You've got a full hour until your next meeting. But you probably won't make the most of that time, new research suggests. In a series of eight studies, both in the lab and real life, researchers found that free time seems shorter to people when it comes before a task or appointment on their calendar.
According to a study in the Journal of Consumer Research, free time seems shorter when it precedes a meeting, appointment, or even lunch with a friend.
So, if you ask a person how much time they had to read in a free hours, on average they'd say 50 minutes. They pad it with a "just in case factor." If they have a meeting scheduled an hour from now, they double the padding and estimate 40 minutes. These results were consistent with real life studies and, by the way, the opposite was true also. People get more done when their time is not bounded by stop time.
So how do we get that time back? The author has two suggestions: 1) stack meetings close together for part of the day and leave the balance for unbounded work, and 2) train yourself to remember you actually have more time than you think.
"Americans took more than 500 million domestic business trips in 2016. And while many workplace health programs for business travel provide immunizations, information about avoiding food-borne illness, and alerts about civil or political unrest, few focus on a more a common threat to health: the stress, sleep interruption, unhealthy eating and drinking, and lack of exercise that are common side effects of being on the road."
The study found that compared to those who spent 6 nights or less away from home, those who traveled for business 14 or more nights a month had higher body mass scores and were more likely to report symptoms of anxiety, depression, alcohol dependence, physical inactivity, and poor sleep. For extreme travelers, those who spent 21 or more nights a month traveling for business, were 92% more likely to be obese.
The HBR article suggests employers:
- Rethink the need for employee travel
- Increase employee awareness of the need to eat, exercise and sleep well while traveling
- Provide stress management and sleep hygiene training
- Book travelers at hotels that offer fitness options and/or provide gym memberships they can use wherever they travel
"Some firms say they care about the well-being and “happiness” of their employees. But are such claims hype or scientific good sense? We provide evidence, for a classic piece rate setting, that happiness
makes people more productive."
This rigorously academic study, showed employee happiness predicted a 10-12% increase in productivity across three different styles of experiment. The opposite proved true as well.
Rigorous study measures dramatic improvement in employee performance factors following 2.5 day well-being course
"Programs focused on employee well-being have gained momentum in recent years, but few have been rigorously evaluated. This study evaluates the effectiveness of an intervention designed to enhance vitality and purpose in life by assessing changes in employee quality of life (QoL) and health-related behaviors."
Johnson & Johnson's Human Performance Institute teamed up with Tufts University to study the impact of an intensive 2.5 day well-being intervention that focused on energy management. Six months later, they measured marked improvements in participants' vitality, general health, mental health, social functioning, sense of purpose, and sleep quality.
It's a heavy read with 10 authors, 48 footnotes, and a heap of statistics, but it's an important one. It shows, among other things, that we need to measure what matters. Though wellness interventions have scored poorly in reducing medical expenses, their ability to improve employee performance could be far more impactful.
The 2017 - 2018 Willis Towers Watson Global Future of Work Survey reveals how employers are moving beyond workplace automation myths as they determine how to manage the many emerging work options, from contingent labor to AI and robotics. It examines not only where breakthroughs are needed but also how to plot a course of action.
The results of this Towers Watson survey suggest employers are unprepared for how automation will change the nature of work, the workforce, and how both are managed:
- 27% of respondents say they require fewer employees due to automation today; that jumps to 49% by 2020.
- Respondents said 83% of work is currently being done by full-time employees. They expect this to drop to 77% by 2020. Work performed by the following categories of talent is expected to rise during that timeframe: Part-timers (7% now, 10% in 2020), free agents (4% now, 6% by 2020), workers on loan from other organizations (1% today, 2% in 2020), free agents from online talent platforms (.2% now, 1% in 2020). Work performed by consultants and outside agencies is expected remain flat at 4%.
- 69% or respondents feel automation and the changing workforce mix will require breakthrough approaches in performance management. Over two-thirds say it will require new organizational structures.
- More than a third of employers say they are unprepared to deconstruct jobs toward identifying which tasks can be automated.
- Over half say automation increases workplace flexibility today; 68% say it will do so in 2020.
- 38% say they are unprepared for the task of re-skilling those who will be effected by automation.
- 45% say by 2020 they will be redesigning jobs so the can be done by people with higher skills, 42% say they will be doing the same so jobs can be done by people with lower skills.
Their report elaborates on the following suggested course of action:
- Understand how technology and automation will impact work
- Define the re-skilling pathways
- Lead the change to new ways of working