Modern work life, to paraphrase Blur, is rubbish. People’s daily routines and business cycles are frantic with little or no let up until they head off on holidays. If you catch the train from Bishop’s Stortford to Liverpool Street at 0630hrs, slog for a day in the City of London and head home after 1900hrs you are familiar with an intense life with no time for yourself or your family. If you have the consultant’s lifestyle of catching flights from Dublin to wherever at 6am on a Monday morning and getting home at 2100hrs on a Friday, you’ll have no energy to do anything other than wash and iron shirts at the weekend. Sounds great.
Avoiding Work Fatigue
How many of your team are currently working with the mental equivalent of “heavy legs” and making poor decisions? They could be working long hours on the trading desk of an investment bank and losing millions or building bug-ridden software for Elon Musk. Where are the opportunities for them to take a break and flush their minds during working hours? How do you manage their activity during intense work cycles and make sure that they are able to function consistently? And how do you ensure that they decompress and come down at the end of one of those cycles?
Years back, as I was chatting to one of the partners of a big four consulting firm he mused about the wonders of modern smartwatch technology. He felt that it was only a matter of time before his employees wound up wearing a gadget that would give him an accurate read on their health and productivity. This was around the height of the Facebook – Cambridge Analytica data scandal, and I dismissed it out of hand as being a bit too Orwellian to catch on. Since then, through a number of my own work and sports experiences I now believe that, in the right environment and with benign technology, it may be a good thing.
Intensity and Recovery
Over the years I’ve trained for numerous triathlons. As it happens, I’m midway through a programme for the Venice – Lido di Jesolo Ironman 70.3 which takes place on May 7th. Nowadays my daily training routines are well-defined with the breakdown of individual sessions incorporating both intensity and recovery. For instance, yesterday morning’s swim session involved a main set of 10 by 100 meters flat out, with a minute’s recovery in between.
Without the recovery, the quality of the workout diminishes, I get fatigued, have heavy legs and am more prone to injury. Each week I take a minimum of one day off so that my body recovers and incorporates the training. I reduce my training load every fourth week in a cycle so that my body can assimilate all of the hard work of the previous three weeks. Finally, in the 10 days leading up to race day I taper my training so that my body is rested, fine-tuned and good-to-go.
During his first stint as Chelsea manager, Jose Mourinho spoke of how important it was for his players to find time to “rest” during a match. They would actively recover by keeping the ball away from the opposition before going for the jugular once again – I’m not sure how this stacks up in the modern game of aggressive pressing.
Midgame, coaching teams constantly monitor their players’ live physical data and performance statistics via GPS technology in order to make good decisions on what they are capable of and when they need replacing. Likewise, a cycling team’s directeur sportif will monitor a cyclist’s live data and decide on what tactics make sense in the moment.
If this is what the elite are doing in sport, the day isn’t that far off when the elite in business will do the same, and by protecting their people they will be protecting their own results and performance.