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Are You Working With Your Employees or Against Them?

Written by: Jennifer Jank, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.


Just as no one expects the Spanish Inquisition, no one expects a business owner to work against their very own staff! Both employee and employer have incentives to keep the other happy. By making you happy, they get a paycheck. When you make them happy, they’re more likely to stick around.

However, you may be inadvertently sabotaging their success. Modern business culture, especially for those who believe in “the grind” and “the hustle,” drains productivity instead of enhancing it. The human brain is not a computer and works best when it’s periodically allowed to recharge.

Some mind maximizers are put in place outside the workplace. Good nutrition, adequate rest, including enough sleep, exercise, and other routines, help the human brain refresh. As an employer, you can set policies that either boost your staff’s efficiency, or decrease it.

“Never mistake motion for action.” - Ernest Hemingway

When do you schedule staff meetings?

Everyone has a period of time during the day when they’re most refreshed, alert, and ready to work. It should be devoted to hard or complicated, or important tasks. Meetings, emails, administrative issues, and the like are a terrible waste of this time. Instead, they should be scheduled when everyone’s energy takes a dip.

While it’s true that not everyone is all in their places with bright shiny faces at the same time, it’s also the case that most people are bears when it comes to chronotype. That means their internal clock is more or less in sync with the sun. The typical 9 to 5 schedule works pretty well, and their energetic time is in the late morning.

Lion chronotypes are up early, and their peak energy is a bit earlier in the morning compared to bears. Wolves are your night owls, and their most energetic time is just afternoon—people who have difficulty sleeping (dolphins) peak in the late morning as well.

Save your meetings for mid to late afternoon since that avoids key energy times for all your staff. This might be more difficult if you have employees spread across multiple time zones, but maximize the use of key focus periods as much as you can.

What opportunities are provided for collaboration?

Staff working from home also need to talk to each other. Being able to bounce ideas off colleagues is important for team bonding. Not to mention that it benefits you as the business owner, as your employees will come up with more creative ideas when they collaborate.

When everyone’s working from home, you could set up Zoom calls with breakout sessions. Or simply schedule time on everyone’s calendar once a week to gather informally over Zoom or whatever your preferred video conferencing software is.

At the office, make sure there are cozy spots where employees can gather comfortably. That also means they don’t get the stink-eye from a manager walking by because everyone’s been briefed on the need for coworking.

Breakthroughs are known to happen when people can get together spontaneously and discuss the issues they’re having. Self-organizing teams are key to success in Silicon Valley. In fact, Alphabet co-founder Sergey Brin planned office space where no employee was more than 200 feet away from food so that workers would be encouraged to interact with others regularly (Burkus, 2015).1

How is the physical environment set up?

Employees working from home may need your help to make sure that their setup is ergonomic. If they’re working from laptops, provide a monitor and separate mouse and keyboard if you can supply sit-stand desks as well, even better.

At the office, ergonomic options are important, and so is the way that employees are physically distributed. Unfortunately, it seems that some companies are still buying into the open-plan office and/or “hotdesking.”

When employees are all together in a room, there’s a lot of background noise. That creates more cognitive load, decreasing productivity because part of the brain is distracted by the noise. It also tends to reduce privacy, which often results in employees staying in their own spaces and not having those creative face-to-face interactions (Wertz, 2019).2

“Hotdesking,” where employees don’t have an assigned desk, reduces the amount of physical space you need if not everyone is on the same schedule. However, for the workers, having to choose a new desk day after day is also draining. It’s an additional decision to make and one that doesn’t move your company forward.

How often do you distract your employees?

Don’t be my former boss. I was unfortunate enough to be located near his office. Every time he wanted something, he’d jump up and come into my cube, and I had to drop whatever I was doing to pay attention. It drove me nuts, especially when I was trying to get some complex work done.

It takes about 23 minutes for someone to get back to work after they’re interrupted. Do you want to waste this much time? If you have an idea for your employee, write it down instead.

Do you insist that emails be answered as soon as they come in? That’s also very distracting and usually unnecessary. Most clients will accept a company policy that the employees respond to emails during certain times of the day. They need to be told, and it’s also helpful to send an automated reply that their message was received and will be attended to.

If you expect employees to respond instantly to emails, then they must have their notifications on. However, email notifications are very distracting. At the very least, your workers need to be able to disable notifications for email and messaging during their important work time.

Are they able to batch their tasks together?

There is a productivity cost to task switching. When your staff has to answer an email, then arrange your business trip, then answer another email, then research a topic, then arrange another business meeting, their brains are fatiguing.

Instead, let them set their schedules to batch like tasks together as much as they can. Such as by answering emails at one time! True, it’s not always possible. Virtual assistants, for example, often need to work on a variety of tasks during the day.

When everyone (including you) batches tasks together whenever they can, your team will be much more efficient.

When are they able to stand up and walk around or get fresh air?

I know, you’re paying for people to work. But are you paying for the time they spend with butt in seat, or are you paying for results? If it's the latter, you get better results by allowing short breaks.

Intense concentration is possible for about an hour, after which the brain needs some rest (not emailing) for 15-20 minutes. Even if you don’t need intense concentration from all your workers, a break now and then helps everyone out.

This can help you with those late afternoon meetings you’ll be scheduling. I’m not going to lie. I have come very close to falling asleep in the boardroom during afternoon meetings. Very, very close.

Avoid sluggishness by scheduling “meetings on the move” whenever you can. Walk around the building, around the block, whatever, as you’re discussing business. If you have employees with limited mobility, wheelchairs or scooters mean they can still join in.

By working with the human brain instead of against it, you’ll find your workers become magically more efficient. Without them having to work longer hours (and you paying for those longer hours.)

Yes, a lot of what I’ve said is contrary to popular culture. But did you really decide to become your own boss so that you could go along with the herd? I didn’t think so!

Follow me on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and visit my website for more info!


Jennifer Jank, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Jennifer “JJ” Jank works with women who are making the leap from employee to entrepreneur through courses and a book published in February 2021. She also helps businesses build their online credibility through eBooks, testimonials, and articles.

JJ holds a BA in Physics from Rutgers University and an MBA in Finance from New York University. She is a Certified Financial Planner ™ professional. Currently, she’s the President for the Women Leaders Forum in Coachella Valley and the webmistress for the Palm Springs chapter of AAUW. She is also a speaker on various topics, including personal finance and entrepreneurship.

JJ has been published in Journal for Divorce Financial Analysts and Coachella Valley Weekly, among others.




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