn shared some quick wins for how to boost our energies in each of the four dimensions. For me, my homework was to show appreciation, laugh with people, and spend time outdoors. They also shared with us the impact these changes have on business goals such as: productivity and cost of delivery, lowered healthcare costs, more innovation and strategic thinking, and quality of work. Ultimately, having fully engaged people is a competitive advantage in the market.
As a result of these efforts at PwC, a campaign for flexibility was put into place. Now, over 90% of their people have telecommuting options. PwC has made a well-being declaration and are focusing on the Mental Energy dimension which encourages people to set time limits for tasks, turn off notifications, and step away from the screen. Further, PwC created a habit tracker to help people make healthy changes to their energies and started a global kindness program to generate acts of kindness around the world.
As for me, I’m still working on implementing the daily habits to help me be more present in my own life. I am starting to catch myself when my mind is wandering and try to pull it back into the present task I have at hand. Now, when my husband tells me about his day, I take the time to stop multitasking and be fully present and engaged in the conversation. It turns out, he has a lot of interesting things going on!