Working Hard or Hardly Working? How to Create a Happy and Productive Work Environment

We all work hard.

Trying to cope with intense career ambitions alongside a full personal life can be difficult, overwhelming, and totally tiring.

In recent years, there’s been much discussion of the work-life balance and the importance of time spent with friends and family. In fact, not only does carving out some personal time increase happiness and reduce stress, but it also increases productivity.

But many modern professionals seem to have trouble striking that balance. In fact, an overwhelming number — 94 percent — are spending more than 50 hours per week at work says a Harvard Business School survey, according to Forbes. Furthermore, more than half of the participants in that same study work more than 65 hours per week.

As a manager, you might think that employing an intensely dedicated workaholic couldn’t possibly be bad for your team. After all, who wouldn’t want to have an employee so fiercely committed to their work?

But, as research tells, the real answer is a little more counterintuitive. According to several different studies, a poor work-life balance is the number two reason respondents say they left their jobs.

So as much as we want dedicated employees, we also want employees who are productive, sharp, and engaged. We want employees who are growing within the company and staying for the long run.

While the amount of time an employee spends at the office seems to indicate hard work and motivation, everything is not what it seems. Sometimes, time at the office is nothing more than time at the office — it doesn’t necessarily entail productivity or motivation.

So then, how can we actually measure an employee’s productivity while maintaining the work-life delicate balance? Here are some actual questions to ask yourself.

  • Are we correctly measuring employee output? How do we measure it? Is it by tasks completed, KPIs established, or peer/manager reviews? Take a long, hard look at your measurements to make sure that they’re reasonable and fair.
  • Did we set the right KPIs for our employees? Are these KPIs both trackable and measurable? That doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to set quantity-based KPIs — but even when you do set quality-based KPIs, it must be based on progress you can measure. 
  • How often does the employee receive feedback about their work, goals, and progress? This shouldn’t be confused with micromanagement — it’s about a direct line between manager and employee, allowing them to quickly and efficiently discuss any issues and report wins.
  • Do our goals relate to the company’s goals and vision? Or is simply a matter of the employee’s progress and improvement? It should always be a combination of both. You’ll want to make sure that your KPIs align with the company’s goals, as well as your employee’s personal ambitions.
  • Are the KPIs tailor-made? Obviously, you’ll want to use a different measure of productivity for your tech people versus your sales people. There are varying methodologies to create each measurement, and you’ll have to tailor your KPIs and measurements per the employee’s role, time at your company, and seniority.